Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Autism Mom is out for blood again.

Just in case the title wasn't a clear enough hint, I'm more than a little livid right now.

I just got a phone call from the Special Ed Case Manager at Wyatts school. In spite of the fact that his father and I have already had 3 (THREE) IEP meetings this school year (2 of them to address the fact that appropriate supports were not in place in the classroom for Wy), his grades have started slipping again, and his teachers have asked for a meeting.

Now - ALL of his teachers have my e-mail and phone number, and Wyatts father talks to his classroom teachers when he picks Wy up from school on his weeks. Neither one of us has had any notification that he wasn't doing well.

None, nada, bupkus.

I just checked the school website, and from what I can see, the thing that's bringing his grades down is not homework, it's class work.

That's right, the work he does in the classroom, with a teacher, and an aide that's assigned to him right there. The teaching assistant that's supposed to be helping him take notes for science hasn't been going every day, despite the fact that his IEP says that's what he's supposed to have. The same thing is happening with Language Arts. Classroom work isn't getting finished, even though he is supposed to have someone working with him in each class. How does work not get finished when there's an aide sitting RIGHT NEXT TO HIM?! It's not the homework that's dropping the grades, his father and I make sure that gets done, it's what's going on in the classroom.

After the last round of IEP meetings, when we finally got the supports in place and followed, he brought home a report card full of A's and B's. The only bad grade he had was in science, and that, we later found out, was because the school had not been sending an aide to the class with him, he'd been left on his own. The other piece of info that came to light was the fact that of all of his core subject teachers, only 1 had any experience working with autistic children.

I had actually offered to come to the school, and do a workshop with his teachers, to help them understand what his being autistic means in terms of his educational needs. I was told "Oh yes, please, that would be fantastic!" Never heard another word from the school about it.

The only one of his teachers that's actually contacted me is the Special Ed teacher he goes to for 1 period a day. She just called a minute ago, after getting an e-mail telling her about the meeting request from his classroom teachers. She's just as upset as I am - Wy has an A in her class. She said she looked over the same info I did, and came to the same conclusion - the problem is in the classroom, and there's no excuse for it. We talked about the possibility of maybe cutting back on some of the inclusion programing, to give Wy some time to catch up, which is an option, but for me the bottom line is that whatever is going on, or not going on in the classroom needs to be fixed.

Wyatt and I have worked SO hard to get him to the point of full inclusion. He's more than capable of doing the work, and he loves being in the regular classrooms. He's made friends, he comes home smiling every day. I hate the thought of having to drop back on that, and having him feel like he's failed in some way when the reality is that the school is failing him by not meeting his needs. It frustrates the hell out of me.

The hard part (and I've been saying this for years), is that BECAUSE he's so high functioning it's easy for people to forget that he is still autistic. He still has sensory input and processing issues, he still can either listen to the teacher or look at her, but not both at the same time, he still hears background noise at the same volume as what he's supposed to be focusing on, and if a train goes past the school forget it, you've lost him.

I've had some ugly IEP meetings in the past (Ramona knows, she was there for a few of them!), and this time I'm going in armed for bear.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My not so sporty boy

I've been wanting to get Wyatt enrolled in some kind of team sport for a while now, for several reasons - First, I think it would be really good for him socially to learn to work as part of a team. His natural inclination is to play next to other kids rather than with them. I know that this is part of the autism, but I also know that there's a point coming (very soon) where the social give and take is going to crucial to him developing lasting friendships. Second, he's a little bit of a klutz. He comes by it honestly, I can't ever remember a time where I didn't have at least 1 bruise on me. Third, I think it would be a great confidence booster for him, and with the specter of adolescence rearing its pimply, greasy haired, body odor laden head I want to give him as much self confidence as possible before other kids start picking away at it.

He's in the after school program at the YMCA, and the director of the program - a fantastic guy names Shawn - has been taking the kids outside and having them play touch football. Shawn is just great with Wyatt, he's patient and accepting, but he doesn't let him off the hook. He treats Wy just like the other kids and has the same expectations for him, which is exactly what Wyatt needs. So when Shawn told me he thought Wy should sign up for the flag football team I decided to give it a shot.

We've tried the team sport thing before, a couple of years ago, and it was a dismal failure. The soccer coach had no patients for Wy and she kept trying to turf him off to another team. After 3 practices with my kid sitting on the sidelines, or being sent across the field to a different coach and ending up in tears I finally pulled him out.

But I figured he's older now, more mature, and so we'll give this a shot. Today was his first practice, and when I say my kids NOT an athlete I really can't stress that enough!

The coach had the boys line up and had them start running drills around some cones - Wyatt ran the cones in full autistic glory - hands flapping, and making train noises at the top of his lungs. I damn near wet my pants laughing! Then he had the kids throwing and catching the ball.

Wy throws a football the same way he bowls - overhand with both hands and yelling HARGH as he releases the ball - the poor kid trying to catch it looked terrified for a second or 2. He catches a ball kind of like his mother does - head turned to the side and eyes closed as if bracing for impact.

Now I know how my father felt as he sat through softball practice with me. It's this odd mixture of bemusement and shame, with a little dash of horror mixed in.

At one point Wy asked the coach if he could go sit down because (and these are his exact words) "We're doing something that's new to me, and I get a little anxious when I try something new, so I have to go sit down now"

Yeah, he's autistic, but he knows how to play it up too!

Wy came walking over to me and sat down, I gave him a drink of water and sent his little butt right back into practice! He tried to argue, saying he wanted to go home, he had a very important meeting to attend (Yep, that's straight out of a Sponge Bob episode), and I told him "NO. You are no different than any other kid on your team, they're practicing, you get your butt back over there and practice too."

I refuse to let him use his autism as an excuse to not participate to the fullest level that he's capable of. He may have to work harder than the other kids to stay focused, but I know he can do it, and I won't lower the bar out of pity or guilt.

I made him march his little fanny right back out on the field and stay there for the rest of the practice, and I'm glad I did, because the next time the coach had them run a play, he made Wyatt run, and Wy actually caught the ball!

He was so proud of himself for doing it,the kids on the team patted him on the back, and I'm so glad I stuck to my guns. Now he said he's actually looking forward to practice and the game next week, and so am I.