Where Do You See Your Child?

SavageSpring is in the air, the trees are blooming and another school year is nearing a close.  You know what that means?  It’s IEP time!  The feelings elicited by the mere mention of the word IEP can be either ones of anticipation and relief or anxiety and dread, depending on what kind of a school district you live in.

Going into our annual meeting this year, my feelings fell somewhere in the middle.  For us it was an up and down year school-wise.  There was a new speech teacher, the school nurse was out for half of the year and there were rotating nurses in every other day, the occupational therapist was replaced mid year and there was a head teacher change late in the year.  As you all know with kids on the spectrum, change is usually never a good thing.  My son had a very difficult time transitioning with all of these changes and had a not so good year as a result.  He seemed a little more anxious than usual.  I was prepared going into the IEP meeting that these issues were going to be discussed and a plan would be put in place going forward that would benefit my son the most.

My husband and I have been going to CPSE and CSE meetings for years now and are very familiar with the district’s special needs personnel, so we felt this would be a very proactive IEP meeting.

Alas, that did not happen.

The teacher that had started very late in the year, and knew my son for a grand total of 2 months started the meeting.  She did her obligatory opening statement about what a sweet and wonderful person my son was, but the positivity stopped there.  What followed was a 15 minute discussion about my son’s challenging behaviors and he was constantly frustrated during the school day with frequent meltdowns (of course these meltdowns were not a big issue until this teacher came on board).  She recommended putting him in a behavior classroom out of the district.  Sure, my son had difficulties this year for many different reasons, but she wasn’t even willing to give him a chance.  It was the first time I was ever so disappointed in a teacher and our district.  Apparently, there was only a certain level of “special” she wanted in her special needs students.

She then asked my husband and I, “Where do you see your child?”  Apparently having dreams and goals for your child with autism is unrealistic.  In her opinion, we have to prepare them for their inevitable job at McDonald’s while living an “independent” life in a group home.  Apparently my husband and I were preventing this from happening by not having every second of every day filled with life skills training.  You help him zip his coat and tie his shoes?  The HORROR!!!  You plan on having your son live at home?  UNACCEPTABLE!!

There were so many things I wanted to say to this teacher at that moment.  Goddess’ blog popped into my head instantly.  I was floored at how judgmental she was being.  Didn’t she know what I had envisioned for my child when he was born and I held him in my arms for the first time?  It wasn’t having to take the handicapped bus to school with a nurse because of his seizure disorder and diabetes.  It wasn’t having to struggle with sensory overload on a daily basis that caused him to act out in frustration.  And it certainly wasn’t him needing a device in order to communicate with me because he is nonverbal.  These were things I never envisioned for him.

Where did I see my child?  I saw him running onto the school bus with his backpack and laughing and playing with the other kids.  I saw him experiencing the joys of being a child.  I saw him learning how to drive and going on his first date.  I saw him enjoying the world around him and taking part in it wholeheartedly.

Unfortunately, life didn’t turn out that way for us so far, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t have hopes and dreams for my son.  So I help him zip his coat, wash his hair, or tie his shoes.  Does that make me a bad mom?  Of course not.  What I wanted this teacher to know was that above all else, my son knows that he is loved and life is meant to be enjoyed.  Yes, those skills are important, but laughing and playing are important.  Hugs are important.  Being a family is important.  Above all else, knowing that your life is more than just a label is the most important thing of all.   

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14 Responses to Where Do You See Your Child?

  1. Thinkingmominthedesert says:

    Yep, IEP season!!! lol This coming Monday morn is my son’s MDT mtg (3yr review/re-evaluations) and the following week Tuesday morn is the IEP mtg. We have had a
    cah-ray-zee schl year that’s for sure! Started the yr w a new, clueless, wack-a-doo of an old lady who after 3 months of this PITA momma on her back (&others) she wound up taking a indefinite medical leave of abscense (in other words a one way ticket to crazy town lol). Soooo his sp ed teacher that retired last yr (who we loved) came back and we were happy. However, that only lasted for a month bc she & the administration butted heads. So they then placed the in-house schl sub as the permanent (non spec ed trained!?!) substitute teacher for his self contained classrm. Thank God he only spent a portion of each day there. I wound up taking control of everything-HW, tests, leveled books, sight words, spelling words,etc… Ugh. I met w the asst principal waaaay too many times this yr. Now here’s the kicker…this permanent sub who was now the clsrm tchr for like 3months wound up becoming pregnant and due to THAT, has taken off (and still is taking off) more days than I cld count-at least 2-3days a wk and many days back2back!! In which, his retired teacher from last year has been the one to fill in all of her absences. So it worked out. Sorta. Ughhh My son fared well bc A) he only spends half his day in tht rm B) he does well w change/new ppl and C) thank God for the aides! The aides hold it down!! Despite all this my son has made incredible progress this yr & at last yrs IEP we decided no more ESY. Oh and we have a BrainBalance progress/update mtg 5days before the IEP, so it will be interesting when I request that we refer to & include the info from that in creating the new IEP goals. Yep, interesting indeed! No matter how u slice n dice it…IEP mtgs=sleepless anxiety & nausea for the parent. Period. I’ll keep ya posted!

  2. Lioness says:

    This just breaks my heart. I feel like his current teacher never sees the potential in my son or praises him for the gains he does make. She is very negative! I am really trying to make sure we get a nice teacher for him next year. I am starting to think that the personality of the teacher and their love for kids makes a big difference. Thanks goodness for the aides in his class which are just darling and caring. Sigh.

    I hope you find a good solution for you son!

  3. Robotrachel says:

    All I could think of when I read this post was, “Time for Son-Rise.”
    And then several angry things I won’t type regarding your son’s teacher. Especially since she’s supposed to be special ed! Forget her!

  4. Kally says:

    As a special education teacher, it really hurts to hear some of the negative experiences families can have at IEP meetings. “Where do you see your child?” is such a ridiculous question in the kind of context in which it was asked. How ignorant. I hope a bad apple doesn’t end up spoiling the whole bunch in terms of teachers–there are many who do not approach children in such a manner.

  5. Jean Whelan says:

    Hi all,
    My son’s IEP is this coming tuesday. I do not have an advocate and would love some suggestions on how best to approach the teachers, for more.
    Danny is 14 years old, now. He is totally non-verbal; but knows much, and outsmarts us @ home, as well as his teachers. He has phased out of the BPS program he is in; and will start High School in September. I selected his new school to be @ the school he’s been attending the last 3 summers. They tell me there is no openings there. Danny’s classmates will be split up and sent to other ASD programs. my plan is not to sign the IEP and try to get more services for him (esp speech as he’s non-verbal). Does anyone have any suggestions or steps you took that worked. Thanks in advance.
    Jean Whelan
    p.s. Hi Alison!

    • MelissaD says:

      Jean – Do you know any retired school teachers? When my son first entered pre-school and began having IEP meetings, I asked one of the wonderful retired teachers I know who was a family friend/went to church with us if she would attend his IEPs. She had been involved in hundreds of IEPs in her 25+ years of teaching and has been a wonderful advocate for us. She often knows more (and cares more) than many who work in our district. Or, ask if there are any friends of friends who might be able/interested. So many great teachers with lots of experience are out there and might be willing to help you. Also, check your state laws regarding class size and their requirements to add additional classes. And ask around (support groups meetings, therapy, etc.) maybe there are other parents who were interested in that placement as well and you could join with them to ask the school to add another class if the one they have is full? Good luck! Nothing is more frustrating than finding the “perfect place” then being told you can’t go there.

      • Jean Whelan says:

        Hi Melissa
        Thanks for your ideas about Danny’s IEP meeting. I have an advocate lined up to go over the current and new IEP. (She couldn’t make it to the meeting) Anyway, I’ve been to enough of these meetings and have yet to get everything I want for my son. Well, now that he’s starting HS, I’m freaking out a bit. Everything is such a struggle. BPS is only concerned about costs, not the child. Augh! Have a great weekend.

  6. Dori says:

    I found that when my son was having problems like your son….the public school was not the place for him. Also, the class size was just too big, and he couldn’t get the attention I know he needed. Despite any IEP…. they really didn’t understand, and I think lack the education to teach our kids. I then sought out a private school that dealt with all of the speech, sensory issues…u name it! Wow what a difference! 2 years later my son is in a ‘regular’ school without issue. In conjunction with all of that we did classical homeopathy, auditory retraining, neurofeedback, craniosacral, energy work with Aurasoma, OT, and speech.

    • Jean Whelan says:

      If I may ask, did your public school system foot the bill for the private school your son attended? BYW, congratulations on your son’s progress!! Fantastic!!

      • Dori says:

        No Way they did not foot the bill! Thousands of dollars later……….but it was worth every penny and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I felt like I was just wasting my time in any sort of ‘special ed’ programs the public school where we lived at that time, had available. It was like talking to a wall when I would try to ask the teachers questions… I only have one son though, and I worked more to help fund it.

  7. Gina B says:

    Crap, I’m so sorry this happened. I feel the same – there are important things in life. My kids? Still have dreams for them. Amelia will be the first wildlife photographer with Down syndrome. (Pretty sure you don’t need math skills for that job.) And Zoe? Autism is not going to stop her from becoming a great chef, or maybe a programmer. 🙂 Both of my kids are, at best, middle functioning, but I have dreams for them, and we attend a school where they foster that. Although, they are still working on math too …

  8. MelissaD says:

    ‘Apparently, there was only a certain level of “special” she wanted in her special needs students.’ Wow, that about sums up the feeling I had from our son’s new teacher this year as well. I think there is a lot of that with special education teachers. Why some of them choose this profession I will never know. We went from having a caring, involved, teacher who was willing to problem solve for the past 4 years, to one this year who seemed like my child was a bother to her. I knew at the first IEP meeting last August that we were going to have problems when she said, “I have 12 students in the class and I don’t have the time to give him like Mrs. So-and-So did”. It would be nice if the people charged with providing the least restrictive environment had some clue about what that actually meant. My child is mostly non-verbal, but so very smart and I will be darned if he will languish is a room all day learning how to wipe a table or some other mundane task. He can do so much more. I hope your meeting had a good resolution and you have what you want for him for the fall!

  9. Maureen says:

    Just what I needed to hear today. We had several of the same changes and challenges this year. Our IEP went much the same way. The school recommended that our fully integrated son be placed in the ASD program in another school in the district. Ripped away from any “friends” he may know. Sigh.

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