Sometimes you have to pause in the course of life and celebrate the little victories. I don’t even know right now what it would look like to win the “war”. So today I’ll find the joy in celebrating the big little steps we’ve been able to reach the other side of.
As I’ve written of before, my son has autism. I’ve heard from more than one educator or practitioner that he doesn’t present as a typical case. Of course not, he’s my son and incredibly unique. But I understand what they’re trying to say. What has always worked for them when working with special needs students just doesn’t work for Jacob. He learns differently, he processes differently, he reacts differently than their “typical” student.
I love that about him. At the same time, it’s hard to find the right programming to help him learn. Yes, he has an IEP. Yes, there are supports and accommodations written into the IEP. No, they don’t always work. No, they are not always followed. This is when we have to think outside of the box and really try to function as a team: the case manager, school counselor and psychologist, speech therapist, teachers, and myself. Does it always work? No.
I have had to be the biggest advocate for him. This last school year felt like a complete failure. It seemed accommodations were not being used, he was completely failing several classes, and my requests were not being heard. What I kept hearing was, “This is how our school district does this”. What I kept saying was, “What your school district has always done doesn’t work for my son or our family. Let’s try something different.”
I still wasn’t heard. Until I pointed out the numerous ways they were out of compliance with his IEP. And that his rights were being violated under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). And that some of there actions demonstrated gross negligence. I didn’t want to pull out those big words. Or the fact that I consulted an attorney. Or have to pull out the Power of Attorney that I now have to continue to act on his behalf. I wanted to be a team player. But when it comes to protecting my son and his rights, I’m only going to be on his team.
We had a “team” meeting last week to address my concerns. There was no yelling, terse words, or tears. I was able to clearly communicate the frustrations and I felt like they listened. Little Victory. They realized they needed to change the format for one of his classes. Little Victory. Jacob was able to tell them what didn’t work and what he wanted to happen. Little Victory. They realized they could get him in the welding program that is inline with his after high school goals. Little Victory. The school district realized that, even though they have never done this for any student EVER, they need to transport Jacob to the welding program at another high school. HUGE VICTORY!!!
Jacob now attends his high school for three classes in the morning. He has lunch and some spare time to work on some additional graduation requirements. (we’re still working on the structure of this). Then a taxi picks him up, takes him to another high school for their welding program, and then takes him home. Yes, a taxi drives him right to our front door after school. I’m not sure yet if the taxi is the long-range plan for all year, but it’s a start. And for that I’m grateful.
A lot of these days of pushing and fighting have been incredibly overwhelming for me. I have felt small and unheard. I have felt completely alone. I have felt like I was failing my son. I have shed numerous tears and cried out to God for His direction and help.
On Jacob’s first day of the welding class this week he was put into a group of students and they were introducing themselves. One student saw Jacob’s shirt and asked if he went to CHIC this summer. Yes, he was in Tennessee for a huge conference for Christian teens. So was this student. Instant connection. God is in this. God is in this in a big way. God is continuing to bring about the little victories and surround Jacob with love and care. I’m so grateful for that. It gives me hope & confidence to continue pushing for what Jacob needs. I celebrate with joy and trust that God will continue to bring about the little victories.