June 1, 2016. 06-01-16. Our lives changed that day, but we didn’t have any idea how much. That was the day we had my youngest son’s first IEP, when we received the results of his testing. That was the very first day that anybody, including us, actually said the words, “He is on the Autism Spectrum.” While we had our suspicions starting the year before, which was why we requested testing to begin with, I don’t think we expected that he would actually be identified as ASD. It was a shock, and there was definitely NOT enough information or support provided, but that’s for another post.
So, what do I do? I am extremely fortunate to have moved from the classroom into a support position at the district office level where I work specifically with various “programs,”such as “Gifted and Talented Education,” “Title I,” “At-Risk (or At-Promise, in CA now,) “English Learners,” plus a bunch of different “Title” programs, all with the goal of providing support to students to help them succeed and thrive both academically and socially-emotionally.
Again, I’ve been so lucky because in my role, I get to attend MANY conferences to learn more and stay updated about all of these various programs, and the different funding sources (and rules) associated with them. And while I have always been cognizant and sympathetic to the challenges and needs of students, my professional world completely changed once I became a member of the Special Needs community.
I think most importantly, I’ve discovered what it’s like to be a part of a supportive community that crosses district, age, type of disability, income, race, language, and so many other boundaries. I don’t think I’d ever been a part of any community like that. It opened my eyes to both the strengths in our various academic worlds, as well as the needs – when you hear from so many different voices you hear what parents need, and what some supports are being received. But my lens has changed, and everything that I do now is filtered through this perspective of what our Special Needs kids need, as well as what type of support and communication needs to be in place for our families.
While I don’t have an answer to that classic question of “Would I take away his Autism if I could?,” I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want to go back to the person I was before his diagnosis. Which can be a bit conflicting, but I am extremely appreciative of the growth I’ve had as a mother, wife, teacher, professional, and most of all, person.