Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Welcome to the Cracks

Ever sit around just reading your kid’s IEP, trying to imagine how it actually translates to a happier child? And let me be clear…I’m not complaining about The Boy’s IEP. It was written by an excellent special ed teacher who was his biggest advocate and strongest support last year. She herself expressed frustration with the rigid nature of these things.

You can dictate what a child needs and what the school must provide – to a point. They can have X minutes of services here, Y minutes of services there. They can have a teacher with a special ed degree (or, apparently, a Teach for America recruit who’s successfully crammed for a special ed test). They can be in a small classroom with a high ratio of adults to students. They can have access to an aide (just hope you don’t get the bitter, disgruntled type).

It can look good on paper, but so much slips between the cracks. Because you can’t dictate human nature. You can’t dictate empathy, common sense, or even the slightest real understanding and acceptance of Aspergers beyond its stiff, inadequate textbook definitions.

Welcome to the cracks.

It would appear that I have been ever-so-slightly misled. Some of the misleading, I’m afraid, was my own doing. I was desperate to get The Boy out of his old school and into a situation where he’d have more support and understanding. So, I enthusiastically accepted a spot at our neighborhood school where, my contact from the school district acknowledged, it wasn’t exactly an autism-specific program and it wasn’t exactly an inclusion model. But she, the principal, and the special ed teacher offered enough reasons to make me believe it would be a good-enough fit, that they’d be flexible and do their best to meet his individual needs.

And who knows. Maybe it will work. But it’s not what I was expecting. For one thing, autism is a relatively new thing to this classroom. Half of next year’s students will be on the spectrum, but traditionally it hasn’t been that way. Traditionally, it’s been a self-contained classroom for neurotypical kids with behavior problems, and it’s still very much run that way – with the teacher and aides kind of figuring out how all this applies to autistic kids on the fly.

So…not an ideal fit. Hopefully not a flat-out freaking disaster, but not an ideal fit. I wanted autism inclusion. I was led to believe (and very much wanted to believe) that this program was similar enough, but it isn’t. Meanwhile, the school district wants to phase out autism inclusion programs entirely. I don’t know what’s going to happen going forward, but I’m puzzling out the details of Plans A, B, C, and D right now and there are several possible outcomes. Time will tell. Nobody ever said this was going to be easy.  

But in the meantime…welcome to the cracks.

We will start second grade at this school, in this program, as planned. The things I liked about it two months ago are still mostly true. And there’s still a chance that it might be a good fit for The Boy. My first action won’t be whisking him out of there. My first action will be trying to see if we can settle into these cracks we’ve slipped between and make it work for the time being. I’ll be navigating the system, but I will have both eyes firmly on the child himself. How will he thrive? What strengths can we build upon and what coping skills can we teach? Where will he find his small comforts and joys to help him through?

We made incredible progress last year. This coming year presents a whole new set of challenges, only some of which I can anticipate. Maybe someday we’ll have a school year where I can just put him on the bus and relax into my own day, but this isn’t going to be it. 

On the plus side, maybe this will be the year I earn my Ms. Special Ed Parenting America crown. Stay tuned…

1 comment:

:) said...

I keep coming back to read this post. It speaks to me. I know the cracks, too. I use to be afraid that my kid would fall in them. Most often I was the putty who wouldn't let him fall into that crack and now it is me and the great people who work with him. Maybe because I have a few years of the cracks I have less fear or I am simply too beaten down. Hang in there!

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