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Giovanna’s birthday is March 19th which means that around this time every year we have the annual Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting.  This is the time where all those who are working with Giovanna meet in the conference room and talk about the progress or lack of progress made in the past year and set goals for the upcoming year.  In the past, these meetings have been really difficult as Giovanna has been in a holding pattern and not much progress has been made.   This year there has been a lot of progress made!  Here is an overview of the meeting;

Speech – this was the area that I began to hammer on a few years ago.  I realized that she was in the first grade and speaking at or near the level of a slow 3 year old.  I could not assess what she knew or didn’t know because she did not have the words to tell me.  It became a priority.  The speech therapist was really frustrated and each year at the IEP meeting would say something like, “I have no idea what to do or where to go with her.  She does not fall within the normal rules/boundaries.”  OK this is Giovanna and even with the condition of arthrogryposis, she doesn’t fit the “normal” mode.  So should I be surprised that she isn’t falling into normal elsewhere?  We have tried a lot of the “normal” routes with everyone getting frustrated and leaving Giovanna on a plateau for many years.

This year the speech therapist began to realize that she did not remember from day to day where to place her tongue for certain sounds.  Her consonant sounds were getting better and more consistent, but her vowel sounds were all over the map.  This made her begin to look at Apraxia research.    According to Wikiepdia, apraxia is a neurological disorder characterized by the loss of ability to execute or carry out learned purposeful movements or functions like speech.  This is typical in stroke patients where the stroke as affected the area of the brain where speech is initiated.  The key to unlocking this for the speech therapist was the lack of consistency in the production of vowels.

So I am now in search of information that will help me learn more about this and how to help her learn.  I have found an excellent website with information for families.  I am just beginning to dive into the website.   Since the therapist has been incorporating apraxia techniques, her speech has improved.  It has also helped the others on the team to incorporate some of the same techniques thus providing consistency throughout her academic realm!

ELL/ESL – Giovanna has been in an ELL/ESL class as well this year.  Giovanna has been able to put together several presentations on Egypt and China.  She is currently looking at Balto and the Iditarod.  The teacher was talking about the race and Alaska where the race takes place.  Giovanna lit up and said, “My grandparents are in aska too!”  I was asked if her grandparents are really in Alsaska.  I had to laugh as I said, “No her grandparents are in Nebraska.”  I was laughing because I had just heard that Giovanna can’t do rhyming words like big-pig; mom- tom; dad-lad, etc., but yet she can make the connection between Alaska and Nebraska!  However it is true that Asian languages don’t have rhyming words like the English language does and it takes a lot more effort to help them understand this concept!

The ELL teacher has been pleased with the increase in vocabulary and ability to say multisylabblic words!  This is an improvement.  She has been working mainly on increasing vocabulary and word size!

Giovanna is also beginning to read – she is just an emergent reader, but she is beginning to pick up books at home and pick out the words she knows.  She is working hard towards reading as she knows that in order to be included in the history discussion coop, she has to improve her reading skills.

She is also working on key boarding skills so that we can move her into more of a computer based education.  She will not be able to do all the writing that most of the school textbooks require.  So now the search is on for some good math and language arts curriculums that are computer based.

This was the first IEP meeting that I have not dreaded and most of the time I feel so outnumbered since it is just me and then the whole team which is 3-4 people from the school.  I have generally been in the minority as I have advocated for Giovanna.  It is not always easy to stand firm in the midst of frustration we have all felt at times in the past.  This meeting was so different from those in the past 5 years.  Because we have all seen progress forward and  not just a little, but large leaps – we were all much more relaxed.

All in all it was a very good meeting.  We are still working on her goals for the next year and have 10 days to get the IEP written.  However the school is on spring break next week – so it could be early April before it is completed.  We are looking at increasing her time in school for the end of this year and next year.  Since the fire is hot, we should jump and help her make as much progress as possible.  I am also going to get things set up so she can ride the bus to school.  We tried this as an experiment while I was in Thailand and it worked great and Giovanna LOVED it.  There are many decisions to make – pray for wisdom as we work through all of them.

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