Friday, July 03, 2009

The Stakes

We "won" Battle: Least Restrictive Setting. We had our IEP meeting and Sweet M gets to continue at her current school and go on to middle school, entering the sixth grade in the fall.

She could not be happier about this. She worked so hard in the past year — closing gaps in reading and in math specifically because she loves her school and wants to continue there. Two weeks ago her class toured the upper school and she came home so excited: "In the middle school they have two science labs, and you history, and math, and English! And guess-what-guess-what-guess-what — they have three dances!!!"

So, hooray, right? Hip-hip-hooray, right? Score another one for the Autism's Edges team, yes?

Except that we lost her one-on-one paraprofessional who was really an ABA learning specialist who helped her close three years of reading gaps and completely restored her sense of belonging in the community of kids at school. Sweet M grew and grew and grew over the past two years with all this support and social scaffolding.

They — the school and Committee on Special Education team — wouldn't even agree to a short-term transitional para for the first three months of the year. The argument is logical, though not altogether legal: "If she needs a para then she doesn't belong in a private 12:1:1, she belongs in a 6:1:1." So we won. Sort of. And we're quietly wondering how next year will be. Hoping it's fine. Not altogether sure.

The good news is that her para, whose judgment we trust, says she is 100% confident that Sweet M will be fine in the middle school without a one-on-one, transitional or otherwise.

I was looking at Sweet M's fire escape garden last week. We got home one afternoon and the tomatoes had gotten so big that the branches were falling down, the big green toms hanging over the edge of the pot, poised to ripen and fall seven stories and splatter in our neighbor's backyard unless we intervened.

We added a stake and tied the sprawling branches.

In gardening when the fruits of one's efforts grow and develop, you add supports to ensure your harvest. In special education, you take them away and see how things fall out.

Hopefully my analogy is flawed, and Sweet M is more like a tree whose roots have deepened and made her feel increasingly able to stand on her own.


kristina said...

One battle one, several skirmishes ahead, and tomatoes.

kristina said...

I meant, one battle WON!

FLMom said...

My PDD-NOS DD is starting 1st grade this year, and I'm nervous enough about her having to adjust to a new teacher. I can't imagine how it feels to make the big change to middle school! Hoping for a smooth transition. Maybe she'll take off flying without the supports?

VAB said...

First and foremost, congratulations on winning a well fought battle. My experience is that placements don't come in perfect, even for NT kids. But ensuring that Sweet M is where she wants to be and where she has been doing so well up to now is enormous. You guys are great parents.

We are also switching schools. We have no middle school here and high school starts in grade seven, so next year is high school. In what seems to be a great tradition of our two families encountering similar stuff, our guy will also be loosing his aide next year. We are also quite nervous and we a pretty well resigned to a crisis of some sort (we have never moved schools without begin called in by the principal in the first few months and being told that things just are not working out). In our case we believe we can make a legal case for a para, but we have not done so.

I'm being optimistic and looking at things with training-wheels as the analogy. But both our families may be called on to be resourceful next year. The nice thing is that we are all used to it by now.

Anonymous said...

All of it is so hard, isn't it? A win tempered by a loss. But it sounds like you have great instincts and your Sweet M is happy and in the place where she had wanted and hoped to be. That all counts for something. Hang in there.

And enjoy those gorgeous tomatoes!!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I work for Fox Searchlight Pictures. We have a movie called ADAM coming out July 29th about a young man with Aspberger's that I'd love to reach you about - can you please email me at at your earliest convenience?

Many thanks

Kristin said...

Your tomatoes are looking great!

It's nice to find other autism mom blogs and read them. I guess I'm not alone!