A PARENT’S PERSPECTIVE Knowing What’s Up in School
Maple Plain, MN
Where does the time fly? I can’t believe our youngest boy is in first grade all ready. I loved staying at home with our three boys when they were younger and now as they grow up I’m contemplating my new career I’ve decided to substitute teach at the boys schools. I have a teaching license that gives me some flexibility. Due to our middle son’s, having Autism, I have been called upon frequently to substitute for the special education department. I’ve found from substituting, that you learn so much about your child’s day, the educators and the environment they are in everyday.
One day I was in the Special Education Resource room when my son Zachary came in from making cookies with some other children who have autism. He seemed happy but, in my head I was questioning why he was with this teacher for social skills training instead of language arts class. I assumed that perhaps social skills class was once a week but, social skills training wasn’t even on his IEP. I was confused. Then I ran into his speech pathologist and she informed me of the difficulty of finding time in my son’s schedule for speech therapy. I learned that my son was being pulled out 5 times a week during his language arts time for a social skills class. At the last IEP meeting the staff had talked about wanting to get Zach into the classroom more with his typical peers and spoke of his need for more language development, so I was wondering why this change had not been mentioned to us before. My husband and I asked that Zach be returned to language arts class instead of the social skills class. His language arts teacher, case manager and social skill teacher were all understanding and thought it was best for Zach.
At the district level, a decision was apparently made to place all kids with ASDs in a social skills class in order to work on that part of their IEPs. There are two problems with this. The autism spectrum is so large that what is good for one student on the spectrum might not meet the needs of another student with the same diagnosis. I don’t discount the value of this social skills class or the effectiveness of the teacher but, we believed that wasn’t what was best for Zach now. As parents we have a dream for Zach and that includes his achieving an academic education. Therefore, the opportunity cost of his missing language arts and learning socially from his typical peers in the classroom was too much for us. He can do the academic work and he needs a solid language arts foundation. The second problem is that it is not appropriate for the school district to rearrange a child’s curriculum without consulting with his parents as occurred in this case.
The point is parents need to know what their Child’s day is like and what they do. If I hadn’t been working at the school, I wouldn’t have known about Zach’s being placed into daily social skills class that wasn’t on his IEP. Once parents know where they go, know what the objectives of the class are and how they are assessing them so you can see evaluate your child’s improvement. Find out how many students are in the pull out sessions and ask what the behavior is like. Is it an environment that your child can learn in? I know that for us the math pull out session wasn’t a good fit, but having a para-professional in the classroom with him for math 20 minutes a day made it easier for him to learn math skills. Spending the day with your child is great way of seeing what their day is like and determining what you can do to help them succeed.
* Rande Peyton is the mother of a ten year-old son, Zachary with an autism spectrum disorder. Zachary had received several years of Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention before enrolling in a regular education public school program.