Some days were just hard. There were days when my son point blank refused to go to school.
It was important to not be thinking of other things when that happened – not my shopping list or my to do list, to not notice the dust on the shelves and tufts of dog hair that had wafted into corners.
Even as he would hide behind a chair in the living room, it was important to be calm and be fully present to help him work through whatever was causing him stress.
Sometimes I crawled in next to him in a corner sitting on the floor under a window.
“I am not going to school!” he’d insist.
“OK,” I’d say. “Let’s talk about that. If you don’t go to school, what are you going to do?”
“Play in my room,” he answered.
“No, that’s not an option and you know if you don’t go to school, you won’t get any screen time. Is that what you want?”
We’d go on talking about scenarios until he saw there was no point. He hung his head.
“I don’t want to go to school because I get bad grades and I get in trouble all the time … and my reading teacher doesn’t know I have Autism.”
There were always some repeating themes – anxiety with a new teacher and assuming the worst interpretations when things got difficult were two of the most familiar ones.
He did not have bad grades, and his behavior in the classroom had improved enormously since interventions started in the first grade.
He’d been assigned to a new reading teacher because she was the one handling the above-grade-level reading where his skills were. But he did not know that.
It was a problem when a smart kid thought he was getting bad grades when he really wasn’t, and I knew that he and I could not build his academic confidence alone.
And this was not the only time that he would get a new teacher, one who only saw him once a twice a week and for specific needs, who had not been told that he had an IEP and that he was on the Autism spectrum.
I was always focused on insuring there was a constant, comprehensive approach to communicating his needs to all those who took an educational responsibility for him. His IEP should never slip through any cracks.
“Thank you for letting me know what is bothering you, sweetheart. I can fix your reading teacher not knowing what you need,” I said. “But it will require that we go to school to do it.”
He would reluctantly agree to go to school and then, while I was there, I would request another IEP meeting.
I remember when we got his first IEP – I would feel reluctant to ask for IEP meetings because I did not want to inconvenience the school.
I did not want to be that mom.
Over time, however, I recognized that it was better for the school, as well as my son, if we solved problems early, rather than waiting and hoping they would go away, and running the risk that they might get worse.
I realized that some solutions and accommodations were experiments and that we needed to regularly go over the results and see if things needed to be tweaked or even stopped.
I came to understand that my input and observations were genuinely valued by the team.
I learned that it was ok to ask for another IEP meeting.
Also published on Medium.