Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Place for Phoenix

At the beginning of March, I quickly updated you guys with news that I was heading to Phoenix's annual Individualized Education Plan (better known as an IEP) and got the chance to say all went well but instead of sitting down to do a full-on report, I got home and left with Jay to go to work. His grandma watched the kids til his mom got off and then she took over but we were gone in Rio Linda for hours.

Well, I'm finally here to report that Phoenix is doing excellent in his current placement and the plan is to keep him in the same classroom next year, which is great. His classroom is 1st-3rd grade so he will have some friends sticking around for another year and he'll get to make new friends too. His teacher was very happy to report on the progress he has made and I loved hearing about it. IEP meetings can be dreadful and are rarely pleasant so when they are pleasant, you bask in it.

I realize I'm kind of just jumping in here; some of you might not be familiar with Phoenix's story or the journey he's had but bear with me. If you want to read about what's lead us here, you can read this & this.

To give a little background: Last year, after a half-year in a preschool class for kids with speech issues, Phoenix was placed in a general education classroom for Kindergarten.

It did not go well.

He fell to the bottom of the class academically and had trouble socially & behaviorally. He started acting out in class and at home but with the help of his SLP at the time and a LOT of persistence on my part, we got him placed into a Communicatively-Handicapped class for first grade.

Since he's been in this new classroom, he has soared and excelled in amazing ways. His speech and comprehension have improved significantly and he is approaching grade level or is at grade level in a lot of areas where he was 2-3 years behind,  just last year. I'm sure another semester of speech therapy at Sac State didn't hurt either but I'm sure having him in a classroom where all the students have speech issues and the curriculum is based on speech and language development has been the driving force behind his recent success.

With his teacher's use of interventions like SIPPS (Systematic Instruction in Phoneme Awarenss and Phonics and Sight Words), Expanding Expression Tools (EET) and a few others, Phoenix has mastered ALL the letter sounds and his test average for sight words is 89% and in a first trimester reading test, he read 26 words a minute with 100% accuracy. He is learning how to arc a story (create a beginning, middle and end); he correctly labels the elements of the arc and given pictures, he can sequence the events of the story in the proper order. His vocabulary is expanding and he's starting to use more verbs like "proud", instead of "happy".

At the beginning of the year, Phoenix couldn't identify all the consonants or the sounds of the letters and could only read six sight words; now, at the end of the second trimester, he can read 66 out of 75 high frequency words automatically. He's performing at the first grade level in Language Arts, at a slower pace, and the same goes for math, where he's averaging test scores of 95%. He can tell time to the nearest hour and half hour and will independently count to 109; when given a a blank hundreds chart, he writes and counts to 200. He has learned how to capitalize and independently writes three consecutive sentences. He uses temporary spelling, is starting to use phonetic spelling and the spelling errors he makes imitate his speech issues.

He still has a long way to go. He continues to make errors in word order (syntax), suffixes/word endings (morphology) and grammar (word choice) and I think this is part of the auditory processing issues. It's hard for him to retain, organize and recall information he's received verbally and well, speech has a LOT to do with verbal information. I know he hears how the rest of us form sentences and organize our thoughts, he's just not capable of doing that. Yet.

I know it's coming. He's making progress much faster now than he has in the last few years, which is wonderful. My hope was to be able to integrate him into a Gen. Ed. class for 4th grade and if everything continues the way it is, that should totally be possible.

It feels so good to know he is finally on his way; to be able to see him blossoming and growing, instead of struggling and withdrawn. He is such an amazing kid and it is so awesome to see his confidence in himself grow as he overcomes the challenges that have held him back for so long now. For me, it is beyond gratifying.

His journey isn't over yet but we are well on our way. Every day is a step in the right direction and with each step, he is making more progress and building more self-confidence. He has found a place that fits him, a place where he can grow at his own speed; where he is nurtured and challenged at the same time, by people who truly care for him & want him to succeed. He's found a place where he has stability, friends and is accepted for who he is and I'm not sure which one of us is happier.


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