For a small community, ours has a great autism support program in the elementary schools, spearheaded by a psychologist who has held this issue near and dear to her heart for 10 years. We also have an active autism support group for parents, and a dozen wraparound agencies to service the autism population.
As these students have aged out of the elementary grades and into secondary, there has been less preparation and cooperation, and the junior/senior high autism students have been a little shortchanged. The special ed PTB called a meeting to discuss how to solve the problem, and got an earful.
Parents were unhappy because they didn’t get modifications, they didn’t get aides, they didn’t like the aides they got, they didn’t get extra parent education… in short, they came for a great big “Gimme.”
At the same time, my husband and I are sitting and listening, extremely unhappy about the year that the Captain has had–but for a very different reason. They gave him too much. They enabled every one of his bad behaviors by supporting the hell out of him. After we specifically asked and begged and put in his IEP that they not do it.
We had several meetings with the teachers during the year and re-emphasized that we didn’t want him to be propped up, that our therapists had agreed that natural consequences was the only method of learning that worked. They promptly forgot. At the IEP meeting we had today, they acted like that was a brand-new idea.
I went carefully through our points, that we did NOT want him to be artificially supported, that we wanted him to be held to the standard of a regular student, that we expected that he might fail. But the Captain has gotten to the point (as evidenced by even his therapist bailing) that he is not motivated by anything except self-interest. Therefore, it logically follows that in order to change the bad behaviors, we have to make it distasteful, nay, HORRID, to persevere with them.
So next year we now have it in the IEP that he rides the regular bus instead of a special van. Since it’s likely he won’t drive for some time, he’ll need to know how to maneuver around public transportation.
He gets no aide. He has to learn that he can’t disrupt class 15-25 times per day (that’s WITH an aide) based on his desire to do what he wants, when he wants. Get a drink. Get a book. Do his homework instead of listening to the teacher. Go to the teacher’s desk during work time to have a completely off-topic conversation so he can avoid what he’s supposed to be doing. Tell the teacher he thinks there’s too much homework. Blurt out answers instead of following teacher protocol. No more. Anything but a minor violation will now be met with a trip to the principal’s office for a talking-to, not the autism support teacher’s room for a hug and a snack.
And finally, we are invited to go at the beginning of the year and give our speech to the teachers once more about how we don’t want them to bend rules for him. His future boss isn’t going to. If he’s lucky enough to focus on college, professors won’t give him breaks like this. If he gets married (not even thinking about that yet), his spouse will expect him to be responsible. Let’s start now, hmm? Then maybe by the time he gets out of high school… *sigh*
But the one thing that seems universal is that the school and the other parents look at us like we’re from Mars. Because we want him to learn to stand on his own. Because he can. He can do the work, we’ve seen it. He can regulate himself because he does it at home, where we won’t let him pull that kind of snow job. He doesn’t need the handouts.
And somehow in the midst of all this “support,” we are terribly alone.