We are parents in the Minneapolis School District writing to you today to with an early intervention success story.
Kindergarten Screening identified our son, Jackson, as a student with a potential social concern in 2009. He was three years old. We declined further evaluation at that time and enrolled him in a private preschool. We learned throughout that first year of preschool that there were, indeed, some very real concerns with Jackson so we started the wheels of evaluation moving with Early Childhood Special Education. A diagnosis of autism was the result of the detailed evaluation and Jackson was placed at Judson Preschool under the wing of Minneapolis ECSE for his second preschool year.
Jackson is our eldest child and we did not know very much about autism. We looked to the teachers and specialists working with our son to guide us along the way. Our family was enrolled continually in Early Childhood Family Education since Jackson’s birth, which also supported and guided us on this journey.
Occupational therapy, speech therapy, social skills groups and special education were all included in that pivotal year at Judson Preschool. These services gently brought Jackson along and he thrived in that environment. The partnership of MPS and Judson Preschool gave Jackson the wings he needed to fly into Kindergarten--prepared to learn, prepared to make friends, prepared to grow.
Jackson transitioned to the Citywide Autism Program and was placed at Lake Nokomis Community School--Wenonah Campus for Kindergarten. His IEP was expertly crafted to include the exact services he needed to meet his goals. First grade at Wenonah continued in much the same way and we were seeing progress with Jackson at every step.
By the time Jackson entered second grade, something had changed. He walked into school and sat down at his desk--ready to learn--in a way that he had not done previously. He basically mainstreamed himself by just being in the main classroom successfully. He spent less and less time with his Autism Resource Team throughout second grade. The skills he had learned during those early years were paying off and working.
At his annual IEP review meeting today, everyone at the table--social worker, Autism Resource teacher, classroom teacher, speech therapist, occupational therapist, parents, and Jackson himself--agreed that Jackson should be transitioned out of the autism program when he enters third grade at Lake Nokomis Community School--Keeywadin Campus next year. He still has a couple of goals remaining on his IEP and he will continue to receive services and support from the Special Education Resource Team at Keewaydin, but he just does not seem to "fit" the Citywide Autism Program anymore.
The reasons that Jackson doesn’t fit in the Citywide Autism Program anymore? Growth. Development. Hard work. Learning. And the amazing list of people below (omitted from this blog post) who worked so diligently to not let our child slip through the cracks and risk being considered a behavior problem.
Jackson scored very high on the recent second grade testing, qualifying him for Advanced Learner Services. He has been a GEMS/GISE participant through ALC at Wenonah throughout this school year. He has been accepted to the STEM Academy to continue GEMS/GISE at Augsburg this summer. Great things are ahead for our son! And we believe firmly that it is the direct result of the great support he has received from educators who believed in him and who know their jobs well.
We are sharing this with you today because we know that you believe in our kids too. And we know that you receive a lot of complaints about how things are going in our school district. Let this letter serve as an example of how Minneapolis is doing things right. Our son is an early intervention success story. ECFE and ECSE scooped him up and helped him get to elementary school in a way that made sure he did not miss out on crucial early lessons but that also preserved his unique abilities so he could shine. We are grateful to Minneapolis Public Schools for investing in him--and our family--from the very beginning.
Catherine & Dan