We all have dreams for our children. Autism doesn’t take away our dreams – it only changes them according to our child’s abilities. And so, we still dream.
My dreams for Nigel have certainly changed over the years, but I still have them. And so does he. Some of those dreams have come to include the possibility of a post-secondary education, which seems out of reach given his academic challenges and the lack of local resources to address those challenges. So, we found a resource – a special school – that can teach him the skills he needs to be able to work independently, and I foolishly believed that all I needed to do was fill out a bunch of paperwork and enroll him.
I had no idea that the administration at his current school might not agree that this is something that he needs. I had no idea that they would be reluctant to change his IEP to reflect that his academic needs would be better met in a non-public school setting. I had no idea that the minor hoops I envisioned jumping through would turn into major hurdles.
The special school we would like Nigel to attend costs more per year than my entire college education did. Even when I sell my house I will not be able to pay the tuition out of pocket. However, we can receive funding if the change is made to his IEP, if it designates that his needs would be better met in a non-public school. I approached the special education coordinator at Nigel’s current school, and she discussed it with the district sped coordinator. They declined our request, stating that Nigel has made progress and “is capable with supports to maintain grades.” We have an IEP meeting scheduled next week to discuss this further. Nigel’s father, who lives 700 miles away, will attend via conference call.
Yes, Nigel has grown. He has come so far. But the fact is that the progress he has made has been behavioral and social. And while this is indeed wonderful, his academic needs are not being addressed. The grades that he “maintains” are heavily modified. The teachers do not even assign him homework! He can barely complete the class assignments, even with constant assistance. I know that they like him and care about him, but it appears that they are just pushing him through. If he cannot work independently, he will not be able to attend college. It’s wonderful that he receives so much academic support; the special education coordinator helps him every day to do his work. But he needs to learn the necessary executive function skills to be able to do it on his own, and I don’t expect him to learn that in a public school setting.
I know that some of the professionals who have worked with my son have read this blog before and might be reading this post. I really hope that they do. Because I want to say this to them: Please. Please think of Nigel’s academic needs. Please think of the dreams that he has. Please give him the opportunity to utilize the best academic resource that is available. He needs more specialized instruction than what you are able to provide. I do not fault you for this, especially since he is only the fourth ASD student to attend your school. I truly appreciate all that you have done for my son. Please just do this one last thing for him. Please.