Schooling My Autistic Child

My son started school at the age of three. He attended a special needs public school in a small town. It was scary for me. I cried off and on all day, worrying about him and hoping he didn’t think that I abandoned him. At the time, I didn’t know if he understood what was going on around him. He was nonverbal, and still is. The difference between now and then, I now know he can understand me and he can use an augmentative communication device to communicate his thoughts.

My worrying was for nothing. He had a great time. In the next three years, I new he was in a safe environment. My only concern was that we were not seeing much progress in his developmental skills. He wasn’t demonstrating any understanding of the basic concepts like shapes, numbers, or colors. My husband and I decided it was time for a change.

We moved to a bigger city that was close by. I had researched the schools and thought that they would be better for my son. The teachers had more training and there were dedicated autism classrooms. After the move, it was one battle after another. At first, the new Lessick-Schoolschool system did not want to recognize my son’s diagnosis. Instead, they wanted to place him in a special needs classroom in a school that I wasn’t sure would be a good fit.

I went to the school and enrolled him. My daughter was two years old and was a climber. She would climb up onto the couch where I was sitting and filling out paperwork. The principal would come out and tell her to get down, and say that you don’t stand on furniture at school. This really irritated me, because I was right there and my daughter was only two years old. I let it go. I met with my son’s teacher and got a bad feeling. She didn’t know anything about autism and didn’t know anything about working with a nonverbal child. Again, I let it go and prepared for the first day of school.

I took my son to school on the first day and he fell down in the parking lot. His knee was bleeding really bad. I took him inside and looked for help. The principal was the first person to ask me if I needed anything. I asked for help getting my son’s knee cleaned up. She said all they had was soap and water. I was mad. Soap and water for a really bad scrape that needed a disinfectant. I understood that they could not administer anything else without parental permission, but I was right there. I could have done it. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I told her that there was no way my son was attending this school and left.

After a week of talking with the school board, my son’s diagnosis of autism was accepted and a placement was found at a different school with a dedicated autism classroom. This time, I met with both the new school’s principal and the teacher that my son would be assigned to. I also brought my son and daughter with me. I was happy with the way we were treated. I was put at ease with the exchange of questions and answers. I was satisfied that my son would be safe there.

Unfortunately, a year and a half later, my son was still not showing any progress. I knew that the key to any progress would be finding a way for my son to communicate. Frustrated with status quo, I finally took him out of school and began home schooling him. It was the best decision I ever made. He made a great deal of progress. We found a way for him to communicate and discovered that he had learned a great deal that no one was aware he was learning. I home schooled my son for a year and a half before he convinced me to let him go back to public school.

At that point, we had moved back to the small town we lived in previously. I made arrangements for him to attend the special needs public school he had previously attended. I could tell that the staff didn’t really believe that my son could do and knew the things he did. I knew the key would be whether or not my son would communicate with them and demonstrate his ability and knowledge. I made sure he understood that if he didn’t, I would have to pull him back out and resume home schooling. My son didn’t want this. Within a week, he was communicating with the staff and they were believers.

Everyday is still a struggle. My son made some progress the first year back in a public school, but I know he can do better. He has just started his second year and his teacher and I are going to work closely to ensure my son can reach his full potential. In the last seven years, I have learned a lot about how to work with the public school system to help my son. I have learned that the right staff working with my son makes the biggest difference. It doesn’t matter how many hours of OT or Speech my son receives, as long as there is constant communication between the therapists, my son’s teacher and myself. The hard work occurs in the classroom. My son’s therapist make sure his teacher and her assistants are utilizing the correct resources and techniques to help my son the most. I make sure they have my full support.

When I disagree with a member of the staff, we discuss it in a team meeting. Everyone works together to come up with a solution. I have learned that it is important that both sides are able to compromise. It is important to be open to everyone’s thoughts and ideas. I have also learned that when I relay my thoughts and opinions in a calm and logical manner, I am taken seriously and the staff is open to what I say.

I advocate for my son everyday. I am always prepared to change gears and approach a problem from a different angle. Sometimes I am wrong, and I have to accept it. Sometimes, I am right and nothing will back me down. In the future, I may have to consider a different placement for my son. It depends on him and his progress. I will make mistakes and feel the weight of guilt for each one. I will make great choices and be relieved when I see how they benefit my son. I will keep going everyday, making sure my son’s needs are met. That’s all we can do as parents. We take each day as it comes, and do what is the best for our child.

About the Author

I am a WAHM mom of two children. I have a 6 year old daughter and a 10 year old son. I like sharing information with everyone about autism and raising an autistic child. I operate an online blog called AutismLearningFelt. I share information, personal stories, as well as do product reviews and giveaways of autism and mom related products. My best advice to other parents raising a child with autism is to remember that loving your child is your number one priority.


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