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Looking Around The Table

Last Tuesday morning Chris and I had a meeting at Simon's school to discuss the results of his recent re-evaluation for services (a state mandated 3-year eligibility in the area of Autism Spectrum Disorder).

This was a bit different than a regular annual IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting where we take a look at how he's been doing and set goals/accommodations for the next year.

Over the last month or so we filled out evaluations (GADS - Gillham Asperger Diagnostic Scale and a parent questionnaire/case history), testing was done at school by the school psychologist (Kaufman Assessment Battery For Children-II and Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement-II), and his teachers also filled out evaluations (GADS - Gillham Asperger Diagnostic Scale).

Around the table at the meeting was the director of Simon's program, his speech teacher, the regional autism coordinator, the school psychologist, and his third grade teacher.

For two hours we talked about Simon and reviewed a nine-page assessment packet detailing the results of the testing and observations. We laughed, we agreed, we expressed fears, we questioned, we discussed, we giggled at things he does both at home and school, and we shared stories. We celebrated his strengths and brain-stormed ways to help him move forward with his weaknesses.

As I sat, listening and participating and looking around the table, this is the thought that came to mind: I am so thankful for the people sitting around this table. They see lots of kids. They've got lots of things on their plates, including attending meetings like this one with parents. They've got personal lives and issues. They were all fully present, fully participating, and fully advocating for Simon.

One of my favorite pieces of the assessment came from the "relevant background" section:

"Simon's teachers note that he is a kind-hearted, conscientious student. He is very sweet and affectionate to those he knows well, he is eager to please, and he is very methodical in his work completion. He enjoys reading and has good memorization of factual information and rules. Simon has a big smile and has excellent fine motor skills. He enjoys talking about family trips and his sister."

Over the nine-pages there's a lot of documented challenges for Simon. Without going into details, as a parent there's a lot of information to get lost in - numbers, averages, recommendations, suggestions, etc.

What I'm simply so thankful for is that the focus of the people around the table was on how we can help Simon continue moving forward - building upon and making the most of his strengths and finding ways to help him gain ground in the other areas.

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114 thoughts

  1. Diane says…
    04/12/2011

    Ali thank you for sharing this with us. I am a grandmother of a 4 year old darling little girl named Keirstynne who was diagnosed at birth with Cerebral Palsy and some brain injuries,seizure disorders as well. She is beautiful, willing to learn and we delight in each and every progression in her life.

    We too are very appreciative of the entire group that sits around our IEP meeting table. How focused they are on Keirstynne and her progress and anything they can do to improve the quality of her life in regards to learning.
    I live in the state of Florida.
    I am so happy to see that it extends from the west coast to the east coast.
    Many blessings to you and your family.

    Thank You for sharing your personal story!

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. marisa says…
    04/12/2011

    It's nice to know we are all on the same page at those meetings. It took awhile and an advocate for our family to get there but I never gave up and now we all want the same thing for our son and the stories we share about him are awesome. We all learn something new about him :)

    I used to get intimidated at all the tests, the numbers, the goals, the "norm" but after researching and becoming very knowledgeable for the last 9 years has helped us. We now can go in and offer our own goals and accommodations and it helps the school to see how involved we are too.

    I love reading about your journey.

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. Sue says…
    04/12/2011

    I am a volunteer child advocate at my state legislature for education issues and sometimes it's very difficult to remind legislators that there are caring teachers out there who deserve thanks for all they do. (I'm sure Chris isn't like that-wink) I was touched by your story and tweeted the link so people can remember how loving most teachers really are. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. Cary says…
    04/12/2011

    Ali,
    Your post made me cry happy tears. My son Charlie age 5 has autism. He also has a wonderful team supporting him at school. That wasn't always the case, so we moved him to another district and another program. The people who work with him now have restored my faith in humanity. Every single day we feel so blessed that he has all of these amazing advocates in his life. It has made a huge difference.
    Reading about Simon's journey (and your journey too) has been one of the most healing things for my heart after Charlie was diagnosed. The way you approach it all was a calming force for me and I have always wanted to tell you how much I have appreciated that. So thank you. Thank you so much. I will always cheer Simon on.

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. Alicia says…
    04/12/2011

    So great to hear! Before I stayed home with my kids, I tuaght 2nd and 4th grades. I've sat in on many of these and many IEPs as well. It's always a pleasure to work with parents like you, who face the issue, evaluate, set your own goals for him, and use the support system to move on and help your child. Simon is lucky to have them and YOU!

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. Sarah S. says…
    04/12/2011

    Ali-
    I encourage you to print off your post and mail it to each one of those in your meeting. I am sure it would make their day, not enough people stop and sincerely say "Thank You." Keep up the great work!

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. dnobles says…
    04/12/2011

    As one of those people who sit around the table with parents, thank you. It is absolutely a team effort and your words are much appreciated.

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. Spedusue says…
    04/12/2011

    Thanks Ali as a Special Educator it is very humbling to receive such kind words. I have be part of these team meeting for many, many years and I am always in awe of what special strength my students demonstrate everyday as most of them come willingly to a setting that often is very challenging to them. They are my heros! Nothing, I mean nothing, can give such great joy as to see a child finally learn something that has been such a challenge. I can't tell you how my heart almost burst each time they read a new word, complete a math problems, solve a social problem or write a sentence. These are truly priceless moments. Also I am also so amazed by what lengths families go through to support their child. Also I do appreciate your recognition. As special educators we are usually the student strongest advocate but are often the "forgotten" teacher and it is nice to hear that what we do does not go unnoticed

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. Susanne says…
    04/12/2011

    Thanks for sharing this personal story.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. Deb J says…
    04/12/2011

    God is so good to put caring people in our lives and in the lives of our children.

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. terri says…
    04/12/2011

    So wonderful! I remember that same feeling after meeting with my son's "team". Truly is such a blessing to have such wonderful people in place.

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. Clynn says…
    04/12/2011

    my J. had his 3 year update last year @ his iep. (he will be 10 tomorrow) it is alot of testing and stress not only on my guy but on mom & dad too. but how wonderful to see the changes and strengths in the results and to see the areas therapists & school team can work on. Way to go Simon!

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. madeline St onge says…
    04/12/2011

    Go Simon. Ali be proud of him, he is doing good. And YAY! for all the teachers that helping out.

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. Maureen says…
    04/12/2011

    This was very moving Ali, and took me back to a time when I wasn't sure if I had the energy to fight for my own adolescent daughter's needs. Fortunately, I was already working in government and knew how to ask questions and push, push. It's so great that you all had the kind of session you just had. It's one of those rewards for working with the system when it's good and fighting it when it doesn't fit. "Kind hearted" - what parent wouldn't love to hear that!

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. Erin says…
    04/12/2011

    I really like this post. It's great that there a so many people who take their jobs seriously and want to help each and every child reach their fullest potential!

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. Teri says…
    04/12/2011

    Isn't it wonderful to have that many people invested and caring about 1 person?

    If every child had such a devoted team of people, imagine how the world would be!

    Thanks for sharing. Go, go Simon!

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. Deiga says…
    04/12/2011

    Thanks for your honesty in sharing about Simon (and all of your family). My grandson (who lives in Portland) has Aspergers too. I'm thankful my son and daughter-in-law are such great parents to him and his three brothers. It's not easy.

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. Paula G says…
    04/12/2011

    I am holding back the tears. So happy for Simon's progress and praying that his challenges are no match for what a wonderful kid he is. Praying the same for my daughter. I too am thankful for the teachers and help we've had, and wishing we had the resources in our small town that we could have a psychologist/neurologist/psychologist/pediatric team vs piecing it all together. Praying every day.

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. stacey says…
    04/12/2011

    I adored this post, Ali, thanks so much for sharing! Our oldest son had a stroke in utero and has an IEP through our school district (he's in Pre-K now and sees an SLP, OT and classroom integration specialist). I have friends who have commented, "Oh, aren't those long meetings such a hassle?" and NO! They are not. They are wonderful, and such a blessing... to be able to gather around and share sweet stories of my son, and high five his accomplishments... it is so heartwarming. We are truly blessed for the wonderful teachers and therapists that are a part of his life!

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. Megan says…
    04/12/2011

    Thank you for sharing. As a teacher, these are difficult times in education. We face so many challenges and uncertainties with budget cuts and jobs. I think my greatest gift to the students I teach is to be fully present and I appreciate that you recognize the team supporting Simon. Celebrate that fabulous anecdotal comment and all the people that know him so well.

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. Karen says…
    04/12/2011

    We just recently had my son's annual IEP and it was over 2 hours long as well with 10 people representing various areas from the schools. He is going to middle school next year and it's going to mean many changes for my guy. It's going to be a mix of many emotions for us. I'm choosing to be positive about it all and think of all the new possibilities available for him. I just wanted to say I was surprised by the number of people who commented that had children in their lives that had special needs (both families and teachers and others). Wow, it's nice to not be in the minority for a change! It always seems like I'm the only parent with a special needs child wherever I am.

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. Candy says…
    04/12/2011

    If everyone in education did their jobs... all kids would have this support. Unfortunately, many educators do not bring their "A" game to school everyday. Parents, if you want the best for your child, you have to go to school too. That is the only way to show you care. Unless you volunteer, visit, question, and participate... you'll get exactly what you put in to it, nothing. One last thought that could really change your relationship with your child... go through their backpack every night and find all the papers and announcements they didn't remember to give you. It shows how involved you are with school. If I ruled the world I would make it mandatory for every parent to have to spend the day at school for each grade level they enter. Gone are the days when you asked them how school was today and they said "fine".

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Sue says…
      04/12/2011

      Candy, I am so sorry that you apparently have had some struggles with your school system. I don't know that across the board if you aren't at school, no one cares. I hope I represent many other SP Ed teachers that try to "fight" for their students. I work in a socially and financially challenged area where many parents aren't available and myself along with my fellow teachers put our heart and soul into our students. I hope that there will be a change for you so you feel that your child will get the best support available in your district

  23. Paige says…
    04/12/2011

    As a third grade teacher, I applaud you for being so involved and "present" in Simon's education. It will serve everyone at that table well!

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. Carol says…
    04/12/2011

    Ali, I so appreciate you sharing your stories of Simon on your blog. I have read your blog and CK columns for years now and have especially enjoyed them because I have a 3rd grade boy on the autism spectrum as well. (We also have a black lab mix, Lego obsession, love of Star Wars, etc, so sometimes I see photos of your home with many of the same things surrounding you as surround me much of the time!) It is always helpful to learn from how other parents handle their journeys. I often hear from parents who feel they are more at battle with the school system than part of a team, so your post is encouraging on that front as well. I sometimes question whether I am asking for "enough" because we have such non-confrontational IEP meetings! Thanks for sharing your story. I look forward to see how Simon continues to grow and thrive!

    Reply 3 Replies
    1. Ali says…
      04/12/2011

      I feel that way too sometimes Carol - especially when you read stories from others about battles. And then I look at what he needs and what he's receiving and it all seems to be in line with one another. I also think it might have to do with expectations...

    2. s. says…
      04/12/2011

      I think for some students that have more challenges and needs it can really be a battle - especially in these financially strapped times when there is no public funds available (for one-on-one time or even two-on-on or three-on-one...or programs that are disappearing altogether).

      i have sat in some IEPs - Re-Evals that are VERY stressful because what one side wants/needs the other side acknowledges but simply cannot provide... it can feel like a no-win situation :(

    3. sheila says…
      04/13/2011

      Carol, your wondering about if you're asking for enough really resonated with me. I'm actually reading Ali's blog as a break from preparing for our IEP meeting tomorrow morning. I stepped away from the process because I was having conflicting thoughts. We too have been blessed with an incredible team after experiencing an okay but less than ideal preschool situation. I think there was still a part of me that feels I need to be extra vigilant to make sure "everything" is in writing. When really, it's probably okay to relax into trusting the authentic collaboration that's genuinely there. Whether it's in writing or not. Of course that doesn't mean I'm going to be less active. I'm just going to say goodbye to some residual anxiety about the process after reading your comment. Thank you Carol!

  25. Amanda says…
    04/12/2011

    I let out such a hopeful sigh as you closed this post. What a testament to everyone's dedication!

    Reply 0 Replies

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