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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. Brigette says…
    04/12/2011

    WOW! Amazing teachers, Amazing PARENTS and an AMAZING LITTLE BOY.

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

    There's nothing better than to connect with someone who really sees my children - not who they could or should be - but who they are. From their grandparentsparents to many of their teachers, I'm so grateful.

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

    Thanks for sharing this with us today. As an educator, I have worked with two autistic students. Both have wonderful families and I remember having a fountain of respect for them. Their involvement in their child's education made all the difference in the world. Ali, I have the upmost respect for you and Chris for sharing your journey with us and providing insight to other parents (as well as the rest of us) of autistic children.
    BTW if you haven't seen the movie "Temple Grandin" I highly recommend it. True story that won an Emmy and Golden Globe and is available on DVD.

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  4. Patricia says…
    04/12/2011

    I just recieved an email from the director of my own sons program today asking for our vision statement for the next 3 years. His meeting is in 3 weeks. He will be 19 and is in a program for chidren/ young adults with Autism. I have done so many of these meetings and I do know how special it is Ali to have people who deeply care for your child. I also know how important it is that they know how hard we work at home with our children. You should be so proud of Simon and yourselves!

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

    At the end of your 5th paragraph I was wondering whether the faculty members of the school system in Australia do this. It's amazing that so many people would dedicate their time to ensure Simon is on the right track. What a true treasure they are.

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. Rhenna says…
    04/12/2011

    I'm a special education teacher and it fills me with much happiness to hear such wonderful insights from a parent perspective...it makes my heart happy when I hear about people half way across the country doing good things for kids, we are all so very connected! Go Simon! Here's to his goal setting and accomplishing in the coming years!

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. Monica B. says…
    04/12/2011

    As a public school teacher who sees over 400 kids a week, I want to say how refreshing it is to read POSITIVE about educators and the work we do to meet the needs of EVERY student as best we can each and every day. Thank you for sharing your positive experience and gratitude, Ali. It means so much to know we teachers are appreciated!

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. angi bustamante says…
    04/13/2011

    hi ali,

    i have a third grader who is also autistic and i agree with your sentiments about his support team. They are true advocates for my son and I made sure I expressed my appreciation for their time,effort, support and love... yes,they are more than just educators - they are nurturers.

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. Gypsy Chaos says…
    04/13/2011

    We sat through several years' IEPs, with my daughter present as well as the rest of the team. She suffered severe traumatic brain injuries, which automatically qualify a student for services. We had the same experience as you, Ali, and others. It helped us as parents to know that there was a safety net of support around our daughter.
    She didn't like the net very much! After her freshman year she opted to drop the IEP, knowing that she could pick it up whenever she felt the need or any of the team saw the need.

    May Simon and all children with differences that make it much harder for them to 'fit in', to learn, to socialize be surrounded by strong networks of support.
    If only. Our children ARE our future. We must invest in them, in many ways.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. Margie S says…
    04/13/2011

    I live in China. I have three boys. One with a learning challenge just diagnosed this year. He is 10. I volunteer at an orphanage where we are trying to build a preschool that the kids (many with physical as well as developmental challenges) can attend every day so they can develop social skills, fine motor, gross motor, etc, etc, etc. Anyway, your post makes me so thankful for the resources we have in our country. That a child with challenges gets all of those caring adults and professionals around the table advocating for him. Of course it says a lot about each individual at the table, but it also says a lot for our society and our nation - that we truly value each and every individual. Our system may be imperfect, but the intention behind it is that every life and every person has value. Everyone has something to contribute therefore we nurture and protect each and every one as best we can. Peace & love to you and your family!

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  11. Dana says…
    04/13/2011

    Hi Ali,
    As an educator I'd like to thank you for the shout out you give to the team of professionals who care about your son. I know that the education system is not perfect, but there are many, many, many good things going on there that people often choose to overlook. There are also many good people doing good things for kids. I appreciate that you chose to shine a little light on it today.
    Dana

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  12. Sharron says…
    04/13/2011

    Thank you for posting about this, Ali; it's renewed my hope/commitment for me to gain more support etc for my son. As a single mother-of-3 (working f/t) support, empathy/sympathy, understanding, hope etc is often hard to come by! Thanks for helping me 'keep on keeping on' and being my son's champion. X Sharron

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  13. Christine says…
    04/13/2011

    As a teacher, thank you for appreciating. It means so much.

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. hlphowell says…
    04/13/2011

    Ali, this post is so about your style. A story without photos with the perfect photo. A challenge you choose to look at with gratitude. A lesson on how to document the everyday when you aren't even sure you want to document it. Finding a gem ("One of my favorite pieces of the assessment") in an overwhelming report. And based on comments, it resonates with your readers. Well done!

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. Jana says…
    04/13/2011

    Thank you for this post. It is always comforting and inspiring when the village works! Good job and good luck to Simon.

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. Tracy says…
    04/13/2011

    As a mama I truly believe in the 'it takes a village' mentality. I have three children (13,11 & 7) and I see our roles as mothers and teachers and friends and neighbors to lift up all of our children and love them and support them on their journey. I often see many adults quick to judge these small people or make snarky comments about them and we really need to see the great potential that each one has...it's our job to set them in a direction and support them on their way. And there are so many 'ways' to a happy, fulfilling life.

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. Annette says…
    04/13/2011

    Thank you-- I am a Speech Language Pathologist working in Illinois in a K-5 building. I know parents are appreciative for the work we (the team) do for / with their child, It feels good to see it in print. I agree that there is a lot that goes into our meetings and (more importantly) there is a lot that can come out of the meetings. I do what I do because I can/ do make a difference in my students' lives -- it is rewarding. Trust me, the team you work with is just as grateful for your family as you are of them.

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. Lindsey says…
    04/13/2011

    As a teacher (or future teacher...I'm in grad school now), it warms my heart to know that when Simon is at school, he is surrounded by people who love him and are working hard to help him succeed.

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. Cynthia@BeachCoastStyle says…
    04/13/2011

    I so understand your feelings about the meeting. My son has autism and he is around the same age as Simon and I am always on pins and needles when those meetings are schedule. I have my tomorrow morning.

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. Nancy G. says…
    04/13/2011

    What a wonderful posting. I work with deaf and hard of hearing children. I have sat at many IEP meetings. Sometimes I think what it would be like to be a parent at one of these meetings? There are many more "experts sitting at the table than family. We all have to share weaknesses and challenges the student faces or he/she would not be able to receive the services he/she requirea. As a teacher, I have a responsibility to look at the whole child and listen to the parents as this is their child, the people who know the child best. My friend is a parent of a child with special needs. From talking with her, I know that one thing a teacher says the wrong way will stay with that parent for years. We must choose our words carefully.

    It sounds as if you and the staff are working so well together. That is a blessing.

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  21. Carrie says…
    04/13/2011

    At a time when so many public schools are being criticized for "failing" kids who are "Waiting on Superman" thank you for sharing your positive experience. - an educator

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. Mel says…
    04/13/2011

    My two "boys" who are now 20 and 18 have autism. I have been to over a hundred different meetings for them over the years. I completely agree with you that there are so many wonderful people who work with kids like ours. Thank goodness for them! I have become friends with many of them. I always tell people the unknown blessing of autism that we get to meet these great people who we would not have otherwise met.

    I love your blog!

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. Mary Rogers says…
    04/13/2011

    We spent most of yesterday in the ER with Madison dealing with some baclofen pump and digestive issues...and it was so nice to hear one of the RN's outside M's room "those parents are so awesome" - we don't always feel that way but having a child with special needs you sometimes have to advocate extra hard, and it was nice to know it is appreciated. I wanted to say you and Chris are awesome too Ali!! and I am excited you have such a dedicated team working with you and Simon! yay!

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. Karen M. says…
    04/13/2011

    I am the mother of one of those dedicated professionals that sit around tables like those and advocates for the student. She is a K-4 resource teacher and she is responsible for 39 students and their wellbeing. She writes their IEPs, she communicates with the parents, she makes sure their IEPs goals are being met. She works harder than anyone I know and loves each of her kids and is their biggest fan. She works with some wonderful parents like you and Chris, Ali and then tries to teach the parents that aren't quite there yet how to be proactive but not adversarial. She has had about 17 meetings just like yours in the last two weeks - on top of her other duties,yet had a 6th grade non-sped teacher tell her last week that special education teachers weren't real teachers, just babysitters! Yet she ended the day just like she started, bull of optimism and dedication. Between parents like you and teachers like her, I am convinced this is a pretty magical world! Thanks for sharing your stories, we are truly blessed.

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  25. Karen M. says…
    04/13/2011

    sorry - FULL of optimism and dedication! :) Not bull!!!

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