Last week I had a wonderful IEP meeting. I’m sure that some of you who are reading this may now be on your way to consume large amounts of chocolate (or something much stronger) as you envision you own child’s IEP meetings.
If it helps at all, I’ve been there too.
But recently I got the chance to sit down with Zach’s teachers (both classroom and special education,) his speech therapist, and his case manager to get the low-down on how my son’s doing in school. Academics were discussed (he is on or above grade level in everything- the fact that so far he hasn’t struggled academically is something I’m grateful for every day.)
He’s made strides socially and behaviorally, although these are areas we will continue to work on collectively. And finally, he’s happy, which for me is one of the most important things anyone can tell me in a child study team meeting. The overall assessment was that for the third year in a row Zach is doing beautifully in an inclusion setting, with a half day of support from a special education teacher when he needs it.
But the most important thing I took away from this meeting, something I’ve known since September, is that the staff who care for him truly like and “get” my boy.
There were tales told, like how my child wrote a letter of protest to the principal about how outdoor recess should be reinstated even when it’s -92 degrees, for which he was allowed to petition the principal personally. There was an unrelated missive that landed on his teacher’s desk regarding seat changes in which the word “injustice” was used (the team thinks he’d make a good lawyer.) There was discussion about how he tried to use conflict resolution tactics with classmates even when the dispute was none of his business (we’ll have to work on that one.)
But what really struck me from the meeting was how much the professionals in Zach’s life don’t just permit his unique world views to be expressed- they foster them. These women truly enjoy my son.
And he knows it.
I told Zach he was autistic when he was six year old. I waited until he asked, which one night eventually he did. I had hoped my husband would be there for “the talk,” but he wasn’t, so we forged ahead together. I told him how autism had given him the ability read at an early age, and was probably why he was so good at building things. We discussed how his autism made him unique and special, and was a reason for him to be proud of himself. I asked him if he had any questions.
He smiled, then hugged me and asked for pretzels.
And that’s the key for Zach, or for any child. They all need their unique and wonderful traits to be recognized, encouraged, and praised. Fortunately Zach has found such a haven for five straight years now, and in large part because of it, he is thriving.
There are not words to express how grateful I am.
All I can say is thank you.
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