Relaxing About School

So back in March and April, when we were just beginning to deal with Babyboy’s autism diagnosis, I had gone to a Parent Advisory Council meeting about Special Ed. We knew that Babyboy would be moving from the safe, warm, happy place of Early Intervention (EI) to our town’s school system, and I wanted to learn more about that process. Some of the parents who were at the meeting were all fired up, describing veritable battles with the school system, and they scared the crap out of me. They talked about hiring educational advocates, or even lawyers, of endless time and energy spent fighting with educators… I wrote about this in “Our son has autism, and now we need a lawyer?”

This alarmed me, as I had always understood that we lived in an awesome school district. That’s why we moved here. It was disheartening.

But our EI team reassured us that things would likely be just fine for Babyboy. They help parents of special needs kids transition to the school system all the time, so they should know. I calmed down and let things move forward…

Things moved, albeit very slowly. I contacted the Special Ed coordinator and asked how to get started as Babyboy was going to be 3 years old in June (3 years of age is when EI services have to cease). She told me I had to register him for school first, before they could do anything.

Okay, sounds easy enough. But the process of registration involved filling out an involved application, as well as proving we live in this town, which involved hunting down a bunch of documents, like a copy of the deed to our house, among other things. In all of my spare time, I dug through piles and stacks of papers and gathered everything. Then I had to make an appointment with this one certain person to review all the documents to make sure they passed muster, and she had to review my application. It took a few weeks get that sorted.

Then they needed all of Babyboy’s evaluations from EI, the Developmental Medicine folks, Speech and Physical Therapy. I gathered all of those. Then the school had to do their own evaluations: Behavioral/ developmental, Speech, Occupational therapy. All of these had to be arranged. Then they wrote up their evaluations and we finally could set a date for the all-important IEP (Individualized Education Program).

The IEP was last week. We were biting our nails a bit going into this, because we really wanted Babyboy to have a smooth transition from all of his EI services to the school services, without a big gap, as in, nothing over the summer. We were prepared to pay out of pocket, and cobble together some kind of summer program made up of private services, if we had to.

I mean, his birthday is next week, and he has been doing so well with his intensive EI program. His progress has been phenomenal. He actually talks. We can communicate. We have little conversations. When I think back to the fall, and remember how frustrating it was for us- and him- that he couldn’t talk, I’m amazed. Hubby and I would sit and say, “I wonder what his voice will sound like,” because little kids’ conversation is so darned cute, and we hadn’t heard our 2 1/2 year old talk yet.

Now, he says things like “Mommy, I want go birthday party!” and it’s so adorable, his emphasis and pronunciation, it sounds like “I want go BIRDIEpotty!” He makes eye contact more often and more spontaneously. He gestures and points to things he wants, and looks to us to communicate it. These things are all huge progress.

It’s also amazing to hear Babygirl talk. She’s been talking for a few months now, and she’s only 18 months old. She pops out with new words and phrases every day. Tonight she pointed to animal pictures in a book, “Mommy. Look. Kitty, Doggie, Moo-moo, Neigh!” Hearing her talk at this age, reminds us that Babyboy has a ways to go.

So Hubby and I went to the IEP meeting together, with key players from Babyboy’s EI team, and sat around a table all of the school players (Special Ed teacher, Speech and Occupational therapists, Special Ed coordinator). At one point they were talking about a “sensory session” and then a “gross motor group” and things like that, and the coordinator apologized for using “the jargon”. I realized that I am usually guilty of using jargon, medical jargon, and having to go back and apologize and explain what things mean. I think it’s always a good thing for a doctor to experience the other side of things…

We reviewed all of their recommendations, which were that he start school right away, for the summer program, 4 days a week. In the fall, he’ll be in the substantially separate Special Ed classroom for a full day, 5 days a week. He’ll continue with all the services he’s been getting, all the therapies. The major emphasis is on social and communication skills- social pragmatics.

We couldn’t have been more pleased. Our EI team was pleased. It all felt very warm and sincere, and well-thought-out.

So, Babyboy starts school July 1, with the kids he’ll be in class with come fall, in the Special Ed Pre-K for ages 3-5, in the school he’ll attend through grade 5.

What a relief! And, today, in his last EI Behavioral group session, he did indeed have a birthday party (Birdiepotty!), with cupcakes.

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