In dealing with all the placement issues I have kept a statement in my head, it is universal and all encompassing and I want to share it with you all.
Decisions are made from data.
Simple, to the point, easy to remember. I liken it to my every day rule of Behavior is Communication. Not a day goes by during a transition year that I don't remind myself that Decisions are made from data, data has no feelings, data doesn't lie.
This statement has prompted a change in my placement efforts, it started with my oldests son's placement into a Non-Public School (Kennedy Krieger School) and has been fine tuned into my youngest son's placement this year (to be determined... STILL!). Its a shift in thinking and its not easy but it is EFFECTIVE. Here's some advice:
Start charting every piece of data you have in a spreadsheet. Start in Kindergarten and keep going. You will quickly see what data you are missing and can then ask for it. When you are looking at how your child is progressing in grades, support visits, behavior, whatever, you have it all in on one sheet to quick reference. I have had many spreadsheets over the years but the ones I am working off of currently are Grades, Global Scholar Scores, Goals, and Quarterly Classroom Assessments. In the past I've also had spreadsheets for Support Room visits per day and Targeted Behaviors. Anything the school keeps data on you have access (request it!) to and you can chart it.
For this transition year I have created some charts from the spreadsheets so that I can easily show how my child is progressing (upward or downward trend). By adding in the upper and lower bounds of the testing population I could then get a picture of what my child would look like when placed into the general population. A graphic representation is hard to dismiss or ignore when you use the school's own data to show a downward trend of a student falling far below typical peers.
Here is what I plainly saw and could then plainly present to the IEP team once I gathered all the data. Grades were decreasing. Goals were not being met (and I thought I was on top of that but years were passing and goals were being changed without actually achieving the initial goal! I was shocked at the oversight!). His Global Scholar scores and classroom assessments were flatlining or decreasing.
THIS changed my entire approach to this transition year and how I approached goals, accommodations and how I worked with the team entirely... Data doesn't lie.
All of that being said, one datapoint is one datapoint. I put no stock in grades at all and even standardized testing isn't all that great either BUT my youngest child is INCLUDED so he is being compared to the "typical" student therefore as long as he is in inclusion, that data is valid. It should be tracked and considered.
Change the language you use. How you feel and what you wish and what you think are valid and is certainly something you need to keep in mind but when you are trying to work for more speech, an intervention, a placement you will get much further with: The data shows... His current trend... What was observed within the classroom... Your feelings, wishes and thoughts can be contradicted, Data is fact.
Keep going. Most of what has happened this year, most of what I have requested, has been because it never occurred to me that I couldn't. It never occurred to me that I couldn't contact my son's projected Middle School to request a meeting in October for placement in the next school year. I met some really lovely and hard working people that flat out told me they didn't think they could meet my child's needs. Okay then, thanks for your honesty. Lets go to Central Office and ask the people there which schools they think CAN meet his needs and lets visit them too. It wasn't until very recently (March) that someone told me that this isn't how it was done. At this point I've worked all the way up the school "food chain" and never once has it occurred to me to stop. I contact the people I think can help and I ask them for help. I am a life long learner and I'll take any help and advice I can get.
Work smart. I do not consider myself a Warrior Mom. I do not go into meetings mad or making demands. It's just the way I work. Other ways work for other people. I have my data, I have my suggestions and if anyone feels a different way than I do then I will welcome their data and their suggestions. Since we all have the same data... see where I'm going here? I firmly believe that a team effort is the most effective way to support a student. I am a member of that team, my son is a member of that team, our specialists sometimes will weigh in as a member of the team and the rest of the team is provided by the school. Its never perfect but when it works, it works amazingly.
I've already written way way more than I expected and now I have to get back to real life. I will try and figure out a way to put up some spreadsheet ideas or templates that I find helpful. They are nothing fancy but it's what I can handle. Also, if you have a spreadsheet that has been working for you and you want to share it, feel free to do so!!!
Hang in there everyone, we're all in this together.