We had Colin’s first conference at his new school (LS) last week, and we were thrilled. When we walked out, all Christian could say was, “Wow. What a difference [from the other school].”
Colin is not the most challenging kid they have to work with, as we knew he would not be, but they are seeing things. They are seeing behaviors that we see at home. They are seeing some of the language and processing issues that have concerned us, too. THEY ARE SEEING IT! And, they have plans to ADDRESS it!
They said that Colin is happy, smart, and social (which we already knew), but they added a “but.” I know it sounds strange to be happy that sentence ends in a “but,” but we needed them to see the “buts” so they can help Colin with them.
There is a test that both of these schools use called the VB-MAPP (Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program). At the other school, they just did the first assessment test sheet and discussed the results with us at the conferences. They didn’t really offer and plans for “where do we go from here.”
This school definitely has a plan for where Colin goes from here. This school did the first assessment, as well as the language barriers assessment, which shows language and learning barriers often faced by children with language delays, and the transition assessment, which shows a child’s readiness to move to a less restrictive environment (i.e. traditional pre-school). Then they provided a three-page program report discussing how they are working to address Colin’s barriers, along with a three-page behavior plan.
This is what his testing (and all of the work we have done with First Steps so far) shows:
- He has difficulty putting verbs and nouns together. If he is shown a picture of a baby sleeping, he will just say, “baby,” or, “sleeping.” instead of “baby sleeping.” If he hears a dog barking, his will just say, “dog'” or, “barking,” instead of “dog barking.”
- He has social difficulties. He interacts well with peers when directed by an adult, but does not initiate interaction well. He doesn’t say things like “My turn!” or “Push me!” He has difficulty responding to peers when they try to engage him. We see this at home. He wants to play with Noah and Zoe so badly, but he just doesn’t know how to engage, so he hits them for the reaction. He has difficulty reading people’s emotions/ body language and sometimes his responses are inappropriate. If he is scolded or he hurts someone, he laughs. We have to say, “Colin, I am not laughing. I am angry,” or, “Colin, you hurt Zoe. She is crying. She is sad.” If he looks at a picture of someone laughing, he sometimes says, “Crying.” He doesn’t know when he is being too rough.
- He has trouble with some fine motor activities and he has trouble doing fine/gross motor activities in a sequence (If the therapist says, “Touch your nose, then clap, then stomp your feet,” he can only remember one or two of those things, even with visual cues.)
- He tested low in “listener responding function,” where he would select a picture in response to things like, “Meow says the ___”, “You eat the___”, “Which one barks?”, or, “Find an animal.”
- He also tested low in intraverbal skills. This is where he would respond to “Wh” questions or fill-in-the-blanks without visual prompts, answering questions like, “Which animal says moo?”, “What do you like to eat?”, or “Where do you sleep?”
- Classroom routines and group skills are difficult for him. These are things like sitting at snack or lunch table without negative behavior for more than three minutes, transitions between classroom activities with no more than one gestural or verbal prompt, or sitting in small group for at least five minutes without disruptive behavior or attempting to leave the group.
- His barriers to thriving in a typical classroom are engaging in negative behaviors (usually for attention), responding to some teacher (or therapist) demands with noncompliant behavior, hyperactivity, and being able to ignore irrelevant stimuli in order to focus (We see this one all the time. He has supersonic hearing. He hears and has to point out every airplane that flies over our house. He hears things that the rest of us are able to tune out easily) .
Another thing that we have seen is that he may have some processing issues. We have been working on colors. He was coloring a picture the other night. He picked up the orange, said, “orange,” and colored with it for a while. Next he picked up purple, said, “purple,” and colored with it for a while. He knows his colors. Still, if I held up an orange crayon and said, “What color is this?”, he would say, “Orange.” If I immediately held up a purple crayon and said, “What color is this?”, he might still say, “Orange.” It’s like his brain can’t switch gears that quickly. He did the same thing when learning animal sounds. He knew what cows, dogs, cats, ducks, etc said when he was doing the sounds individually. When we passed a pond full of ducks while driving, he would say, “Quack, quack.” However, if I asked, “What does a cow say?”, he would answer, “Moo,” and then immediately asked, “What does a duck say?”, he might still answer, “Moo.”
At school right now, they work on the language and learning issues with him one-on-one and in group, and they work on the transition issues in group. The next step will be for them to take him out in the community. They will take him to restaurants and work on behavior issues. They will take him to parks and work on him not running off, or doing the activities they direct him to do instead of just what he wants to do. They will take him to library story times so he can work on sitting quietly in a group without being disruptive.
In the fall, we will add a pre-school element. We have a few options right now, but we have to wait until he is assessed by the developmental school in our district in May to see how everything turns out. If he qualifies for the developmental pre-school, Colin could go to LS in the morning, they would take him to the developmental pre-school and stay with him, and then he could either go back to LS or ride the bus home. It’s also possible that we would sign him up at the pre-school where Noah and Zoe have gone a couple of days a week and the LS therapists would go with him. Or, they have a couple of pre-schools they work with where they could go for part of the day on a drop-in basis.
Again, we have several options. Each one has pros and cons (length of program, ease of transportation, cost, etc), but we will figure it out. Hear that!? We will figure it out! I am feeling so much more hopeful about all of this. Things will still be in flux for a while, but we have options – good ones!