Every 3 years Jay gets re-evaluated by the school district to make sure that he still fits the criteria to be on the autism spectrum and is still therefore eligible for special education services. He was due as of June 2016. I am happy that his re-evaluation due date came up after he began at his new school and wasn’t done in NJ before we moved.
The evaluation done by this new school district was very comprehensive and we had a meeting this morning to go over their results. I had been given a copy of all the reports prior to the meeting. There were reports from the school psychologist, the educational diagnostician, the speech language pathologist, his resource room (autism room) teacher and his general education classroom teacher. All were in attendance along with the school Vice Principal.
No-one was surprised that he does still meet the criteria for eligibility and all agree that in 3rd grade he will continue to be in a general education setting with an aide.
I’m not going to go over the details of each report or all that we talked about but there is one main thing that I want to make note of.
I was struck by the respect with which everyone spoke about Jay.
Yes they had to give him certain tests and they had to assign number scores to him – not all of which were great – BUT in multiple different ways and at multiple different times each person in attendance talked about how they know and made sure to document that test results do not accurately reflect HIM. They talked about his sense of humour and his smile. They said they are learning from him as much as he is learning from them. They had a full page showing his areas of strength that cannot be tabulated or tracked through testing. They talked about him teaching other students a different way to tackle a math problem when he saw that they were not picking up the material.
His classroom teacher said that when he’s been working diligently on something for a while and then starts to get uncooperative and demands his book* she knows that what he’s really saying is “Ms C, I need a break.” She recognizes that his behaviour IS communication. It’s not just something to be curved or corrected.
They marveled at his drawing and his penmanship and memory and executive functioning (planning) skills.
They listened to me.
The vice principal said “We love when parents write a lot in the ‘parents input’ section. After all you are the expert on your child.”
Each person had at least one funny or sweet story to share about an interaction they had personally had with him or witnessed.
They told me that a spot was open at Ace’s school for September but it would be my decision if I pulled him out of this school and sent him there or not. They spoke very highly of that schools special education program but made it very clear that they have come to love him and would be happy if we decided to leave him there. They tried to sweeten the pot by telling me about the gardening club they have for 3rd and 4th graders. They know him. He’s a gardening club kinda kid.
Overall, I left that meeting feeling good about my boy and his placement and his support. He is getting everything he needs to be as successful as he can be. They said things like “even though he doesn’t appear to be paying attention we know better” and “as members of team Jay …”.
I once used to dread meetings like this one. They used to leave me feeling sad. It was all … “below average, significant delay, oppositional, area of weakness, tantrum, become frustrated, 1st percentile“.
Some of those words are still in the reports, but also there now are … “Jays interests, readily complied, requires minimal assistance, area of strength, has formed relationship with peers, smart, delightful“.
This boy of mine is making so much good progress. It’s not an easy road. We are already talking about middle school and making sure he’s ready and what puberty may or may not bring. It’s a little scary. But I do believe that everyone involved is fully invested in helping him and we’ll get through it. There’s one more week of school and then it’s summer break (and summer camp) then third freaking grade.
*His book is a teacher made stack of white papers stapled together that he gets to draw pictures in. It helps him to regulate when he’s overstimulated. It’s also used as a treat/motivator to get him to complete less preferred activities/assignments.
p.s. People often ask if Jay is high or low functioning. It’s a question that I hate because there’s no easy way to answer. Autism is not a black and white type of disorder. In some ways he’s considered high functioning and in others he’s considered moderately impacted. In others still he can probably be considered severe. On his test results his scores swung widely; often in ways that didn’t really make sense. He actually scored higher than average in some “areas of weakness” and then abysmally in some of his “known areas of strength”. So in short, the answer to that question is … It depends on what aspect of his life you’re asking about specifically and also what other factors are affecting his mood at any given time.