I love my youngest son, Joey, but there are days when it is a struggle to reach him - when it comes to doing chores, he’s good at disappearing. It also has been a constant battle with him to get him to do homework. I have to pick battles with him. He is a very sweet boy, who has a wicked sense of humor, is very creative, and loves to make people laugh. Unlike most children with aspersers, he is very social, although he often does not behave properly in social gatherings—he hates attention of any kind. He does not care for sports, whether it’s basketball, soccer, baseball, gymnastics, or karate, although he does love to draw, ride his bike, and play computer games. He also likes to make stop-animation videos with Lego’s and the camera we bought him for his birthday.
We moved to the small town of Grapeview and we enrolled him in preschool there. However, from the get-go, we have been butting heads with the administers from this school. First, they insisted he be 100% potty-trained. I argued he was a special needs child and did not need to be potty-trained. Then they fought with me over transportation and again I pointed out in his IEP (Individual Education Plan) transportation was to be provided. Finally, they wanted to amend his IEP, because they told me they did not have the resources for a speech and language therapist to come work with him twice a week, so they wanted to amend it to one day a week. I tried to argue, and suggested we transfer him to an out-of-district school – one that could handle his needs. And I swear on a stack of Bibles, the principal of the school told me see would not sign a release form, because, and I quote, "The school gets special funding for special needs students. We will not release him." Hindsight being 20/20 – I should have fought them; however, we agreed to the amendments and Joey started preschool. It turned out to be a joke. Not saying the teacher was bad, she was a good preschool teacher, but she was not a special needs preschool teacher. Joey finished the school year, no better off then he began and failed the entrance exam to Kindergarten.
At the end of the school year, we had a parent meeting with the principal, preschool teacher, Kindergarten teacher, and special education teacher. On a side note, I feel sorry for the special education teacher. She’s the only special education teacher in the whole school that consists of grades from preschool to 8th grade. The principal thought it would be best if he repeated preschool. We were dead set against that. Then the Kindergarten teacher suggested Joey start Kindergarten and if he could not handle it, we could always move him back down to preschool. Teacher Janet was a Godsend. He started the year not knowing how to count, write his name, did not know shapes, letters, or colors and he achieved all those skills and was just beginning to learn how to read. We were all quite pleased with his progress, but thought another year of Kindergarten would be good, because he did not have the maturity behind him to start first grade. And what does Grapeview do? They fired this teacher!!
His second year of Kindergarten was pretty much a disaster. Teacher Janet was a hands-on teacher, with workstations, expressing creativity, and playtime. While the other Kindergarten teacher was more rigid, less fun, and not hands-on. Joey did not do well his second year.
Fast forward, through his 1st and 2nd grades—although he continued to grow, he still struggled in math and reading. And what does Grapeview do? They exited him out of special education. I thought, Are you crazy?Were these "educators" telling me he was magically cured or something? I was completely floored. And their suggestion? Family therapy. Ugh!
A few weeks later, I took Joey to a well-child checkup and the doctor asked me what education plans he had in place and when I told him none. He too was floored. He referred me to see Glenn Tripp, a Pediatric, Developmental Behavioral specialist at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital. We were placed on a waiting list for the next available appointment and a few months later, I brought Joey in for a visit. Dr. Tripp diagnosed Joey with PDD. (Pervasive Developmental Delay). PDD falls on autism spectrum. When I brought the letter of diagnosis to the school office, they wanted to argue with me regarding the findings. “Aspergers? Joey?” the principal queried. Really?
Cutting to the chase, Grapeview tested him, and at the team meeting, I was floored for a second time, when they told us he was behind, but not that bad, and did not qualify for support services. I still to this day, do not understand why Grapeview fought us at every turn and they never did anything to help him become successful at school. If anything, I have a child who does not enjoy school, finds it difficult, struggles to keep up, and then just gives up.
The following year, Joey was in the 5th grade. We attended an open house a few days after the new year began, and was shocked and dismayed that the teacher had placed Joey in the far corner of the room, away from other children, because she found him to be disruptive. Both Ed and my jaws dropped. Why don’t you just stick a dunce hat on his head? I also did not understand, for years the school had been telling us he was not a special needs child, yet, here they were treating him different!!
The straw that broke the camels back, was a few days later, when the 5th graders attended outdoor environmental education at a YMCA camp. I received a phone call on the second day of camp from the school principal, telling me to come get Joey, because, and I quote, “He is making the school look bad.” I mean really? You have had this child since preschool. You should be more then aware of his temperament. When I went to pick him up, he told me he was the one who was being bullied and when he complained – they accused him as being the aggressor. I pulled him out of school that very afternoon. The rest of the school year, I home schooled him. I was shocked to discover what little he knew and we spent the majority of the school year on review. He can barely read at a 4th grade level and does not understand mathematics concepts at all. In addition, he writes wonderful, creative stories about zombies and clones, although grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and punctuation are deplorable.
This year, we finally received our out-of-district transfer and Joey is attending a different school. He is now twelve and in 6th grade at the middle school. He continues to struggle, and his teachers have been making accommodations for him, although legally they are not required to make accommodations. At a parent-teacher conference, his language arts and social studies teacher expressed her concerns regarding Joey and wanted to know if we were okay with him being tested. Umm. . . yes!!
I am happy we finally have him in a school that’s wants to help him become successful, is as concerned as much we are, and is putting his needs first. They have started testing him and also have assigned him an after-school tutor. Although, it will probably be after winter break before we have the next team meeting, I am very curious about the results, and hopefully no more psychoanalysis and maybe, just maybe, respect, collaboration, and inspiration.