Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Trying to hang onto optimism at the start of a new school year

So here we are three days into the school year and I'm already having to call on all my reserves of patience and diplomacy. I have to go through the whole mantra - "I believe in the public education system. I believe in the right of all children to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education. I believe that all children have the ability to learn. I believe that with powerful advocates, every child can be successful in their education." - Breath in, breath out.

Why on earth would you want to uproot an autistic child - you know, the ones who are looking for order and stability in a world that is way too chaotic and unpredictable? Getting through the summer was hard enough. Where neuro-typical kids are joyful about a summer of unstructured time, msk starts having anxiety issues in those final weeks of school. Too many parties, too much free time... changes are coming and that's scary. Then finding structured activities through the summer for an autistic kid who needs challenges and stimulation from people who are open minded enough to value an autistic kid, while at the same time having constant supervision and support. It is a nearly impossible task and it wasn't achieved this summer. Maybe next time.

Regardless, we made it through the summer and for the last few weeks there have been beaming smiles whenever the conversation turned to getting back into the school routine. We had a meeting with the new teacher and worked out a plan of action. We had sent letters praising last year's team and especially his aide. Last year the school funded her training to learn about autism. She made a real connection with msk. Honestly, she was a big part of the reason that last year was our most successful year since pre-school.

We practically begged for her to be sent back to help my kid. When she showed up we were ecstatic. Then another aide showed up and last year's aide was sent on her way. So basically the bureaucracy feels free to drop in a new aide without considering the problems this would cause or caring if any of the directly involved parties (the parents, the student, last year's aide, the school's special educator and principal) knew what was happening, much less had any input. At the least we all would have just liked to have known ahead of time.

The only thing I can say is there appears to be consistency. This was exactly the way we were all treated when it came to ESY planning (that I posted about here, here, here, here and here).

I guess City School's new goal of reaching out to parents is for parents of kids without special needs.


  1. Make sure you let everyone involved how you feel, the only way things change in the city schools is when parents make it change. If you make enough noise last years aide could return. I am sorry for your stress and frustration, I would be furious!

  2. Last year's aide was a contractor with a company that lost the last award. This year's aide is a direct City School's employee who is an aide because her previous job got eliminated. I've been told there is no way to get last year's aide back and I can see that's probably true - contractors come and go. My biggest issue was why weren't we (or at least the principal) told over the summer? It feels like Special Ed students' needs and emotions aren't considered, as if they weren't human.

    I guess he'll learn to be more flexible about his aide, but he's lost trust and given his need to learn about human connections that's not good.


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