Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back to School and the Big Picture

Wow, this summer was a blur. Now that school is back in session, I feel like things can finally get back to normal, whatever normal is!

There's a part of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) form that asks what general educational goals parents have for their children. The first few IEP meetings I attended, the question stumped me. It's a BIG PICTURE question, and most of my thoughts going into an IEP are little picture details. By now, however, I've been to so many IEP meetings, I know it's coming and plan an answer accordingly.

It's a good question because we mommies and daddies of children on the spectrum are often focused on the little picture. We deal with the daily tantrums, fights to get our kids to eat healthy food, stimming (OHMYGOD the stimming!), homework, therapy, routines and breaks in routine, the struggle to bring our children out of their own private world and into the public world of social interaction.

Back-to-school time is as good as an IEP meeting for reviewing the BIG PICTURE of education. For Jack, this means he's spending far more time in a regular classroom with a full-time aide and far less time in his TEACCH classroom. One of our long-term general educational goals for Jack is for him eventually to be mainstreamed in regular classes without an aide. This may or may not be reasonable for Jack, but we're aiming high and hoping he gets there. As far as the autism spectrum goes, Jack is very high functioning, but just how funtioning he'll be in the future is, of course, a mystery.

We're a LONG way from that level of independence, but second grade marks at least an attempt to move further down that road. I'm jubilant and terrified at the same time. In the very early days after Jack was diagnosed, I didn't even want to think about the big picture of the future. It seemed too uncertain and scary and totally out of my control. Now, I've accepted that it is most definitely out of my control, which perversely makes it much easier for me to move forward and make decisions and take action with hope that it will all turn out okay in the end.

What are your BIG PICTURE educational goals for your child with autism? Do you aim high and hope for the best or keep focused more on short-term progress because, frankly, the big picture is just too scary to contemplate? How is your back-to-school experience going this year?