Our most recent meeting for Jack was last Thursday, but I should go back to last fall to give you the whole background.
Jack started struggling early this year. Third grade is a big transition for anyone and it was a huge transition for Jack. I started to see early on that things weren’t going well and called a meeting to get the ball rolling to have the school district take a look at him to see where they thought the appropriate placement was. Then I hired an advocate and went through the same process privately.
Both sets of people pretty much came up with the same conclusion: Jack’s next step in school placement is the Asperger’s program, which is a self-contained classroom with mainstreaming opportunities in a public school located somewhere between Quinn’s school and Sam’s.
I mean, actually it’s called the High Functioning Autism program, but I think referring to people as high or low functioning is kind of an asshole thing to do and bullshit to boot, so I’ll be calling it what most people in the county call it, which is the Asperger’s program.
No one mention to anyone that Jack doesn’t have Asperger’s, okay? It’s our little secret.
Anyway, at one of the IEP meetings, it was mentioned that Jack had long (like, for years) been considered a “poster child” for this program, but as he was doing well in his inclusion classroom, he was not eligible for the Asperger’s program.
Interesting, huh? See, there’s this thing called the “least restrictive environment,” or LRE. Unless you have a special education kid, you probably don’t know about it. If you do have a special education kid, you’ve probably heard that phrase a million times. What it means is that kids are supposed to be put in the most mainstream placement that they can hack.
It makes sense. You want kids to learn to live in the mainstream and you don’t want to isolate or stigmatize special needs kids just because they have a diagnosis. That makes sense. I’m a fan of inclusion. I think it is great for both typical and special education kids. I think everybody can learn from each other. I understand LRE and I think, applied with broad strokes, it’s absolutely what we should strive for.
Except that it’s kinda bullshit. See, Jack had to pretty much fail at his current placement to be put in a more restrictive environment—that is, a classroom made up entirely of kids with autism.
Then there is Sam. You might remember that he is in what is known as the Highly Gifted Center (another asshole name for a program, if you ask me) in a classroom made up entirely of kids with giftedness—and the quirks that come along with it. That is for damn sure not the least restrictive environment for him. And he damn sure didn’t have to fail at his original placement to end up there.
But because being called gifted is something to strive for, being put in a self-contained classroom in a school 20 minutes away from his home school is something to be coveted, sought after, and congratulated. Because being a special education student has an entirely different value judgement attached to it, kids are supposed to strive to move out of their self-contained classrooms in schools 20 minutes away from their home schools back into the mainstream.
There are two exactly opposite standards for these two groups of kids.
What I see when I look at my kids is that they have found classrooms that work for them. They have/will have teachers who know how to teach to their particular brains. They will have peers. They will build on their strengths and work on improving their weaknesses. This is how it should be. It shouldn’t matter if it is more or less restrictive. Semantics shouldn’t get in the way of teaching children.
If someone is the poster child for a particular program, HE SHOULD BE IN THAT PROGRAM.
I don’t know that the Asperger’s program will be the best thing for Jack. I hope it is. If it isn’t, then we move on to the next step. What I hope happens is that Jack will be able to get a couple of really solid years of specialized instruction under his belt so that he will be able to either move on to a middle school Asperger’s program or return to his home school for those grades.
Mostly I hope that his dread and negativity about school will be alleviated at least a little.
Also I hope that I can figure out how to deliver three different kids to three different schools every morning and then manage to reclaim them again every afternoon.
So remember that meeting where I was told Jack was a poster child for this program? That was two months ago. At that meeting, it was decided that the Asperger’s program was the place for Jack and that we thought it was the right environment for him and yay for the correct placement! Except they couldn’t finalize the placement until we had new goals written and blah, blah, blah, we’ll meet again in May and we can do this then.
Unless, of course, somehow Jack pulls his shit together and has a great couple of months, in which case he would no longer be eligible for the program for which he is a poster child. Therefore, Stimey, because you believe that the Asperger’s program is the right place for Jack, you are going to spend the next couple of months being torn between wanting your child to be successful so he feels good about himself and wanting your child to fail so he can have the right placement.
Yeah. Exactly. That sucked.
Also? I shouldn’t have worried.
Things got, like, exponentially worse, to the point that Jack was not getting a whole lot done at school at all. Both his teachers at school and us at home worked really hard to try to help him. To no avail. His teacher told me a story about how once Jack stalled and refused to do any work until lunchtime and then looked at her and said, “I won.”
Ballsy, that Jack.
So. Long story short, the special education system eventually led us to what I hope is a good place for Jack for next year. In many ways I am sad for Jack to leave the school he has been at for four years because he has had wonderful teachers and his team really, truly cares about him. They have tried their hardest to get him what he needs and I am so grateful for that. I’m a little nervous to step into the gaping unknown of a whole other school and program.
Regardless, I’m hopeful. I really do think this is the best available option for us. My fingers are crossed. And my heart is finally fully set on the hope for absolute success in the right classroom for my precious child.