Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hope Never Fails (or listens)

About a month ago, I attended a meeting between parents of children on the spectrum and our local school district. It was hosted by a parent-run independent organization whose mission is "To promote, support, and advocate for the education of diploma-bound students on the autism spectrum in grades K–12."(1). Having 2 very intelligent children on the spectrum, I thought it would be a good organization to look into. It would allow me to anticipate potential issues and start learning how to address potential pitfalls. Sounds good, right?

I served as "note-taker" for the preschool forum. It was an opportunity for me to listen in to learn how these children are transitioned from the various preschool programs into kindergarten. The representatives from the school system talked primarily about the preschool programs that have been designated as "PEP", which (from what I understand) is where the majority of students on the spectrum who would be considered "diploma bound" begin their school career. Neither Rachel nor Simon are in "PEP". So, after the session was over, I had a brief conversation to address the potential transition for my kids. This conversation did not happen between me and one of the representatives from the school system, but with the "moderator" of this breakout session, who happened to be an officer with this organization. In addition to being a part of this advocacy group, she is also a social worker for our school's Early Intervention Services group (but a different office than we had worked with) and has a daughter on the spectrum who is diploma bound.

Given this information, I was looking forward to the advice she would have for me. I told her that I have a daughter in the CAPP Program (Collaborative Autism Preschool Program) and, starting during her last IEP meeting in October, have had conversations with her teacher and the representative to the Autism Office about the possibility of her entering a mainstream kindergarten classroom when she is ready for kindergarten in the 2012-2013 school year. CAPP is the most intensive program offered by our local schools. It's a highly-intensive 1-on-1 ABA-based learning system. Many who enter the program are non-verbal. They all have significant issues regarding language, behavior, and impulse-control, as well as many other areas. Rachel has THRIVED in this environment. We had learned while we were still working with Early Intervention Services (Infants and Toddlers) that she responds to the learning system, ABA. I don't think this individual heard anything I said after mentioning Rachel was in CAPP. Or, if she did, she chose not to listen.

She basically told me that my daughter would not be able to function in a mainstream kindergarten classroom. She went as far as to say that she will likely NOT be diploma bound. A child requiring that level of intensity of services at the preschool level will not be able to function in a classroom setting.


This is someone who advises other families coping with autism and other developmental disabilities. Part of her job is to provide encouragement to the families she serves. NOT to shoot down their dreams for their children. She has never met Rachel. She doesn't know how far Rachel has come. She doesn't know how smart my daughter is. She doesn't have any means of knowing anything about her or her situation. She doesn't know that we actually had a discussion to determine if her placement should be changed to put her in a less intensive environment. She doesn't know that Rachel spends part of every day in a typical pre-K classroom to learn how to interact with her neurotypical peers. All she knows is that Rachel is in the CAPP program.

I don't know if Rachel will receive her high school diploma and go on to college. I don't know if Simon will do the same. But I do know that I will not limit her based on her diagnosis. Other children with autism function in classroom settings and continue on to receive higher education beyond high school. And as a social worker working with this population as well as a mother to a child on the spectrum, she of all people should know this. I will not allow this (in my not-so-objective opinion) unqualified and prejudiced uninformed individual to limit my children's potential.

(1) This mission statement is literally copied/pasted from the website of this organization. Because of nature of this post, I have chosen to not provide the specific website detailing the name of the organization. However, these words are not my work and should be credited to this parenting group.


  1. I'm applauding you over here! I too have two children with autism (both boys) ages 4 and 6. I am happy to report that after two years of intensive preschool intervention (that we had to pay for privately...what the public school offers is good, but not the equivalent), my oldest entered a mainstream kindergarten class. He does have parapro support when needed. Not only has he survived, he has THRIVED, and has blown his Kindergarten teacher away. He's the best reader in the class (in fact, had finished all the site words through 3rd grade by Christmas, so she is spending that time giving him spelling tests instead - something the typical kids won't even begin until next year.) He is social, well liked by the other kids and the teachers, and loves going to school. I recognize there are still no guarantees about the future, but last I checked, no child comes with one of those.

  2. um... YEAH. Just from a few videos I've seen of Rachel, she's CERTAINLY "diploma bound". Reciting the alphabet backwards before kindergarten? Social skills aside, I see her in college someday (if that's what she wants). And I don't even know her. My son with autism bites other kids, doesn't want to talk to or play with them, refuses to toilet train, and has massive temper tantrums---- I've been told (NOT by anyone who truly KNOWS him) that he should be in a group home/ institution.

    He is the ONLY child in his preschool classroom (half special needs, half TYPICAL kids) who can write sentences. He can count to ten in 4 languages. He knows all the states. Yeah, he's got issues and I'm not sure he'll be mainstreamed anytime soon... but he is for SURE diploma bound. "AUTISM" doesn't necessarily mean academically slow. It CAN, but in my son's case, his autism has given him some serious Rainman-esque gifts.

  3. There are lots of close-minded individuals who represent themselves as autism advocates and representatives. I am find more and more people in positions to help us are not very helpful, in fact, deflating. I am sorry this happened but if I know anything about you, you won't let this hold you or Rachel back from her full potential!

  4. Yeah, this woman sounds pretty dopey. Not to mention, it is just kinda ridiculous to make assumptions of the overall learning and educational success capabilities of small children. I mean that is really nonsense. Why is it that suddenly when children are diagnosed with ASD, people start pretending like they can see in the future? We would never even entertain this sort of idea of "diploma bound" and "NOT diploma bound" with NT children! This should be offensive to the whole ASD community.

  5. I'm with Secret Sunshine. Who the heck knows whose children will be diploma bound, marriage bound, PhD bound, divorce bound or pain the bleep bound?? Scary to think how many parents are influenced by such silliness.