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Looking Around The Table

Last Tuesday morning Chris and I had a meeting at Simon's school to discuss the results of his recent re-evaluation for services (a state mandated 3-year eligibility in the area of Autism Spectrum Disorder).

This was a bit different than a regular annual IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting where we take a look at how he's been doing and set goals/accommodations for the next year.

Over the last month or so we filled out evaluations (GADS - Gillham Asperger Diagnostic Scale and a parent questionnaire/case history), testing was done at school by the school psychologist (Kaufman Assessment Battery For Children-II and Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement-II), and his teachers also filled out evaluations (GADS - Gillham Asperger Diagnostic Scale).

Around the table at the meeting was the director of Simon's program, his speech teacher, the regional autism coordinator, the school psychologist, and his third grade teacher.

For two hours we talked about Simon and reviewed a nine-page assessment packet detailing the results of the testing and observations. We laughed, we agreed, we expressed fears, we questioned, we discussed, we giggled at things he does both at home and school, and we shared stories. We celebrated his strengths and brain-stormed ways to help him move forward with his weaknesses.

As I sat, listening and participating and looking around the table, this is the thought that came to mind: I am so thankful for the people sitting around this table. They see lots of kids. They've got lots of things on their plates, including attending meetings like this one with parents. They've got personal lives and issues. They were all fully present, fully participating, and fully advocating for Simon.

One of my favorite pieces of the assessment came from the "relevant background" section:

"Simon's teachers note that he is a kind-hearted, conscientious student. He is very sweet and affectionate to those he knows well, he is eager to please, and he is very methodical in his work completion. He enjoys reading and has good memorization of factual information and rules. Simon has a big smile and has excellent fine motor skills. He enjoys talking about family trips and his sister."

Over the nine-pages there's a lot of documented challenges for Simon. Without going into details, as a parent there's a lot of information to get lost in - numbers, averages, recommendations, suggestions, etc.

What I'm simply so thankful for is that the focus of the people around the table was on how we can help Simon continue moving forward - building upon and making the most of his strengths and finding ways to help him gain ground in the other areas.

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114 thoughts

  1. Delia says…
    04/12/2011

    Go Simon. So fabulous to see others relect back the beautiful boy we all see shine though on your mum's blog. Like all of Ali's readers I wish you the happiest and most fulfilling of lives.

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. Alison Richardson says…
    04/12/2011

    This is deeply personal, thank you for sharing Ali. You and Chris are great parents. Blessings to you from Africa

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. Amy Albert says…
    04/12/2011

    Thank you for sharing. I have a 4 1/2 year old daughter with down syndrome and although we are only in preschool I felt the same way you were talking about at Maggie's last IEP...when you looked around the table you were thankful for those people sitting there. Since her birth Maggie has had an amazing "team". From her pediatrician to her cardiologist to her case manager, ENT, PT and especially her preschool teachers. Maggie has come such a long ways in such a short time, I feel so lucky each day to be her mom. Maggie has opened my eyes to so many things and wonderful people. Just last night I sat around a table and started planning for this years Buddy Walk (in Sept.) with a bunch of other parents. Being in Maine we are a smaller group, but we hae great plans and I love helping with this event! We even have decided to try hosting a scrapbooking crop fundraiser event! (I am so excited for this). Having a child with Special needs is a gift. Maggie has taught me to slow down a little and enjoy things more. It amazes me that many of her "firsts" were even more exciting than I could have imagined. She gives a new definition to perfect! You and your husband seem like wonderful parents and I am sure that Simon is THANKFUL for you both. I am thankful for you being "real" and sharing....sometimes its not always easy.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Bonnie says…
      04/13/2011

      Hi Amy! I live in Maine, too. I'm interested in learning more about your scrapbooking crop fundraiser event.

  4. dawn says…
    04/12/2011

    This is wonderful Ali, so happy Simon has a great support group and surrounded by people who love him and help him. Way to go Simon!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. michelle ward says…
    04/12/2011

    ali - great post. i never leave those kind of meetings without welling up with tears, feeling the same gratitude you articulated, as well as a full heart, believing it is such a privilege to be a parent to my sam. focusing on strengths - the most important perspective. yay!

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. Sarah says…
    04/12/2011

    That DOES sound like a lovely sit-down with all of Simon's support staff/advocates. The "he enjoys talking about family trips and his sister" REALLY MADE ME SMILE; that's precious!

    I knew Simon had been diagnosed with Autism, but now I wonder if his case has been specifically labeled Asperger. I had never heard of that before until I had started watching the show PARENTHOOD (on NBC). I think that (on this show) they do an incredible job showcasing some of the struggles that ALL parents/families face, in general, but it has been insightful to see inside of a home/life that deals with Asperger's as well.

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. Kim says…
    04/12/2011

    As an early childhood special educator, thank you for your gratitude. I've been that person sitting there presenting the results, and yes, I do have my own life, but darn if I don't love that student at that moment just as much as I do my own children. For the time students are in my class, they are mine. Thank you for realizing that. Best of luck to you and Simon as he grows.

    Reply 5 Replies
    1. Dona says…
      07/14/2011

      As a teacher I also echo Kim.

    2. Jen says…
      04/12/2011

      As a speech-language pathologist, I echo this sentiment and thank you for this beautiful post.

    3. sarah r. says…
      04/12/2011

      and as a school psychologist, i echo these two!

    4. Julie L. says…
      04/12/2011

      As a teacher I had the same thought too!

    5. Kim Miller says…
      04/17/2011

      I echo the above sentiments....as a school occupational therapist, it is nice to read of your gratitude. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Lindsay says…
    04/12/2011

    As a former special educator and now a parent myself, it is so nice to hear a parent be thankful and appreciative of the work that educators do and to recognize how much they care.
    Your son is very lucky to have such involved parents and teachers! :-)

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. Paula says…
    04/12/2011

    Oh Ali, this really struck a cord in my heart. My daughter has a learning disability and an IEP as well. After years of fighting for her in private schools, being 'dismissed' from two of them because they just didn't have the resources to help her, I was brought to tears at our first IEP meetings. I could not believe how a group of teachers and administrators could be so interested in helping my daughter succeed. Until that point, it felt like everyone was against us. I still get choked up and wonder if they truly understand how thankful I am for all they do...

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. Catherine Denton says…
    04/12/2011

    My eyes are full of tears. I've also encountered those kind souls and know how relieving it can be. Thank you for this heartfelt post of gratitude.
    My Blog

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. Lisa W. says…
    04/12/2011

    Dear Ali,

    What a breath of fresh air...loving Simon. I have a dear friend with a son that is now 20 yrs old with autism. Her life is VERY challenging, we worry about her all the time. But mostly I am so very happy to hear your thoughts on "all those around the table and how lucky I am." I work at a school, see allot of this type of thing, and so many parents critisize the teachers, specialists, knowing that they have the childs best interest at heart. It is so heartwarming that you feel that way and obviously you have a great "team" helping Simon. Such a wonderful story to hear. And I love that kiddo of yours...I know I know we don't really know him. But you feel like you do, and see him in action with his kindness and things he loves (legos) through your blog. I truly enjoy! Thanks you so much for sharing, and how lucky that little boy and girl is to have such wonderful parents.

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. Ellen McKinley says…
    04/12/2011

    For those whose children struggle with autism and Asperger's syndrome: understand that in many districts, the 2-hour, caring meetings Ali describes are NOT the norm. As a parent, you need to be a strong advocate for your child and insist that the school take enough time, ensure the proper support staff, not just the teacher and special education teacher, attend the meetings, and do your homework! As a former special educator, I have had to battle to get these things on behalf of the students I serve, and without the support and insistence of parents who are familiar with what the school is legally responsible for, it does not always happen. Be that active parent!

    Reply 2 Replies
    1. Ali says…
      04/12/2011

      Thanks for your comments Ellen. This was the first time we had a 2-hour meeting - most of our IEP sessions have been much shorter. It was that long because it was a combined 3-year eval + IEP.

      And you are right, every parent (whether they are parents of special needs kids or not) needs to be an ACTIVE advocate for their kids. For parents of kids with special needs that especially includes knowing the laws.

    2. Barbara Parnell says…
      02/22/2012

      Very true....I too have a son with autism,and while I do believe there are a few people on his staff that truly want to help,that is not the case for all.It is very difficult for some teachers and staff to fully grasp the entire situation,if they are not living it themselves.My least favorite line ever fed to me at one of these meetings,while they were trying to persuade me to go to a new school that I did not believe was right for my son & our family was"you know,if you do this,you may learn something."To which I quickly replied" you know,my son has taught me more in the last 12 years than any book about autism could ever teach you...thank you very much."Unfortunately,sometimes it all comes down to budgets & numbers with the schools,depending upon your district.ALways be your child's best advocate,special needs or not!For Ali to say that she was happy & received the attention they deserved,is a breath of fresh air!Yeah for Simon!

  13. Katie says…
    04/12/2011

    As a special education teacher, this post just made me strive to make sure I make the families feel this way every time I interact with them. Always so insightful to remember the situation from all sides, and refreshing to have that moment where you rededicate yourself to what you do. Thank you for that moment today, and thank you for sharing, Ali!

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. Terri says…
    04/12/2011

    I am honored by your post today. From a very grateful teacher, thank you, Ali. We often wonder if parents know just how much we love their children. We do.

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. elise says…
    04/12/2011

    great post. GO simon & GO good teachers.

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. Tina Lee says…
    04/12/2011

    " he is kind-hearted"...that is what I want said of my boys! And should be top priority for all of us. Thanks for sharing your beautiful family with us.

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. Megan Beverly says…
    04/12/2011

    Simply awesome. We have our re-eval tomorrow. As difficult as they are, I never dread them, we have such an amazing team. Cheers to our cool kids!

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. Deb Pereira says…
    04/12/2011

    Ali, I am currently reading a wonderful book on autisim by Eileen Garvin who is the sister of an autistic girl. I think you would really enjoy it. The title is How to Be a Sister: A Love Story with a Twist of Autism. If you haven't already read it check it out. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. Veronica says…
    04/12/2011

    You are so lucky to have a team working for Simon....in our school district where cuts have limited Autistic services and where my son had to fend for himself at school and receive all the support at home with his parents...you are blessed.

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. Karen says…
    04/12/2011

    As a parent of a kidlet living with autism, I can very much appreciate how good it feels (and how productive it is) when you are working with a 'team'. I've experienced the opposite, as well as the 'team' working together to help our kidlet achieve his goals and thrive. And I much prefer the latter! (I think everyone at the table does.) So glad that Simon's three year went well and that you are working with such great people! :>

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Ali says…
      04/12/2011

      We saw some of the opposite early on after Simon was first diagnosed and it definitely spurred us to action in terms of finding the right fit for him.

  21. Angie Hall says…
    04/12/2011

    Ali, this too touched me. My 8-year old does not have autism, but we suspect he has executive functioning disorder... what his sister calls the absent minded professor issue. Nonetheless, when I dropped him off at carpool this morning, the woman who ushered him out of my minivan asked, "Is this your boy? He is just the sweetest thing. (Insert southern drawl here.)I'm his art teacher." I beamed...don't you love it when other people love your child with their whole hearts? Not because of what we have done, but because of who they (our other mothers, teachers, and friends) and our children are.

    Reply 3 Replies
    1. Ali says…
      04/12/2011

      That is exactly it Angie. Exactly :).

    2. Liz Ness says…
      04/12/2011

      LOVE this (and that photograph is awesome btw... =) ). This story (and Angie's take) resonates for me, too, and it reminds me of how much others love our children and that we're not alone as parents advocating for a solid ground and a path to the future; that our children have loads of help on their journey.

      This fills my heart with gratitude and love in return.

    3. Veronica says…
      04/12/2011

      So true....As a teacher of your little ones....it is amazing how they worm their way into my heart so quickly and become a part of my family to the point that at the end of the year....tears are shed by me.... I truely miss them all summer long

      However, to be honest....I may not like them all the time...but I love them...and they are completely different things.

  22. Ellie A. says…
    04/12/2011

    Another misty eyed mama. This is a wonderful post. For us we are so very thankful for the attention that is given to my boys I love the communication that is given by each of my by the teachers. My youngest son receives speech therapy and I have seen how he has grown and flourished and I could not be more thankful for all that is done and the love that is given. I am forever thankful & will never be able to thank each of them enough.

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. tara pollard pakosta says…
    04/12/2011

    he sounds like such a great kid!
    how nice to have someone else recognize those things in him!
    way to go mom, you are raising a great boy~!
    tara

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. katie t says…
    04/12/2011

    Thank you so, so , much for this post. I love your writing and your story telling abilities. May I ask, how did you learn to write so well? Are you a natural born writer or did you learn from reading a book or class? Thank you again, for your post.

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. Rebekah says…
    04/12/2011

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us Ali. I don't comment much, but I read every post and am often inspired by your seemingly quiet and calm approach to life.

    Reply 0 Replies

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