When Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members Poppy and Bryan Tanner found out that their son Cody Tanner, 7, was diagnosed with receptive speech delay when he was in preschool, they feared he wouldn’t be able to take care of himself when he grows up because of the disability.
“He was not able to speak or understand what anyone was saying when he was in preschool. He only had a five- to 10-word vocabulary,” said Poppy Tanner. “And when his kindergarten teacher told us he was going to remain this way, it just kind of hit home and it gave us that fear.”
Cody attended kindergarten at Patterson Elementary near Apache Junction because it offered the only special-education program for him at that time. That is where the family was told by teachers that Cody was always going to be in special education as he attended school.
As Cody made his way through first grade and into second grade, he was transferred to Whitman Elementary to be closer to home after a spot opened up at that school.
Cody attended Whitman’s special-education class with 11 other students who have various types of special-education needs. Teachers and staff helped Cody in areas such as speech therapy, counseling to understand his mental abilities, and all kinds of therapies.
Whitman’s special-education instructors test their students every three months for his Individualized Education Program (IEP), the plan that details the special-education curriculum and services that each student needs. Cody was categorized as primary mildly mentally disabled and his parents were told he would never be able to attend general-education classes as a regular second-grade student would.
In early April, the Tanner family received a phone message asking them to contact Cody’s teacher as soon as they could.
Instinctively, Cody’s mother thought the worst. “When the school called, I thought something bad happened,” said Poppy. However, little did she know that it would turn out to be good news for the whole family.
“I called Cody’s teacher back, and she told me they didn’t know what happened but when he was tested for his IQ, it had increased from 56 percent to 87 percent; a 65 percent was deficient and 87 percent was average,” said Poppy. “He completely tested out of special-education class. The teacher said they tested him three or four times, because they couldn’t believe it.”
It was great news and a special surprise to see Cody test out of special education, explained Cody’s teacher Holly Butler; this does not happen, only one in a million chance.
Today, Cody is attending general-education classes at Lehi Elementary, just like any other second-grader.
“We never expected him to move out of special education,” said Poppy. “His main helper was his teacher, Holly Butler; she pushed him to do better, because she saw how different he was from the other children.”
Now that he is in general education, Cody is not going to need that constant watching, explained Poppy. “It will give him the opportunity to be independent in school.”
Cody enjoys going to the same school as his siblings now and getting to ride the “big bus” to school.