Yesterday we took BigBrudder’s paperwork to register for seventh grade. In our town, that’s Junior High. Early next week we have a sit down with his new teachers and team. I asked Big if there was anything specific he wanted them to know; he just said to “Be sure they tell subs I’m allowed to have my clay.” For a kid that struggles with transitions, he’s really pumped about JH. I am not.
I decided that instead of my normal try-to-make-Big-seem-like-a-real-person-with-real-needs-letter-that-never-gets-read-or-taken-to-heart-or-whatever, I’m giving an “IEP at a Glance” with his accommodations bulleted out along with some helpful hints and our “Meltdown Protocol.”
I don’t know the answer to the question “How do I get people to UNDERSTAND that “high functioning” autistic kids (adults too but we’re talking school) NEED supports to be successful? I really think they know it. I really think they believe they understand. I really think they try to understand. But mostly, they don’t. Is it time? Is it too many kids in a classroom? Is it exhaustion? Is it that by assuming they know, they turn a blind eye to real, often simple solutions?
I hear too often “He’s in honors classes, I shouldn’t have to (fill in the blank of something someone thinks they shouldn’t have to do.)” Or, “He’s twelve, he should be able to (fill in the blank of something someone thinks he should be able to do unassisted). Maybe. But change and self-reliance don’t happen over-night. A kid doesn’t simply become able to manage his whole schedule with no help because we want him to.
Thinking about posts I’ve seen online regarding schools not letting parents “bail kids out” when they’ve forgotten a lunch or left their homework at home, I think to myself, why do we hold 12 year olds to a higher standard than we do ourselves? If I forget my lunch, I have a car and can go pick something up. If I’ve forgotten a file I need at home, I can call my husband to email it; my boss doesn’t care how I get it, only that I have what I need.
I often use the example that my husband and I have a series of checks and balances for our bills. As I’ve told y’all on my Facebook page, hubs lives and dies by the spreadsheet. Excel is a God in his engineer brain. He has our life planned out to the nickel for the next ten years. He knows when every bill is due, when the last time we moved money, he is a projector. Yet, we ask each other questions. “Did you remember we got the medical bill from the (fill in the blank of seventy-eleven specialists our family sees)?” If he asks me to mail something for him, he often texts to make sure I remembered and vice versa. Because we are a team. That doesn’t make either of us irresponsible. In fact, building yourself a support system is the opposite of irresponsible. Why would we not let children have a support system?
Can you tell I am an anxious hot mess? I am every year at this time. I feel hopeful about this year, mostly because Big is.
Every year my prayer is that there is ONE teacher that gets it. ONE teacher that gets and APPRECIATES him. ONE teacher that advocates for him. ONE teacher that stands up for him. One. We didn’t have that last year in the classroom; he had one on campus, for sure, but none in the classroom. One. That’s all it takes to make a difference. Teachers. Be the ONE for a kid.
Follow all the blue links for past letters to the teacher and other samples of what we’re giving out this year.