Thursday, February 25, 2010

Alex WON'T Miss His Friends

Well, it's almost official. I am going to have two kids in high school. Nothing about that sentence sounds good. I know, it's only February, but the enrollment process has begun!

Remember, Alex has Big Sis, so we've done this before. Choosing classes for the ninth grade is a project, a huge project. We have to plan their whole high school curriculum, not just one year. We've got to make sure they get out of there with that diploma! Let me tell you, with Big Sis, enrollment time was a nightmare, drama central! She has very definite likes and dislikes, wanted to stay with the crowd, blah, blah, blah. She did amazingly well. Graduated with a ton of college credits and fabulous grades. It couldn't have ended better! But boy, have I been dreading the day we had to do this for Alex.

We've been in denial for months. Alex's Dad and I dread transitions. We are transitioning to a new school, new system and ... GASP ... new teachers. That's right, Mrs. Teacher and Mr. Asst. Principal aren't going with us. Uggg... high school!

Well, it happened, the kids brought their enrollment packets home last week. Dad and I spent hours with Twin Sis making sure we had all the right core classes and pre-requisites to get her through high school with a diploma and, hopefully, with a few classes she likes. Fortunately, Twin Sis, is pretty easygoing. She is a little bit interested in everything. She wasn't very particular about choosing her classes. Of course, as a freshman, they only get to choose a few. I also think she just wanted to get it done with!

Then Dad and I, each with our own 60 page booklets, spent a couple of hours trying to figure out what would be practical electives for Alex to take. After that, we had to decide which ones he would actually like and cooperate in. It was more difficult than we had expected!

Anyhow, we got the forms done and sent them in. No drama, no tears, everybody happy, relatively smooth ... I should have known!

Alex's schedule got sent back to me with some changes. I wasn't really surprised. I figured it would be redone at a "meeting" later on. I looked closer though and decided I needed an explanation. A phone call was in order. "You see, Alex's Mom, Alex is going to be in special education classes all day next year." Oh, really? "We'll see how the first semester goes and then he can always take art with the general ed students the second semester if he's adjusted well." Oh, really? "That's how we do it at the high school level. We've put a lot of thought into this to make sure these kids get all their credits." OH REALLY?

Really? Because Alex's Dad and I haven't given much thought to his future at all. Ummm...... Seriously, Mr. Teacher, we are not off to a good start! It still amazes me that people really think we haven't thought about what's best for Alex. Don't get me wrong, I am open to suggestions and opinions, but only if they are good ones!

Now, here is mine and Alex's Dad's plan for Alex. We know he requires special education classes for his core classes. In the classes that teach material that Alex needs to know and retain, he needs to be in a small class with a specialized teacher. Alex is also very social, despite his severe anxiety. He just takes awhile to adjust and needs an aide and modifications. He can have this in some of the elective classes. Alex will not really need to know the specific material taught in these classes, he will need to see how the world outside of his special education class works. Alex needs his friends, he needs to make new ones. He's worked hard to make the friends he's got and he has worked even harder to put himself in a position to socialize with others. He has certainly earned the right to try!

This is only our plan for Alex. This isn't a plan for any other kid. This may not even be the plan for Alex in two years. But this is our plan for Alex for now. There are all sorts of arguments out there for total inclusion and least restrictive environment and so forth. The bottom line is ... it's all about what is best for each individual.

I'm sure you have noticed a bit of hostility from me today. It isn't always that way. I have also told you about the good stuff. We've had a lot of that for the last couple of years! The fact of the matter is, as a parent of a special needs child, this struggle is tough. People don't realize that it's an internal battle, too. Every parent has them, what's best for their kids?

But this one, this one about how much time spent in the special education setting versus how much time spent in the general education setting, it's a killer! Alex's Dad and I, we each have these struggles and conflicts, then we have them with each other, then we have to go have them with a room full of a dozen strangers that have never even met Alex, then, we have to convince these people that we are right. Believe it or not, we actually have to convince strangers that we know our child better than they do! How often does a parent have to go through that? After all these years, I still don't understand why we have to...

The kicker, of course, just like every other parent, is that we will spend every day wondering if we made the right decision. The part that really gripes me though, unlike every other parent, I have that room full of a dozen people waiting to tell me I was wrong! Oh well, it's a good thing I always find a way to be right!

And I guess it's been a long time since we've had a good old fashioned IEP meeting. Hmmm... I guess by doing the right thing Mrs. Teacher and Mr. Asst. Principal took those away from us. I hope I am not too rusty!

I am fairly certain that soon, there may be a new way to do things at the high school, Alex's way! ~ and he won't miss his friends and social time!


The Lesters said...

I completely agree with you. You know your child and I totally agree about him needing to be in some typical classes. Because you're right. If he's only in special ed classes he won't know how things work. I know it is not anything close to high school but we are doing the same thing with preschools now. Wondering if it's best to put him in a preschool just for autistic kids, a mixed school, or a regular school with an aide. Teachers and schools have to realize that every kid is different and that a cookie cutter approach doesn't work. Keep fighting. I hope you are able to get what you want for Alex.

And on a side note I'm so sorry I never responded to your e-mail. =( I hadn't checked my in mail in about a month. I just wrote back a couple days ago. I am doing better about checking it now.

Sara E said...

LOL.. why are we always doing somewhat similar things?

we had Hudson's transition meeting today for him going into Kindergarten... and the new school psychologist is already talking about possible ADD testing and behavior awareness without even meeting him yet ... his preschool teacher kept saying that he is a joy to be around, he just gets overly excited when he really likes something, and not a naughty child at all ............ I'm sure the IEP meeting in April to go over his new Kindergarten goals will be interesting