Parents, I cannot stress to you enough how supremely important it is that you know your rights when it comes to your child’s education. I thought I had a handle on it, but I had no idea. Here is our story. I hope it helps one person out there.
After my oldest son was diagnosed with autism, I knew what an IEP was on a basic level. I had a representative with me from our local ARC office with me at that first meeting. I did my research for accommodations of the things that I could see were causing problems for my son in school based on the communication I got from the school and what I knew about my son.
We had a diagnosis from a doctor specializing in autism that our son was not just a “problem child,” like the school wanted to label him and throw up their hands. We knew he needed help. The school had run their tests. Their tests were minimal. You see, because he was an A student, they didn’t see the need to evaluate for speech, OT, or PT. He was getting along “just fine.” I didn’t know I could push for these evaluations. The person there as my advocate never said, “boo,” about such things. In fact, she never said much at all. So much for having an advocate to help me.
I thought we had a decent IEP in place after that first meeting. We would meet every Spring to revise and rewrite my son’s IEP. Every year I would ask about the same issues that had not been resolved the year before. The same issues where we were seeing behaviors year after year. I was told the strategies we had in place would work. I researched some more. I suggested new strategies, and was shot down. I was made to compromise the best solution I could get the school to agree to each year. The school didn’t see the need to retest before the three year re-evaluation period even though their way wasn’t working.
Well, you see, we ended up leaving that school for another option in a blaze of bridge burning due process glory. A better option. An option who was more than happy to run ALL of the evaluations that were never looked at before. It turned out that my son, the one who was doing “fine” academically, but that I saw struggling day after day, the one whose meltdowns our family endured every afternoon after school, has a major core language deficit. So much so that his core language score is lower than that of his brother who is 5 1/2 years younger (also ASD). It’s no wonder he struggles with writing assignments to the point of hating them.
This new educational option also assessed my son’s problem solving skills. My son tanked. TANKED the assessment! I mean we’re talking 7th percentile in two of the four areas, and a total score of 29th percentile. Combine this with the Vineland that our BCBA just did, and it all makes a lot of sense why we see the behaviors that we’re seeing. My son might appear to be an older child on the outside, but that’s not where he is functioning in all areas of his life.
The hardest part as a parent is that I see this boy who has so much in front of him, and yet so much work to do if he wants to achieve the things he says wants to achieve in life. I just want him to be the best him he can be, but the schools make this so much harder when they’re not willing to even evaluate a student for services that they might need. We don’t even know what tools and strategies to give a student if we don’t know what they need by evaluating all areas. For example, my son doesn’t need OT after all. He’s learned how to cope on his own at this stage in his life. But the rest? Yes, he needs new tools and strategies where there were none before because we didn’t know because no one would listen to be and even take the time to look. Some students may not even need these services for very long if they’re started early enough instead of playing catch up.
That leaves it up to us parents. it is IMPERATIVE that we know how the IEP process works and what the schools MUST provide under FAPE and IDEA – laws. I know this often only means the bare minimum as far as services, but in our case, they wouldn’t even evaluate to see if services were necessary. This needs to STOP. Our children deserve better than the current climate in the education system, and it’s up to us as their parents to make sure that happens.