Another week, another letter that sends me into an alternating tailspin of introspection and/or agitation. I should probably start having somebody else open my mail, don't you think? This week's baby step of a development in our special needs journey was a letter from Noah's school. Half form letter, half personalized pre-IEP meeting invitation to come observe the classroom environments currently on the table for next year. For kindergarten. Gulp.
In a few weeks, we'll be visiting and observing two different classrooms at Noah's current school. The "typical" kindergarten and the special ed version, known in our district as LAD.
(We're incredibly lucky that Noah attends the Preschool Education Program at our actual, home elementary school. Almost every other kid is from a nearby "cluster" school that didn't offer PEP, and if placed in a typical classroom next year, will also have to adjust to an entirely new school and building. No matter what option we end up with, Noah will not only go to the same building, but will attend a class in the same hallway, and with many of the same teachers, like art, music, PE, etc.)
Our IEP meeting isn't until April, and I really have no idea what the team will recommend for him. The reports have been ... uneven. He's exceeding expectations academically and doing okay socially, but has all but stalled on a couple critical goals regarding transitions, attention and dealing with a larger class size this year. The typical K classroom will easily be even bigger, by another 10 or 12 kids. He's still getting overwhelmed at school and coping with a lot of stimming and the occasional tantrum.
The LAD program was mentioned to us at last year's IEP meeting. His teacher thought he'd end up as a good candidate for it. It's a smaller class, but not exactly a 100 percent self-contained special education unit. They spend time being co-taught in the big classroom and regularly interacting with those peers. And the goal is to get LAD kids as integrated into the regular class as much as possible by the end of the year, before first grade.
I honestly thought it sounded like a dream. Perfect. It wouldn't push Noah into something he wasn't quite ready for, despite maybe being more "borderline" than a lot of SE kids, but it also wouldn't hold him back, or banish him to a remedial room with no hope of mainstreaming.
And really, it still sounds perfect. The idea of Noah getting the IEP rug yanked out from under him right at such a crucial transition time scares the hell out of me, way more than facing another year explaining to the neighbors why Noah rides a different bus or doesn't go to a "regular" preschool.
But oh, it's such a silly thing, and I'm ashamed to even tell you this ... but it occurred to me, yesterday, while reading the letter that I had no idea what the "LAD" acronym stood for. And so I decided to look it up on the district's web site and read a little more about it.
LAD = Learning & Academic Disabilities.
That D word, you guys. I ... don't know what I was expecting, like LAD was going to stand for Little Angels (who just so happen to be a tiny bit) Different or something. But it's there, the "disability" word, calling my bluff about being SO OKAY with special education and allowing the school district to label my child and it all being in his best interest, really.
The next thing I knew, I was back online furiously looking up checklists for all the diagnoses we've "almost, but not quite" gotten along the way. If the school district is going to call all this stuff a disability, then dammit, I needed a better name. A specific point of reference. Enough of this "little from column A" and "little from column PDD" and "he's sort of like Asperger's but also totally not" and "he's not on the Spectrum but there's obviously a lot of stuff going on." And I ended up at some summary of PDD and PDD-NOS laughing my head off, because there was this whole section about those labels being used as a "placeholder" until age 5, "at which age unusual behaviors will either resolve or develop into diagnosable autism."
All of this over a nice letter letting us know that next year, we have some options. Tune in next week when I plan to have a full-on existential crisis after opening our electric bill.