I attended my son’s IEP meeting this morning. Usually I leave emotionally exhausted after listening to all of the things he can’t do and all of the progress he hasn’t made.
Today’s meeting was different. In January of this year, he began attending an ABA based school, designed for kids on the autism spectrum. His neighborhood school district sent a representative to the meeting to sign off on the IEP, but otherwise, it was just myself and the director of the program. I sat there and listened to the progress he had made over the past year as well as the goals and objectives for next year, which were totally appropriate.
I realize that it is a fine line we walk as parents of kids with special needs. Years ago, parents like us fought to have kids like ours included in classrooms and to be educated appropriately. Recently though, I flinch when I hear that school districts are going totally “full inclusion”. By all means, if a child can handle being educated with his or her peers, and it is appropriate to do so, then they should not be denied that right. Even when the district puts up a fight. It makes me sad and frustrated to hear otherwise.
But there continues to be a need for alternative placements, for self contained classrooms, and even alternative schools. There are children, like my son, who can not function in a typical classroom even with a great deal of support. There remains a need for a continuum of services.
By pulling him out of his neighborhood school, we received an added bonus I never expected. Relief. At his current school, they operate on what is best for him, not what the curriculum demands. They have supports built in because every child needs them, not because of what an IEP dictates. Holiday parties are sensory friendly and no longer make me sweat bullets. The OT and other related service providers are well trained, rather than me training them.
Just as we need to continue to fight for our kids to be included and to have the same rights as our other children, we also need to continue to fight for what’s best overall.
Even if that sometimes means special schools.