We’ve all seen the lists of things that other parents or family members shouldn’t say to an autism parent. In light of the fact that I’ve had four IEP meetings this year, I thought I’d put together a list of things that school personnel shouldn’t say to an autism parent, based on my experience this year.
I’ve culled these little pearls from prior IEP meetings. The most recent meeting this week was when we finally reached agreement on all of the issues. Although they emphatically will not put into writing that his recess time is protected (because the “district will no allow it”), we’ve managed to add a number of behaviors to the BIP to prevent any interruption to recess.
1. “We use positive behavior support, unless we think it’s a ‘typical’ behavior, then we will punish.”
Listen up. If you are autistic, then all of your behavior comes from being autistic. You can’t separate the person from the autism. Everything the child says or does is through the lens of autism. EVERYTHING. Making this kind of statement tells me that you do not have a firm grasp on what autism is, or what it means to have a disability.
2. “We’re trying to help him to be more like the other children.”
You just told Connor and me that he is not good enough or valued as he is. You’re saying that he needs to “blend” in order to be valued. It’s extremely insulting, as well as being detrimental to his self-esteem.
3. “We want to discourage him from wearing the noise-reducing ear muffs during assemblies, because in the real world it would be odd to walk around wearing them.” (this was said in kindergarten)
Bitch, please. If my child needs those ear muffs during assemblies because the noise is too much for him, then he WILL wear them. You will not dictate what accommodations he needs. Nor will you burden him with your “real world” concerns, especially when he’s just in kindergarten. His ear muffs are no different than a cane or wheelchair. Shame on you, for making your own prejudice painfully obvious.
4. “He isn’t eligible for ESY because he has not demonstrated a regression in skills that can’t be recovered in six weeks.”
No, that is not the only criteria for ESY. Although each state has their own rules and legal criteria, the following excerpt is from IDEA regs:
S. 300.106 Extended school year services.
(1) Each public agency must ensure that extended school year are available as necessary to provide FAPE, consistent with paragraph (a)(2) of this section.
(2) Extended school year services must be provided only if a child’s IEP team determines, on an individual basis, in accordance with S300.320 through 300.324, that the services are necessary for the provision of FAPE to the child.
(3) In implementing the requirements of this section, a public agency may not –
i. Limit extended school year services to particular categories of disability; or
ii. Unilaterally limit the type, amount or duration of those services.
Do your research, and consult an advocate, if necessary, if you feel your child needs ESY and you are being denied, like we were. We will be getting ESY this summer.
5. “He knows what the rules are, he just chooses not to follow them sometimes.”
Yes, it’s called ‘autism’! See, knowing what the rules are if asked and not being able to control your impulses are things that work in opposition to each other. It’s not a purposeful, willful choice, it’s a lack of impulse control. It will take him much longer to develop that impulse control. Why not set up something he can earn for following that particular rule?
Lest anyone think they can sully my good name by insinuating that I’m not being truthful, or may be exaggerating, I’m attaching a picture of part of a page of the IEP – the declarations page, which summarizes the conversation that took place during the meeting.
And this, my friends, is what special education looks like in Texas. At least, in the Pflugerville ISD. Texas falls at the bottom of the country for special education funding. More than that, it lags behind in terms of disability understanding and awareness. While many states forge ahead with respecting autism and other disabilities, and teaching to the student’s strengths, Texas still lives in a world where it’s considered appropriate for staff to say that the student needs to fit in and be like the other students. THE STUDENT WITH THE DISABILITY MUST FORCE THEMSELVES TO BE LIKE THE OTHER CHILDREN, THE CHILDREN THAT DON’T HAVE SPECIAL NEEDS AND CHALLENGES.
Fuck you, Texas.
Systems don’t change overnight, so we soldier on. The thing that helped drive us toward agreement was the fact that I employed a very tough advocate. Although it was costly, it was well worth it.
And THIS is why I blog.