Friday, November 02, 2007

A breakthrough!

I visited Ciarra's classroom today, was checking on her after getting a call saying she had an earache. I got to spend some of lunchtime with her and several of her friends, which is always neat. This kid I envisioned sitting alone in the lunchroom is anything but. She is quite popular, actually. I enjoy it because I really like some of the kids too, and it seems mutual.
After lunch, we went to her class, and I got to help be an "Editor" for their I Made It Myself books. FUN! I would sit with a kid who had finished their book and help them see errors and make corrections. The little girl I helped today is also named Cierra, and she and my Ciarra have been buddies for 3 years. She is cute, to put it mildly. I always enjoy time with her, shes one of those kids with a twinkle in her eye. Smart, too. She asked me "When is Ciarra coming over to my house?" and I told her she had to call and invite her but anytime would be ok. That is nice to hear, of course.
Then we went to work on math. For one very short period every day, I allow Ciarra to go one on one with the special ed teacher to make sure she is keeping up in math. Ciarra is a third grader this year, and by all rights should have moved to the 3-5 special ed room and teacher this year. Last year, when they were encouraging me (strongly) to not pursue inclusion, they thought this teacher and her room a perfect fit for my daughter. I had other plans. I fought the reduced inclusion time, and in the end got Maine's largest disability rights lawyers on my side. Thank GOD for agencies such as they. With them beside me, we reconvened her IEP meeting, and I was armed with knowledge, goals, and an attorney and advocate who knew Ciarra's rights. We walked out with a promise to bring in an Inclusion Specialist and revisit full Inclusion. And so, after a summer fraught with worry and planning meetings and real hard work on our parts, we reconvened. And we walked out with virtually everything we wanted. The best thing we got in the deal was twofold: we got a former special education teacher turned 3rd grade teacher...Mrs C. And we got our K-2 Special Education teacher, Mrs Z, to keep Ciarra on her caseload (rather than switching to the other lady, who has NO experience and no relationship with my daughter.)

Mrs C and Mrs Z make quite a team. They have united to bring Ciarra the very best of both worlds, reg and special education. They make virtually everything "push in" versus "pull-out", meaning all her services are given there in the classroom, as much as possible. They collaborate with each other so thoroughly that you would think they shared a brain. They create a weekly agenda, who works on what, what modifications, what books, what goals. And they send that book home with me, as well, so I can advance teach or have extra time for spelling words etc. It works. More than anything academic, though, is the emotional boost Ciarra has gotten in this setting. Mrs C believes in Ciarra advocating for herself, and in making the other children respect her as a community partner. Watching them work is like seeing magic. Ciarra likes school again, she gets up ready to go most days, she isnt sad, she isnt miserable. She says often "Im a BIG girl. I am smart. I can DO it." THAT, my friends, is music to my ears.

Today I observed the math portion of her special education time. Ciarra has consistently struggled with math concepts that are even remotely abstract. She can learn anything you can make visual. Well, Mrs Z found a way to make coins visual. Unless you know how hard Ciarra has struggled with coin values etc, you cant know just how exciting this is. Mrs Z created pads out of soft foam. On one she wrote 1 and the cent sign. On the others, 5, 10, 25 and the cent sign. Ciarra knows how to count by 5s, which is integral to this new method. Mrs Z gave her a pile of pennies, and Ciarra layed them out in rows of 5, 5 rows long. Together, they counted them, 1-1 correspondence reinforcement, and then they stacked them 5 high. Mrs Z asked her, "How many pennies" "5" "how many cents" "5". "I have a nickel here, how much is a nickel worth?" "5 cents" "Thats right, do you want to trade?""Sure" "Ok, Ciarra, I will trade you 5 pennies...how much is that worth?" "5 cents" "5 cents, I will trade you your five pennies for this nickel. How much is the nickel worth?" "5 cents!" "thats right." And so we went back and forth, trading 5 pennies for a nickel, etc. Then we played store. Mrs z made the stuff, she "made" pencils and scissors and a ruler.Each item had a cost, in 5 cent incrememnts. One was 5 cents, one 10, one 25. We did the two smaller ones, and Ciarra counted out 5 pennies, or when we asked "another way to pay 5 cents" the nickel. Then out of the blue, she grabbed the scissors, and looked at the price tag, 25 cents. And she started counting by nickels, 5,10,15,20,25. 25 cents. You coulda knocked me over with a feather! As smart as she is, as well as she reads and interacts etc, this has been what felt like an unattainable concept for her. And here she had done it, on her OWN, correctly. I was so excited, and Mrs z was, too. Counting change is certainly a necessary skill to independence. It has bugged me that I couldnt find the way to teach it. And today, a breakthrough. thank God for good...no GREAT teachers. Thank God for persistence and faith, thank God for this little person, who fights so hard and never quits. By George (Washington), I think shes GOT it!

1 comment:

Shannon **Gabi's Mom** said...

That is so great that she is doing so well in school.