Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Jumping to School

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Jumping to School

Article excerpt

As a parent with a child with autism, I've come to realize that there are different challenges associated with each stage of your child's life. When your child is young, the focus is getting an early diagnosis and learning about early intervention and how important it is for your child to progress. This, in turn, leads to fighting for the appropriate amount of services, fearing a waiting list, and then getting so emotional when you realize that your child will finally be receiving those services. Once you feel you may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with early intervention, there is another challenge lurking around the corner.

This next challenge is finding a school that is right for your child. I remember when Broden was 2 and 3 years old, I would hear parent's horror stories about their last IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting or how they would want their child to have a shadow or para, but felt it may never happen. I would always think, "Thank goodness, we aren't there yet. I have enough to worry about." Needless to say, my thought was short lived. Next year, my son will be starting school. I don't think I've ever had so many mixed emotions. I am so proud that he has come this far, completing 2 to 3 years of ABA therapy, but I am scared to death of this transition. So scared that if I think about it too long, I get sick to my stomach.

My husband, Mark, and I are excellent at overanalyzing any process to death so, of course, we have our share of IEP books and have attended some classes on our child's education rights. We have phone numbers of autism advocates just in case we need some advice on regulations. I thumb through the IEP books at night and hope that I can learn to understand the ins and outs of IDEA and FAPE. I ask other parents who are going through this process for any advice in hopes that it won't be as difficult for us.

There are so many resources out there for Army families who are either transitioning to a new installation or have a child with special needs who will be starting a new school. The MCEC (Military Child Education Coalition) can work with families to ensure they are aware of their resources on or near their installation. Another way to reach out for more information is to contact your School Liaison Officer. They can be an excellent tool and a wonderful sounding board. They might provide you with some new options for your child that you may not have thought of before. …

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