We had our eligibility meeting with the public school. After all of K's evaluations and the endless waiting, we were going to find out if he qualified. I was so anxious, and excited all day. A real tight bundle of nerves, that was me non stop.
We got to our meeting and one by one the evaluators crushed my hope of K receiving services. They all agreed that they could not recommend services because he was "too smart". Wow... that sucks. Despite the fact that his self help skills and communication skills were sub par; his academic IQ was exactly on the line separating "average" and "high average". Because Kekito was, "very smart, even for a neurotypical child", then he did not need special education classes.
I stifled my tears for as long as I could. I wanted to just get up and walk out. I hated watching each person tell me with a long face that my son was "academically too far progressed". It was maddening to think that it could keep him from getting the kind of help and skills training he needs.
(Let me explain real quick: Kids "age out" of Early Intervention at 3. If they don't qualify for special education, then they don't have an opportunity again for services until Kindergarten at age 5. An *awesome* two year gap in which to regress, or make little progress.)
The last two people to speak at our "round table discussion" were K's social worker Sarah, and I. She told them that if they didn't accept him because he "knew too much" that it would be unfairly punishing the both of us for working so hard this whole last year (can I get an AMEN!?).
Then it came to me. They asked, "Why do you think he needs this if his IQ is so high? What academic need could there possibly be?"
My response went something like this:
"He has Autism, so he needs to be in an environment where he can be socialized with his peers. He needs specialists to help him progress in all the areas where his IQ was lacking. If I send him to a regular preschool, they won't likely be equipped to handle his temperament. They don't choose to work specifically with special needs children. They won't necessarily have the patience to handle a child like K. Nor do they positively have the specialized skills to help him the way he needs to learn. I'd rather keep him at home than chance those things. Kekito needs to learn especially how to communicate with his peers. He is dying to make friends. He desperately wants to be included in activities. When he plays with other kids...."
And then it happened. My mind played the videos in my head of all the times kids pushed him, kicked him, or screamed in his face to "Go away! Leave me alone!" And his oblivious response was always to hug them more, chase them more, love them more. It is probably the hardest thing I have come across so far with Autism It is the thing that devastates me the most. Endless tears have been shed at those sights.
With my face soaked, voice and body vibrating inside; I continued, "When he plays with them they scream at him, they shove him, they kick him. And all he does is hug them, lay on them, or smile an inch from their face. He is relentless... and so are they. It is devastating to see. At some point he will realize that they can't stand him. He needs the chance now to learn to fit in."
My, how a desperate woman blubbering like an idiot must guilt people. It absolutely was not my intention. I tried so hard to hold it together. But I simply couldn't. I felt like the BIGGEST moron, but it was just that painful.
Luckily, his new teacher was the first to point out that she thought that was an important skill for academic learning. Then one by one the evaluators all started piping in with phrases like, "Oh, yeah, yeah, that's important! I think that's an academic need. They need to fit in with their peers to learn. Yeah, he's got an academic need". Hmmmm.... I was grateful to the one educator who started this wave of agreement. Until that moment, it was as though I was watching everything in slow motion.
So I'm guessing, sadly, the water works got him accepted. When we left, I was telling Sarah how stupid I felt. She told me, "Don't feel stupid! I was SO excited when you started crying! They weren't going to take him otherwise. I've never seen a child with an autism diagnosis not be immediately accepted before! But they were not going to accept him until you lost it. So it's a good thing." Oh thank you so much Miss Sarah for making me feel slightly less stupid! :) I'm sure the board of people think I am overly emotional wreck.
It's a sad policy in my opinion. Either Early Intervention needs to be extended through age 5 or, any child with a diagnosed disability (helloooo?!) should be accepted into special education classes... PERIOD.