Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Just a few months ago, I wasn't even considering sending Bridget to preschool in the fall. She wasn't really walking yet, or talking much, and she just seemed so little. I couldn't imagine other people for caring for her, or having her away from me.

Our Early Intervention team encouraged me to visit the preschool classroom in our local elementary school. As soon as I walked in, my first thought was, Oh my gosh, I am holding her back. By the time of the classroom visit, Bridget had started walking and her spoken language was exploding. She'd started purposefully playing with other kids. Her development had snowballed. I knew she would love the classroom and being with the other kids. I knew she would thrive in that environment.

So the big news...We signed papers yesterday to approve an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for Bridget in our local school system. (See previous post for our Mission Statement for Bridget's Preschool Services.)

Since Bridget's third birthday falls over Summer break, the process to have her evaluated for preschool services was on a fast track. Typically, during the school year, the meetings are scheduled over a several month period. In our case, all of the meetings and evaluations took place over this past week.

We had a home-based evaluation with a School Psychologist and a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), and a play-based evaluation (which took place in one of our local elementary school buildings) with a Physical Therapist(PT), Occupational Therapist(OT),the same SLP that came for the home-based evaluation, and an Early Childhood Intervention Specialist (ECI). Yesterday was our our official meeting to hear the results of all the evaluations and assessments, to learn whether or not Bridget qualified for services, and to begin her IEP.

I was so nervous about the whole process. I'd heard stories about children being treated like numbers, parents being told mostly of their child's deficits and delays, and services being denied (even when the parents knew the child would benefit significantly from additional help).

I was prepared for the language of the service system--and the results of the evaluations--to sting. I was prepared for therapists who were more concerned about noting Bridget's delays (by virtue of the goal of the evaluation process--to justify providing services) than they were about seeing her strengths or potential.

I thought I would see that most of the goals on Bridget's IEP would be geared toward making her more like a "typical" three-year-old in the classroom, and that some of the goals would be a bit silly (like to cut "4 snips in paper with scissors on 6 out of 10 observed attempts"--this goal was on a sample IEP).

I tried to remind myself that each situation is unique and that I couldn't head into this process being insecure or cynical. I decided to focus on how certain adjustments, accommodations or assistance might benefit Bridget, and to remember all she is capable of doing at this point.

I knew my skepticism about the process of evaluation, or about the nature of "therapy" (which is sometimes seen as trying to "fix" something that is broken) could get in the way of what is best for Bridget.

Chris and I came up with a plan to survive the transition, to make it productive, and to ease the new system into our lives: we would assume that the people evaluating Bridget were interested in helping her meet her potential (and would understand that much of the process is a formality); we would be open to hearing whatever we were told; and we would place most of our focus and energy on ways to help Bridget be happier, healthier or more independent.

It turns out that our concerns were unfounded. Bridget's evaluations revealed a delay in the following areas: Physical, Adaptive Behavior, Cognitive and General Development, which means that she qualifies for services. Her scores in the areas of Social-Emotional Development and Communication were in the average range. None of this was a surprise. (Bridget will be receiving speech services, as her spoken language is delayed. Her ability to understand--and be understood through signs, words and expressions--is quite good.)

Our team was wonderful: bright, organized, detailed, direct, and kind. We were told several times that they realized we were being given a lot of information to process, and that what the evaluations revealed was a "snapshot" in time. It was what they saw from Bridget on that particular day, and from our answers on the surveys provided, and did not necessarily reflect all of Bridget's skills and capabilities.

The reports were specific, and areas of accomplishment, as well as areas of delay were noted. Things that Bridget is not yet doing, or things that are not even on her radar, were discussed in the reports, but the focus was mostly on her accomplishments and skills that are emerging.

We discussed the IEP her team had set, adaptive and assistive devices they plan to use in the classroom and timeframes for "therapy" each week.

It's clear that the goal of the school system is to help Bridget grow and develop from where she is right now, which is exactly what we had hoped to see and hear.

Bridget starts preschool this fall, four days a week, two-and-a-half hours each day. She will be in the same building with Emmy and Brian. I'll sign enrollment papers in early August.

I know Bridget will thrive in the classroom environment and I am thrilled to have capable, caring people to help her. She is going to love school!


  1. This is awesome. I'm so happy it went well for you and that Bridget will start preschool soon. How exciting for all. I also appreciate you posting your mission statement. Your hard work will help us with an easier transition next year.

  2. Yeah! She'll love it!
    When I go to school to pick Leah up, she runs from me, not wanting to leave!

  3. So glad it was such a positive experience for you and that so many of your worries were unfounded. You must feel so good knowing that Bridget's team has such a positive outlook and is excited about helping her move to the next stages of development.

  4. How exciting! I hope she loves preschool! :)

  5. I bet she's gonna love pre-school!Can't wait to hear about it :)

  6. Yes - I think she will love school, too! It is encouraging to hear a positive story like yours because I have heard far too many negative ones. I look forward to reading about her experiences in school! :)

  7. Lisa, I just watched a year in the life (sunshine girl) was BEAUTIFUL! I love the pictures and the music. Your last few positng have given me tons of useful information. As always, thank you! Thinking of you! Andrea

  8. Yay Bridget! So happy to hear that you everything was care of so quickly. She will love school... My only question is are you going to be ok, MOmmy..? :)

  9. It's going to be awesome! They learn so much from their peers. Glad you had a positive experience- sounds like a great group.