Once in a while I find myself in a place that is actually for autistic people, and I get this feeling like I’ve been stuck out in the cold for ages, but someone has invited me inside their warm cozy house for some hot cocoa. That’s how I felt today while talking to the director of this private school.
To make a long story short, I have long been dissatisfied with the support Tuffy gets at school, but it really came to a head with COVID and the sh**show that is distance learning for my two autistic boys. As I’ve mentioned on our Facebook page, I hired an IEP advocate this year. Quick update on that – I have now requested an independent evaluation for Tuffy, at district expense, and they have agreed. So that is in the works…but I’m simultaneously looking at private schools as another possible option.
I’ll just quickly summarize a few of the key differences I see between our current school (I’ll call it “public school”) and this private school (I’ll call it “ND school” since it is for neurodivergent children.
Public school: If a child is fidgeting, tell them to stop.
ND school: If a child is fidgeting, offer options like a wiggle seat, fidget toy, etc.
Public school: If a child qualifies for speech, work on their goals in a small group setting, and if the child meets their goals in that low-stress environment, reduce services.
ND school: Embed a speech therapist in the classroom to see the child’s real-world interactions. Provide social skills support at recess, not just in a contrived setting.
Public school: Wait until a child’s problems are too severe to ignore, and then wait a little more in the hopes that the parents will pick up some of the slack via private tutoring, then finally offer help.
ND school: Proactively look for challenges like attention issues, fine motor skills, sensory overload, etc. and offer help.
Hearing about how things are done at this ND school made me feel a lot of feelings. First, I felt excited and hopeful that if our son can get in (they’re full now of course) it could be an amazing experience that provides him with lifelong tools to help him compensate for his executive functioning deficits.
Second, I felt angry at how woefully inadequate the schools in our district are. (I want to acknowledge that many school districts do a much better job with special education than ours does.) If we get Tuffy into this school, I’ll feel like we are one of the lucky bastards who snagged a lifeboat on the Titanic. How many other kids out there have borderline ASD/ADHD/dyslexia/other learning differences and live in families with no ability to pay for a private school? It’s heartbreaking to think of how those kids will likely fall through the cracks.
I also feel angry on a personal level because our IEP team has always looked at me like I have three heads whenever I asked for additional support for my son. And on some level I trusted them! I wanted to trust them. I wanted to believe that they had my child’s best interests in mind, and I certainly didn’t want to fight with the folks who care for my child 6+ hours a day. But, here we are.
I hope Tuffy can get into this ND school! I want that lifeboat for both of you! Alternatively, if it is for the best, I hope the independent evaluation helps Tuffy get the services he needs at his current school. You can be proud of your continual advocacy for your son. Keep being that squeaky wheel! Hugs!