In a dream world, our neighborhood school that Christian will start Kindergarten in this coming September would have all of the little accommodations that we have grown used to at his current school. Small classes, built in audiology suite, excellent student/teacher ratio, built acoustically sound, and a lightspeed soundfield system built in every room sure would make next year's transition easier.
In a nutshell, our I.E.P. meeting went well. In addition to our team of specialists, our county school system was well represented as well as representatives from the school and experts in curriculum. Our preferred Kindergarten teacher was even in attendance and we were able to have a great collaborative discussion about requested accommodations and strategies for Christian. The principal of the school also formally welcomed us into the community and was eager to have Christian as part of the Kindergarten class.
Where things got sticky was when the discussion of an FM system came up. Our county school system has offered Christian the use of an FM during the school day and our family has decided to initially decline the offer of the system. Now I know that there are some CI and other hearing loss families reading this rolling their eyes and calling me crazy. Believe me, I have read all the research, and I know that it does do wonderful things for our children who wear Cochlear Implants. However, if there is one thing that I've learned in this journey is that I never can underestimate what my Christian can do. From the beginning, he's had us in awe. He was never *supposed* to do the things that he is doing now. I've also learned that you can't judge a kid with a hearing loss just by their audiogram on paper, rather you need to look at the kid as just that: A KID. Christian has worked since he was 16 months old to listen and speak using his Cochlear Implant. He has consistently utilized the programs and features on his processor that allow him and our family to accommodate MANY different listening scenarios. We've educated Christian under a model that helps him utilize his existing hearing with his Cochlear Implant and his hearing aid. There is no doubt in my mind that Christian is an EXCEPTIONAL CI user. Christian also happens to be an auditory learner...pretty amazing considering that he is also deaf. We requested that Christian start the school year off without an FM system and we will re-evaluate his progress and reassess the need for an FM system a couple weeks into the school year. My heart is telling me to give him a chance without it. I want him to adjust to a new school and new friends without the FM. Our family's philosophy is that we absolutely will use it if Christian needs it. We're just not convinced that just because SOME kids need it that he will as well.
I am pretty sure that our county school system thought we were crazy. They told us that they have never had a family turn DOWN services (like the FM). I responded back that they never have had a student like Christian or a family like us. There was discussion about how it would be "easier" for the Kindergarten teacher to use an FM to ensure that Christian was getting everything. I quietly winced and resisted the urge to remind everyone at the table that the I.E.P. was not about making the teacher's day easier, but for giving Christian the access he needs. Luckily, our team members from our current school did that for me.
The tricky thing about Christian is that he really doesn't NEED that much. Sure, preferential seating will benefit him. Pre-teaching new vocabulary concepts will help him too. There are some things we can do in his classroom to acoustically treat it as well. We requested to meet again at the end of this academic year to reassess our goals, and the request was granted. We requested to also meet 60 days into the next academic year, and that request was also granted.
All in all, the meeting went well. We are lucky to have a great service provider, and our team from Christian's current school is top-notch. It's hard to believe that in just 7 months he'll be walking up to that school with his neighborhood friends to start a new chapter of his journey.