Thursday, December 2, 2010

Turning Five (part 1)

When Norrin was first born, Joseph and I had high expectations.  We would not allow him to make our mistakes.  Norrin would go on to college after high school and graduate within four years - five years max.  We never wanted Norrin to have to choose between a college education and a job; forced to take classes that fit around his work schedule.  We wanted Norrin to choose the career he wanted, not settle on the one that paid the bills.  He was going to be better than us.    

This was before the diagnosis, when I believed a school is what you made of it.  And if Norrin was a typically developing child I would place him in the zoned public school or a charter school and be done with it.  I would be an involved parent, help him with his homework, enroll him in after school the life of a typical parent with a typical child.  Knowing that my child would not be left behind.
With a child on the autism spectrum, we cannot afford that luxury.  Norrin needs more than the public school system can provide.  And we need reassurance that Norrin will not be left behind, our own parental commitment to Norrin's education is not enough.  We still have high expectations for Norrin - the diagnosis will never change that.         

The "Turning Five" process is daunting; it's a path that so many parents walk alone, unguided and uncertain.         

Since October, I've toured six schools - only one is truly suitable for Norrin.  I have three more schools to tour.  (Not including the public schools and the CBST referrals) I have no idea when my Turning Five meeting will be - I am waiting to hear from the Committee of Special Education (CSE).  All I can do is tour schools, fill out applications, consult an advocate and possibly an attorney, attain a neuropysch eval and wait.      

Norrin isn't entitled to the best. He's entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and to be placed accordingly to his Individualized Education Plan (IEP). But I often wonder: what is appropriate?  Appropriate can mean different things to different people. And the IEP might as well be called the GEP because administrators hand out placements and services based on what they "generally" assign. Administrators will refer to Norrin as a number. CSE is thought of as a business rather than a public service. They will make a decision and it will be up to us to fight it.   

But for now, I am at the mercy of the CSE. 
That is the threat in AutismWonderland.   

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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.