Let me preface this blog post by noting that I'm not a teacher. I don't work for any school district. I have no bias that would cause me to lean toward schools. In fact, I often lean away from them. I'm just the parent of a child with autism learning as I go.
This might be a topic that many of us parents don't want to think about. We have a lot of responsibilities concerning our autistic children already, right? But generally, I think there's this shared train of thought that we should be able to just give our kids to the schools and they should be educating them and making sure they're learning. We should only have to intervene when things aren't going as they should. Well, I question that.
You should know that I question the school too, when I'm frustrated about my son's inability to grasp simple concepts that other kids grasp with no problem. Come on! Shouldn't they be doing something!?!?!
I'm a little moody, volatile. Some might even say I'm unstable! (I think I'm just a misunderstood Dad.) Sometimes I say contradictory statements as I switch between emotional and stable. But this kid is the responsibility of me and my wife. God didn't give him to the school, He gave him to us! (Thankfully!)
We attended Braden's annual IEP Meeting the other day. Aside from the boredom and the boredom (lots of boredom) of sitting still in a seat for almost two hours listening to things we already know, it was relatively pain-free. I say relatively because this was a meeting in which we all discuss my son's many deficits and there are several other topics I'd rather converse about such as "Why do cows have multiple stomachs?", "Who invented toilet paper?" and "Who CARES where Waldo is?" I know, I'm going off-topic just a little. But I'd bet Waldo was on an IEP! He's always wondering off and seems a little lost. OK, let me refocus.
There are some things to consider regarding my son's education. Is the school district giving my son the services he needs, the services required by law? Yes. Do my wife and I believe they are earnestly taking care of his needs? Yes, as best they can. Do we believe they actually care about our son? Yes we do.
Are they maximizing his educational experience by spending money on everything and anything that might work to make sure he gets the best education possible? No. And, as the parent of a child with autism, I can't expect them to do that. I don't have an endless supply of money to throw at my son, and it's unreasonable for me to expect the school to do something I'm not willing to do. Schools aren't rich. Oh, and trust me, I'm not either.
The government is not funding schools in America like they should. They're making laws all the time and telling the schools what to do, but they're not putting money behind it and they're really not investing in the kids. The government will tell the schools, "Do this. And find the money to do it!" And when the schools don't do it, we the parents, tend to blame the schools. MY KID'S NOT LEARNING!!!!!
Shouldn't we shoulder a good helping of our own children's education? I think so. And no, I'm not advocating for home schooling. But I don't think my son's education should rest entirely on any institution... except maybe the institution of family!
Realistically, we have to know that some of our kids, including mine, aren't going to learn nearly as much as 'normal' kids. My son doesn't care about math. And he doesn't have a particular affection for spelling, writing, or reading either. So what. He's my boy and I'll take him anyway. There comes a point when I have to look at it and say, "No matter how I try, no matter how the school tries, there are some things that my son is simply not going to learn."
That doesn't mean I'm giving up or giving in. Just because I accept that he has autism doesn't mean I give up on trying to get through. I'm his Dad. I'll always try to teach him. But some things are more important than others.
I know some parents of kids with autism that take their kid from this therapy to that therapy, and sometimes therapy can be an all day thing - almost a way of life. We don't do that, but I'm not condemning the parents who do. You gotta do what you think is best for your child.
Me and my wife don't want Braden in therapy all the time. We want him to be able to spend time with us as a family. We see a lot of value in that. We know him well. We are his first and closest therapists... but we prefer to be called Mom and Dad. And we want him to be free to be a kid like every other kid out there.
Is the school failing your kid? Maybe your answer is yes. Isn't there a point when we need to reevaluate the expectations we have for our kids and for the schools? We have to keep our expectations high and continue to strive. But we also have to be realistic. And realistically, we have some incredible kids!
I am in the the process of working with the school on my son's IEP. I am also teacher, which probably causes the administration to be on guard. I was taught during my Bachelor of Education degree (Canada), that an IEP should be a living, breathing, document, that can be adapted and changed at any time, when required. I have a little guy, born, 2007, that is in JK. I just received his IEP, Feb. 2012 - he started JK in Sept. 2011. I am ok with that because we all agreed that we should see where he is at before we rush into an IEP.
I am already prepared to adjust his IEP. I want him to be paired with other students on a rotating basis to develop his social skills. I don't want other students to feel they are "stuck " with him, hence, the rotation, but, he needs to be able to have a buddy, because he doesn't talk very much. My little guy doesn't have siblings his own age so I feel this is important.
Ultimately, I agree with you on so many levels, the schools can't do it all - but, bit by bit, we can add to our children's IEP's, as we feel the need, to further their progress.
I look forward to your future postings, they help me breathe, as I deal with each day as a parent with an ASD child.
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