Well, we’ve been in school for almost 3 months now, and I’ve already had to call an IEP. This is the wrong placement, but it’s the best one we can get right now, all things considered. Not only is The Boy on the spectrum, (High-Functioning Autism / Aspergers,) but he’s also very intelligent & tests way above average, so that’s called a “Twice Exceptional” “2e” or “Twice Gifted” child.
He’s only 5, so he’s technically in Transitional Kindergarten (TK) because he has a late September birthday, and that’s the law here – kids have to be 5 by September 1st to enter Kindergarten no matter your intellectual ability. He is currently placed in a Core Autism classroom with 10 boys (all boys) ranging in severity, (the majority are non-verbal, low-functioning kids.) The ages of the kids range from 5, (The Boy is the youngest one in class,) to age 8. TK – 2nd grade. Wrong placement for him because of the severity of the behaviors in his class, but the best available option because he is able to work above his grade level with the 1st & 2nd graders. In his current IEP, The Boy is supposed to push out to general-ed, but for what? He would tear a “typical” “gen-ed classroom” apart in about 30 seconds if left to his own devices. He’s way beyond “A makes the ‘aaaaahhh’ sound.” He’s reading, spelling, doing math, learning geography, etc.
He needs a one-to-one aide, someone who can be with him in a typical (but advanced) classroom … not forever, but for the time being until he can learn to self-regulate. He’s over-stimualated & easily influenced by these low-functioning kids. He’s picking up behaviors and trying them on for size. Behaviors that had taken a long time to eradicate are now resurfacing. He needs to be around his more typical, higher-functioning, bright peers. I have told the school district this for over a year now, and my assertions fall on deaf ears. I know what they hear when I ask them for an aide, they hear the sound of money being pried out of their sweaty, bureaucratic hands. It costs approximately $100,000 a year to have an aide for a child. It’s no wonder they have denied me time and again.
This was my 4th IEP and I’m pretty much a pro at these now. I read several very helpful, (and very dense,) special education books from “Wrights Law.” I have my notebooks all properly prepared, each paper at the ready in case I need to reference something. I have my secret advisors within the district, who, (of course,) shall forever remain nameless. I have my outline of what I’m going to discuss placed in front of me, I’m dressed professionally, and I am ready to confront them, even though “we’re all on the same team.”And, sorry, but I don’t buy that for a second. Sure, they all say they have The Boy’s best interest at heart. And I believe that they want to believe that, but at the end of the day I’m not the person signing their paycheck. Their loyalty lies with the school district.
We’re at an impasse here. They basically told me that they don’t think he needs an aide, and to even get to the point where they will even consider an aide, they would have to do (another) Functional Behavior Assessment, (FBA.) Which is a time consuming process of collecting data on The Boy – what triggers behaviors, and why. So, let’s just assume they do this FBA & determine he IS eligible for an aide, the placement of an aide would not even happen until the end of this school year. And that’s IF they decide he qualifies, which I’m here to tell you that will not ever happen without me taking them to due process. They’re just stalling for time, trying to wear me down & honestly, I can’t deny that it’s working. I’m tired of dealing with them!
See where I’m going with this? How much longer do I give them to get it right? How much longer does The Boy have to suffer from their lackadaisical, bureaucratic gridlock? I don’t have the resources to fight them – we cannot really afford to hire a high-powered attorney & sue them, (even though I threaten that time and again.) And even if we did – who is to say that having an aide would even solve the problems he is facing? He is riddled with anxiety that manifests itself in various ways – physical outbursts, nail-biting, aggression toward himself and others.
I can see the toll that daily “failures” are taking on The Boy. His teacher uses a star-sheet for the day where the kids have to earn a certain number of stars for making safe choices, respecting others, participating in group activities, completing assignments, etc., and if they earn a specific number of stars, they are rewarded by being allowed to choose a treat from the treasure box. After 60 days of school, he has had 8 treasure box days where he’s earned enough stars to be rewarded. EIGHT. Out of SIXTY. Tell me that isn’t destroying his self-esteem.
I can’t fault him for not having good days – he doesn’t have the tools to be successful! I mean, of course I will reprimand him for acting out physically toward his teachers or peers – I think he is smart enough to know how to control his impulsivity. But how can I punish him when a big part of it isn’t his fault? This is really wearing all of us down: The Boy, The Husband & Me.
I’ve been pondering homeschooling for a little while now – the past few months it’s been rolling around the old brain cage, as sort of a last resort option. But I’ve been thinking about it more and more lately. A few friends of mine home school their (typical) kids, but they seem much more cut out for the challenge – both are a lot more laid back than I am, and make it look easier than it probably is.
Well, as I was driving this weekend, (alone,) I was flipping through satellite radio, and on one of the channels, a woman was talking about homeschooling. And, it just really struck me, that, with all the blood, tears and sweat I’ve put into fighting the school district to try and get The Boy the tools he needs to be successful in school, I’m still not even close to accomplishing this! And all the time I spend fretting about Common Core & IEP’s, I could be teaching him myself instead of trying to find ways to convince the district to try my ideas.
Instead of fighting them, why not throw the towel in & flip the script? Why not remove the obstacle (The School District) & empower myself to be in control of the way my child is educated? Educated in my comfortable, loving, supportive home environment, where he could focus & receive 100% of my attention. And, bonus: I could kick Common Core to the curb. It’s not that I don’t have the fight left in me to battle the school district, but for what? And for how long until I have to do it again? It just struck me so deeply that I may be fighting the wrong battle, I may be spinning my wheels, I may be wasting my energy. And that maybe homeschooling is something I need to seriously consider.
I sat on this idea for a day. I didn’t tell anyone because I thought maybe it was a fleeting feeling, maybe it was a hormonal thing, maybe I was fired up by the talk radio segment I had heard. I mean, I was on my period – maybe this wild hair would work its way back out of me, but instead the thought of homeschooling kept gnawing at me.
Without alerting him to my objective, I started a casual conversation with The Boy about school. Lately, he has been complaining that he doesn’t want to go … he doesn’t like that they do the same thing every day, he feels overwhelmed with all of the distractions in class, he wishes it was just him alone with me as his teacher. I explained that I wasn’t his teacher, and he relented and said, then he would be better off alone with his 5 teachers. So, wow, he said it, he wants to be homeschooled. That was another a-ha moment.
Then, I went to The Husband. He’s heard me talk about the possibility of homeschooling before, but between him and my mom, they pretty much dismissed it as a passing thought, brought about by my frustration with the school district. They thoughtfully pointed out that homeschooling would be really, really tough & I would be exhausted by the end of the day, probably not up for the task … After all, dealing with a very willful Aspie is really hard to do all day.
The thought is actually frightening, I’ll be honest here. I have no idea what I’m doing, true. And selfishly, where’s my “me time” going to go? I can kiss coffee with the girls good-bye. Our entire lives will have to change – our routines, our priorities. I’m petrified, nervous, overwhelmed … and excited. I feel like this is the beginning of an amazing adventure & I can chart the course. I feel like this could be really great. Or be really awful.
But, don’t I owe it to him to try a different approach? Even if it is going to be challenging for me? He is my only child & he deserves this. I cannot think of anything more important than the well-being, overall health and education of my child. There is no job, no hobby, no community service that I can think of that inspires my passion more than my only little boy.
I’ve been reading some stories from parents who waited too long, and now in a crisis are forced to realize, all too late, that their child would be better off being educated at home. I don’t want to wait until it becomes a tragedy. I want to be that intelligent woman who sees the writing on the wall early enough on, and says, “let’s do this.” If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work and we will know that we gave it our best effort. But if I don’t try it, it will continue to gnaw away at me, this feeling that we can do better. Maybe it won’t be forever, maybe it’s only for a little while, and maybe it won’t work. But shouldn’t I at least try?
Friends, mommies, homeschoolers, teachers, anyone who wants to chime in, please do! I’m looking for input from those of you in the trenches. Give me a shout out! I need some words of wisdom & inspiration 🙂