When the Navigator was evaluated for autism, as part of a battery of tests, his IQ was tested, too.

With his autism diagnosis, we learned he was eligible for the gifted and talented program in the school district, along with the special education services he was to receive.

He was what the school district called “twice exceptional” – exceptional in his need for special education services, and exceptional in his eligibility for gifted and talented supports.

In due time he was invited to participate in the school district’s GATE program and we had to decide whether we wanted to accept the invitation.

There were two kinds of GATE programs for elementary school children, one was called the “School Within a School” for children who scored in the 99th percentile. The other program had children get pulled out of class for a couple of hours one day a week.

The Navigator qualified for both programs and we were faced with the decision of

  • changing schools,
  • keeping him where he was and changing classrooms once a week,
  • or not entering the program at all

The idea of moving to a new school was fraught with huge issues: New environment, new teachers, new administration, new classmates, new curriculum, and the unknown of what the special education services would be like.

The program for changing classrooms would mean another person I would need to partner with as far as understanding the Navigator’s needs and following the IEP.

Plus, there was the simple fact that if the GATE class studied something he was not interested in, he might just disengage.

My husband and I were also concerned about the additional work and obligations GATE might put on the Navigator and if that would that be too much for him. 

In the end, we opted for the GATE program where he stayed in the school he had attended for three years, which had successfully supported his special needs.

Our reasoning was simple: He wanted it.

He had spent years learning about, identifying, and working through his autism challenges.

He was brave and willing to learn what he needed to know, working hard through his frustration and confusion. 

He spent a lot of time believing he was “stupid” because he couldn’t figure out on his own how to behave like other kids. 

He spent years being the kid that had to leave the classroom, the kid that couldn’t focus like the other kids did, the kid that got up and wandered the classroom, all to his public discomfort and sometimes embarrassment.

He knew that GATE was something for kids that were smart and he wanted to enjoy being publicly recognized for his intelligence, rather than for the ways he did not conform and fit in.

Despite the challenges we knew it would likely bring, we understood how much he wanted to finally have some public attention focused on his strengths and skills, as well.

Knowing how he felt about it made the decision a no-brainer because focusing on his strengths should always be at the foundation of decision-making – his and ours.