Academics or Special Ed?

As I mentioned before, Buddy’s first school last year was a special-ed school. Small class, a teach, two aides. Buddy thrived. We stop by and visit his teacher once in a while.

His teacher had informed us that he could handle general education, so we transferred to a school that focused on the things he excels at, including technology. Now it is time to either re-enroll him or move him to a different school.

It should be an easy decision. This school is exactly what he needs… academically. We’ve had a lot of issues this year with this school not addressing the needs of those with special needs.

To begin with, I had to call the police twice and ask them to monitor the parking habits of the parents of the school. Evidently no one told them that the handicap parking was for the handicapped. While Buddy doesn’t need a space, there are those that do. The police made quite a bit of money on parking tickets for two weeks before parents finally learned their lesson.

When Buddy fought going to the school, I had originally assumed it was because it was new, and he missed his old school. One day, he was really not letting me leave, really upset, and the intercom went off. It was so loud, I flinched. Buddy cried out and covered his ears. The bell was also too loud. These issues had to be addressed.

At the beginning of the year, we set up his IEP. As the meeting concluded, I asked when the next one would be. I found out they only do them once a year, whereas the last school met with me quarterly and gave me updates and altered his plan as needed. Buddy’s brother’s school — the same school but for older children — has done so well with keeping me updated and answering my questions that I don’t feel that I need regular meetings.

I very clearly stated that Buddy gets overwhelmed when there’s too much noise and a lot of people. I went to pick up Buddy, but they had released him before I got to the pick up area. He couldn’t take the noise and the crowd and bolted toward home. I put the car in park (causing other parents to honk at me) and took off running to catch him before he made it to the very busy street. I put my hands on his ears and led him back to the car. Although I reminded them not to let him out, I had to stop and catch him twice more before the I made the principal aware of what was going on and he put a stop to it.

One of the biggest issues I have is that no matter what time of day I come by the school (drop off school supplies, my son’s lunch that he forgot, etc) Buddy has his headphones on and is on an iPad. He’s not playing with the other kids, not doing any schoolwork, not doing a craft. His teacher has called me while I’m volunteering to come get him, because they don’t know what to do with him, but he won’t move.

While their special education department is dreadful, Buddy is learning. He comes home telling me about things he found fascinating. He’s reading! Other than special ed, the school has been amazing for him.

The last school he went to was great for special ed, but they didn’t teach much, nor did they teach things he was interested in.

How does a parent decide which school is best for their child? Should I worry more about his special needs getting met, or his academic ones?

I have struggled over this and who to leave him with should I pass unexpectedly. The answer came to me today: my Autism Mama.

I have a birth mother, of course. I have a woman that I call my spiritual mother; I look to her as an example of how to live, how to raise my children, and how to have a happy marriage. I also have an autism mother, one that I go to whenever I have a question about things like this. She has a deaf autistic adult child, so she knows what it’s like.

I called her today, and she helped me arrive at the answer. It was a long conversation, but I’ll shorten it to this point: if I pull Buddy out of his current school, who will teach this school how to have a proper special ed program? What will happen to the next autistic child who goes to that school?

Here is what we decided: Buddy will remain at this school. I will request an IEP meeting with the intent to update some things. First, we will have either regular meetings or regular updates. I want e-mails for everyone, so I can stay in regular communication. Most importantly, I want an aide for Buddy.

An aide is someone who will be with Buddy throughout his school day. They will ensure that he is being taught and not shoved in a corner with an iPad. The aid will help him when he feels frustrated and explain things in a way that he can understand. As I prepare to go back to work, she will be there, rather than having them call me, unless it’s really necessary.

This sparked an idea. I have begun writing something I call The Buddy’s Guide. It’s a document that I can leave with babysitters, teachers, etc and has everything: the basics of autism, his likes and dislikes, how to prevent and handle a meltdown, etc.

It’s tough to make the decisions as a parent. You want everything to be perfect, for them to grow up into wonderful adults, knowing that nothing could have been done better by anyone else. It’s tough to do this while trying to make things better for other kids who maybe don’t have parents to fight or their parents don’t know how or that they should.

Only time will tell if this was the right choice.



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