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Journey to Special Ed and the autism inclusion program (part 1)

Posted Aug 22 2007 12:00am

It was only a year ago I was in a mad scrambling trying to get Jay help. He was miserable at school and miserable in life. It was a very serious situation, one that required intervention on multiple fronts.

Jimmy and I had tried to get Jay help previously. During Jay’s summer from fifth grade to sixth, I had searched the internet looking for anything that explained what Jay was going through and came up with Hyperlexia. I printed out all the sheets of information and gave them to his teacher. She was fabulous about it. She printed up lists and taped them to his desk so she could quietly point to his task object when he got off course. She helped find a lunchtime solution so Jay could eat and be comfortable without the near-violent teasing.

It was during this time we were seeing a family counselor. A great therapist – he was the first one to suggest to us a 504 plan or an IEP. Before this, I had never heard about them. The counselor was very adamant that we had rights and explained that some schools were very helpful and some were very not. He had read my printouts and went home and looked it up some more. The tell-tell signs were there he said, but he wasn’t the right person to assess Jay.

It was after that I bounced from doctor to psychologist – each stoutly denying they were the right one to do the job. Jay’s counselor (not the same as the psychologist) did his best to help us. The pediatrician even suggested Hyperlexia wasn’t a real thing. It wasn’t in some official doctor book at least.

Also, during this same time period, I talked to Jay’s sixth-grade teacher to get her input on the process of a 504 plan or an IEP. I expected she would take me by the hand, explain if she thought it would be a good thing for Jay or not, and help me get the whole shebang started.

What happened was drastically different. She looked panicked when I asked her advice. She explained that it was against school policy for her to talk to me about an IEP or a 504 plan. She couldn’t even help me find out whom to contact for such a thing. It was bizarre. She really wanted to help but could get into trouble for doing so.

I was naïve. I thought it would look bad if I went after an IEP for Jay – maybe it would make things worse at school for him. I had made some phone calls to local parent support groups but still didn’t know what to do.

Violence was also an issue at school for Jay. He was an easy target for his classmates. This made Jimmy and I feel uneasy and we alerted Jay’s teacher. We felt reassured that Jay would remain safe. During the fifth grade Jay attended an after-school program that we felt would help him greatly in socializing with his peers. The after-school program lost its funding mid-semester during Jay’s sixth-grade year and was no longer available.

Jimmy and I weren’t comfortable with Jay walking home and being alone until I came home from work. I felt extreme panic just thinking about it. I could only envision the school kids beating him up daily. Jay’s biggest bully lived two houses down. I seriously wondered if his life was in jeopardy if he was left unguarded.

Thankfully, we found someone who had worked for the program to watch Jay after school the rest of the semester. After that she wasn’t available. It was at this point we decided Jimmy should come home full-time. The past year he had been commuting an hour to work each day and then putting in 12 to 16 hours. Many nights he’d come home at one a.m. and leave again by five a.m. It was miserable for all of us. Finances would be much tighter, but we could tighten our belts and survive.

Our biggest hope was with Jimmy staying home, Jay would be safer. There would be someone who watching for him to come home after school and someone to help with the increasing craziness known as homework.

More to come… Writing and parenting beyond the norm.
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