Here is a letter to an individual who believed my children wouldn’t be successful. This is living proof that as parents, we are wiser than others who think they know better.
Dear Parent Educator,
I met you last year at a conference. This conference was held by a local organization (where you are an officer and co-founder [I believe]) who strives to empower parents and teachers to help children on the autism spectrum achieve the goal of graduating from a diploma bound program. I volunteered for this conference as a note-taker in the preschool small group. I listened to the representatives from our schools, asked some questions, and passed along my notes to your organization for you to put together the minutes from this break-out session. After the session was over, you and I had a short conversation.
During that conversation, I told you that I had twins, both with a diagnosis of autism. I told you the two programs that they were currently enrolled. And I told you that I was hopeful for them to enter a diploma bound program when they completed preschool because they are so smart and I didn’t want to see their autism diagnosis hold them back from reaching their full potential. And you politely told me to “WAKE UP!”. Given the programs that they were enrolled, they would never end up in a diploma bound program.
You had never met Ballerina or Music Man. You just decided that, given they were in more intensive programs in preschool, there was no hope for their future. You didn’t ask me if they were verbal. You didn’t ask me if they knew their letters or numbers. You didn’t ask me ANYTHING. You just made an assumption.
Well, next year they are going into kindergarten. The representative from our school cluster recommended the “Home School Model” for my daughter (mainstreamed into a typical classroom) and the Early Learning Center for my son (allowing for him to be mainstreamed throughout his elementary school years). That way, by the time they enter middle school they will be able to function in a typical classroom setting and will be well on their way to receiving their high school diploma, the exact population that your organization is designed to help.
As a family who went through our county’s Early Intervention Program (just not the office you are associated with), we worked with a Parent Educator. I told this person that I was hoping that they would be ready for a typical classroom setting in elementary school. She didn’t tell me that that was likely to happen. But she also didn’t dash my hopes. You work with VERY young children (up to age 3). You SHOULD know that at that age, things often change and can change rapidly. My children are not the only ones from their respective programs to graduate to a diploma-bound kindergarten placement.
You should be ashamed of yourself. Not only did you not know my children, but you didn’t know ME. How were you to know that, after someone said that to me, that I wouldn’t just roll over and allow my hopes and dreams for my children to die on the spot. That conversation has been haunting me for a year. Now I have achieved success, I throw it back to you. Let me serve as a reminder that not everything autism related is as it seems. The IEP and 504 Process is designed to help each individual student achieve as much as they possibly can. At 4 years old, you can’t just assume that my children (who you never met) couldn’t achieve success in an academic program because of their preschool placements. I hope that the parents who come to you for advice receive better than I did that night.
Someone Who Proved You Wrong