Thanks to everyone’s advice and support on Babyboy’s Autism diagnosis and plans to enter the big, bad, scary world of PUBLIC PRESCHOOL at the end of June. (see last post)
Despite having completed a pediatrics residency, and being a physician, I have no experience and no clue how to handle the real-world logistics of an Autism diagnosis, and it’s overwhelming at times. I was wondering if we needed to hire an advocate and/or a lawyer ( learned that they ARE different) to help us through.
Our town’s recent Parent Advisory Council (PAC, i.e. group of other parents with special needs kids) was key for me… both reassuring and alarming at the same time. It was held in the library at the local Middle School at 7 p.m., and of course, I was the first one there. I parked, and just walked in the unlocked front door.
The foyer was large, really beautiful, and there were three hallways to choose from. I heard some noises, and wandered down one hallway, until I ran into a startled janitor, who directed me to the second floor library. It occurred to me that school security could be a little tighter.
Lucky, when I found the library, there was another parent there and we chatted. About twenty parents attended, who had children with Autism, anxiety, Down syndrome, ADHD, or other genetic syndromes… and also without clear diagnoses, but who are struggling. We covered a bunch of issues…
The gist of it is, that for this first foray into the public school system, Babyboy’s Early Intervention (EI) team will be his advocates. If we want, we can hire a professional advocate; these are specially trained people, looks like usually with Education degrees, who can help us to navigate the system, at $150/ hour fee. The lawyers come in if we’re really fighting with the system, and they’re more expensive than that. That’s my understanding, anyways…
So, we will have advocates for Babyboy, in the form of his existing, wonderful, EI team.
Still, I hear from the other parents that the school is severely limiting what services they will be offering to kids over the summer. They say that the school told them that there will be no group/ social pragmatic/ classroom setting services at all…. This is anxiety- provoking, because this is what the kids with Autism need.
They also warned that kids with summer birthdays get screwed (actual language) as evaluations and IEPs (Individualized Education Plan) take time to set up, and by the time your child has been evaluated and you agree on services, summer is over and your kid missed out. This is anxiety-provoking.
We were encouraged to contact the school Special Ed superintendant and get the process of Babyboy’s enrollment started STAT. This means he has to be evaluated by the school, and then we set up an IEP with them and his EI team, to figure out what services he can get through the school, after he turns three years old, at the end of June. We were encouraged to put our request in writing and save the document. This is anxiety-provoking.
Other parents had good and bad things to say about our school system. Other parents were happy or mad. Other parents had hired advocates or lawyers… It seemed that most parents who had had run-ins, fights or all-out lawsuits against the school, had been in the system for awhile, and had older kids.
So, mysterious as the process seems to be, with all the conflicting reports, we will initiate the process, and wait to see what happens…