On Our Mark

Okay. I think we’re ready now. The supplies have been purchased, the backpacks have been packed, the fees have been paid, the papers filled out. The anxiety has set in.

Yes, there’s nothing like the start of a new school year to ramp up my stress level. I know – everybody’s busy running around, getting the ducks in a row, the usual for those of us with kids in school. For me, it’s not really about that. It’s that year after year my PTSD kicks in every time the phone rings. And I’m referring, of course, to the years and years of teachers and school administrators calling me at work to tell me that my son is having behavioral issues and I must leave work and come to get him. The phone rings and I instantly tense up. In recent years, with caller ID, the tensing doubles when I see “school district” on the screen. God help me, it’s a horrible feeling. It’s an alarm, a pre-panic, a dread. And it used to happen on a regular basis, but especially at the beginning of the school year.

Today, the first day of tenth grade (!), there were no calls. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be any later, I know better than that. But it’s a good start, and I’m grateful for it. Here’s what else I’m grateful for: a very positive IEP meeting last week. Some of you might recall how the last IEP meeting went, and how much I had prepared for it. I prepared for this one just as much because it was just as important. In fact, in some ways, this one was more important. The meeting in May was about getting the school district to agree that Nigel’s academic needs, since he could not work independently, would be better met in a specialized setting. They didn’t agree, but they didn’t offer any alternatives.

So I came up with an alternative on my own. Over the summer, I researched various programs in public high schools with good special education departments. I thought, what are they doing that we could emulate? I printed out course descriptions from some of those schools that included specialized classes designed for students with autism to teach them the executive function skills they need to be able to work independently, which is exactly what Nigel needs. I also researched various books written for educators on how to teach executive function skills to students like Nigel, and I printed out descriptions of the books off of Amazon. I went to the IEP meeting, print-outs in hand, and proposed that the school create a weekly class on executive function skills for Nigel and any other students who would benefit from it (and of course there are other students who would, even if they do not have an ASD).

And they said yes. They said yes not only to meeting my son’s needs, but to setting the precedent for future ASD kids at that school (and, as we know, there will be more). They said yes to being an even better school.  They said yes to the other kids who really need some extra help with learning how to be a good student, autistic or not, but whose parents may not lobby as hard as I do. They said yes.

And this mom is feeling a lot less anxiety, a lot less dread. In fact, I’m feeling pretty excited about this school year. I’ll even try not to cringe when the phone rings.

28 thoughts on “On Our Mark

  1. AUNTastasia

    Yay! You are such a fighter and strong advocate! And many children and parents will appreciate all your efforts more than you’ll ever know. And so will Nigel! I’m so proud of you, sister!

  2. Big Daddy

    Try to remember, when the phone rings and the caller ID says it’s the school, sometimes it’s only the PTA or the office telling you he forgot his lunch. I know, it’s easy advice to give but not so easy to take. Anyhoo, be proud you got them to agree to meet your son’s needs and, if they live up to their end, think about all those other kids in the future that will benefit from your efforts.

  3. Elizabeth

    You’re awesome — I wish you’d come down here and help me with my IEP. I’m so lame, after all these years, that I feel like a horse with blinders.

  4. Tera

    i also dread the ringing phone…but it has gotten better. 2 years ago, it was literally every call, and i would cringe every time. I still have the cringe mechanism tho it’s no longer needed.

    I am so proud of you Tanya. I imagine you feel ecstatic that your hard work is paying off, not only for your son, but a whole future of kids. I hope they will ask for your expertise as they create this class. You truly rock girl!

  5. Elise

    We started school on Tuesday. I got the email on wednesday. I say it was better than last year because I did get a call the first day of school. My highschooler’s issue now is that he is trying to be friendly and the center of attention during classtime. My jokster is annoying the teachers. So now we need to have rules set out about what to say and when and how to go about making friends. Personally I am glad he is trying rather than accepting the status quo.

    I am so pleased that the IEP went well and that your school is open to new ideas and support for Nigel. Way to go mom…

  6. Em

    I’m so excited to hear about the good first day. I know that dread so well…cringing and feeling that knot in my stomach every time the phone rang during a school day. So a good first day is to be celebrated. And hopefully the positive results of your IEP will keep the good days coming!!

  7. fighting for my children

    Good for you and good for the school. Wow. I know the feeling, I still cringe when I see the school on the caller ID even though it is rarely because there is a problem anymore.

  8. Cheryl

    That’s great, Tanya! I hope this is only the beginning of a wonderful school year for Nigel and Aidan too! Go get’em Tiger! :0)

  9. Brenda (mamabegood)

    Wow! That’s fantastic, Tanya! We are on the other end of not-school. And I will have just as much stress abt school when we finally start. I don’t know how you do it. But I’m so glad you’re the pioneer – we couldn’t have asked for a better one!

  10. Ann

    Good for you Tanya!!! Congratulations on your persistence, and best of luck to Nigel this school year. :) Miss you!

  11. Macrina Lesniak

    Yes, that’s great news! You are so good at being the initiator to get the big wheels started going so that Nigel’s educators/therapists can be as effective as possible with him! It’s so wonderful that their desire is there, and your initiative is driving them in the right direction, congratulations!

  12. Jazzygal

    Hey…. well done you!

    Delighted your first week went so well Tanya.
    Next time you see a call coming through from the school it’s probably them looking for your advice 😉

    xx Jazzy

  13. Lex Savko

    Reading that made me sigh with relief and put a smile on my face. Congratulations! So great to hear your efforts pay off in a positive way. Way to go!

  14. Kim

    Their saying “yes” is the biggest first step they could have taken! I’m so happy for you and for Nigel and for every other child who will benefit from this! I can’t wait to read about how it goes in the future.

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