A few days ago I attended my autistic daughter’s quarterly parent/teacher conference. It’s a time when we review the goals in her Individual Education Plan (IEP) with her teacher, Occupational Therapist, Speech Therapist, Behaviorist and Case Manager. I call them her “posse.” 🙂 I LOVE these meetings and I LOVE her posse. I feel like they really care for her, and for our whole family. Some people have terrible relationships with their kids’ teachers and child study teams, some people have had to sue their school districts to get services, but with the exception of ONE meeting in the past nine years that my daughter has been in the system, my relationship with these folks has been very positive.
At this meeting they surprised me, and I’m still trying to process it. I sat down expecting a normal conversation about how she’s doing – instead I got a conversation about the possibility of her being placed in a new program next year. Her yearly IEP meeting is at the end of next month, and her case manager feels a change of program might be beneficial for her starting the next school year. She wants plans resolved for next year by the time of the meeting so it can be worked into the new IEP. I was in shock.
I told them I didn’t understand what all this was about, and they explained everything to me in a very calm and logical way. And what they said makes sense. Two months ago she became the only girl in her class (when a classmate was transferred for reasons they couldn’t share – privacy laws…), and when looking at the make-up of what “would” be her class next year, she would be one of the higher functioning students, and really the only one without behavior issues. I started to feel panicky, like they were going to push mainstreaming, so in the calmest way I could, stopped the conversation and expressed my concern that mainstreaming would be a DISASTER. Her case manager reassured me that in no way were they considering mainstreaming – at the very least they knew it would be inappropriate for her academically (She is not “grade level” in any subject). Her case manager reassured me she would still be in a self-contained classroom, but that they felt she needed a setting that would give her a different mix of students with more of her social abilities, who could also encourage and push her social skills AND academics. I couldn’t argue with that. Her case manager is going to research different programs, and then my husband and I will have a chance to see them and must give our approval first if we find one we like.
THIS IS A GOOD THING. I keep telling myself that. This means that she’s progressing out of her current program. It’s a WONDERFUL thing! But I’m scared. In the autism world we talk a lot about our kids’ aversion to transition and change, but truth be told, we parents don’t like it much either. If we’ve got our kids in a place we TRUST, where we know our children aren’t just being taught the abc’s but are also being CARED for, we’re not going to be giving out high-fives when told there might be a better deal out there. My daughter has been in this program since she was THREE (she’s 12 now). And I know some of these people like family. They are family. They have been such a supportive community for us over these many years and leaving them will be like leaving the nest – being pushed out into the great unknown and hoping we can fly. This is a GOOD thing, right? Did I say I’m scared?