I’ve been teaching for 15 years now and I’ve had a few parents say they have talked to a lawyer or advocate, but I have been lucky enough to not have to hold a meeting where a parent brought an advocate. I’ve been a parent of a special needs preschooler for one year now and I’m already bringing an advocate to one of her meetings. It’s not at all how I planned her preschool years to go.
Courtney is in what is called the structured learning class at her preschool. It’s a class that is specifically for kids that typically have autism spectrum disorder. It’s a very small class that uses very direct instruction one on one. This year she was in the half day program. The school has a full day structured room too. Earlier in the year, Courtney’s teacher mentioned to me that they were planning on recommending the full day program for Courtney next year. So needless to say, when we were meeting this past Monday and it came to the part of the meeting where they talked about next year’s placement, I was shocked when they said they are recommending an Extended Day Blended Class. What is the Extended Day Blended Class? In the morning (8:30-11:00), Courtney will be in a class of 15 kids (5 typical kids, 5 at-risk kids, and 5 kids with special needs). Then at 11:00, all but the special needs children go home. Those with special needs will stay for lunch and then get a more structured type learning environment from whenever lunch/recess is over to 1:30. I know, sounds like we are getting the best of both worlds. So why am I complaining? I am all for including my daughter and other’s like her with typical kids when appropriate. At this time, it is not appropriate for Courtney. She barely acknowledges peers when she is in the same area with them let alone play with them or even model/learn from them. I think what frustrates me most about this is why it’s being done. Thank you state of Illinois, for thinking that the best way to educate kids at the early childhood level is by everyone doing inclusion.
I was shocked. So shocked that I didn’t put up a fight. As the day went on, it truly hit me what this all meant and the more I thought about it, the more upset I was about it. I ended up calling the school and telling them I wanted to observe this classroom they were talking about because I don’t feel it’s the right placement. I cried more that day then I diid the day she officially got the autism diagnosis. My gut was screaming, “this isn’t right!” The only problem is, its too big of a fight for me. The most appropriate placement doesn’t exist anymore.
After talking to some friends and family, I decided it was time to search for an advocate. I am Courtney’s voice, but I need someone to be my voice. Thanks to Facebook, I found that person. i am so grateful for this person as she assists me in my biggest role as a parent.