Thursday, April 30, 2009

Time to bring out the big guns

Tomorrow we head to Florida for our appointment with Dr. Rossignol. People have asked me why I haven't just taken Becca to a local DAN doctor. I know there are some in our area, but I don't of anyone who has gone to any of them and gotten any real help. We have waited far too long to see a DAN doctor. We've been rather conservative with the biomedical treatments and we've been relying on our own research with no real guidance. I talked to a mother who has a very severely affected child, who has been all over the country trying to get effective treatment for her son. She said Dr. Rossignol was the only one who was able to help him. I did some research and liked what I learned about him. He's got a good track record, and at this point, with Becca being nine years old, that's what we need. We've put this off far too long. CHOP is our local children's hospital, and their philosophies tend to spread throughout the local community. Autism is treated as a psychiatric disorder, and the core medical issues tend to get overlooked. I find myself getting further and further away from anything related to CHOP. Our GI doctor is in Boston, we're seeing a metabolic specialist in Cleveland, and if the CHOP endocrinologist doesn't start doing some serious testing I've got on lined up in California. I'm excited and very hopeful about this appointment. I should actually be packing now, our flight leaves very early tomorrow and we'll be up at 2 AM getting ready to leave for the airport.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Let's pretend I don't have autism"

The words came out of the blue. We were driving on the highway on the way to OT, talking about nothing in particular. Then she said it. I nearly went off the road. She had never said anything like that before. Well, she had told me before that she doesn't like having autism and that she wants to "make it go away." Perhaps knowing that she isn't able to make it go away, she is doing the only thing she knows how to do, and that is utilize her imagination and retreat into that pretend world. Apparently, it's a world without autism. For so many years, it seemed that she wanted to retreat INTO her own little world of autism. Something has changed. It is so hard for me to know what is going on in her head, but it seems that she is beginning to be aware of what having autism has brought into her life. I tried to get her to tell me more. I'm sure I pushed too hard, as I often do. I'm so desperate to know what she's thinking. I know I asked too many questions. "Mom, you talk WAAAY too much." That's what she always tells me when she's overwhelmed and just can't give me the answers I'm seeking. But I pushed a little more. I just wanted to know what she thought would be different if she didn't have autism. She finally said, "Then I'd feel better." She sounded so weary as she said those words. I still don't know exactly what she meant. Is it the miserable GI issues that cause her so much suffering? She can't always tell me. And she has learned to deny pain if she thinks it's going to mean a trip to the doctor. I wonder what else is bothering her. I know how I hate my own ADD. I hate the feeling of my brain being in overdrive. Becca is so easily distracted, but does it feel the same to her? I just don't know. Is she referring to the anxiety, the isolation, the sense of being "different?" She can't tell me. All I know is that she doesn't want to have autism. It's the reason why I will never stop working for her recovery. There is no way I will ever accept that she has to have autism. I know I cannot guarantee she will recover, but it won't be for lack of trying on my part. I've been told I need to accept her autism, to let go, even to accept it as God's will. But God has not brought me to that place of acceptance. If that were the case, I'd know it. I might have to be dragged kicking and screaming into that place of acceptance, but I'd know. That hasn't happened. If anything, my faith is just giving me more strength for the fight ahead. I know I'm going to need it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Inconclusive is not an answer

We're heading to Boston to see Dr. Buie. I'm trying not to expect too much. We saw him a couple of years ago and have been following up with phone consults. He seems to be able to work wonders with other kids but refers to Becca as a "hard case." At least he tries. We know we're not getting any answers from anyone at CHOP. Their GI department is a joke. Wait five months for an appointment, get a prescription for Zantac. They completely botched an endoscopy and Dr. Buie had to do the whole procedure over again.

Becca's pediatrician says she's probably going to be one of those kids that always falls into the "we don't know" category. Comforting words from a pediatrician. At least she's honest. It's getting kind of frustrating. The neurologist says the MRI is "inconclusive." The endocrinologist says some hormones are elevated, but "we don't know what that means and there's nothing we can do about it." The metabolic specialist says something is "not right" but she can't put her finger on it. Not exactly helpful, but at least they weren't insinuating that I'm imagining all these issues. We've been down that road before.

So it's off to Dr. Buie today, and in May we see Dr. Rossignol. Wish I'd made that appointment years ago. Somebody out there has to have some answers. I have to believe that.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

OK, I've completely ignored this poor little blog for more than a month. Life with autism tends to get in the way of writing about life with autism. So much has been happening, and Becca is making such wonderful progress. This last month has been amazing!

One little incident this morning made me realize how far we've come. When Becca woke up she asked me if it was Sunday. I said yes, and she looked disappointed. Then her face changed, and I could see something going on. She quickly said, "I have a sore throat." Then she turned away, unable to look me in the eye. She had remembered not going to church last week because she had been sick with a sore throat. Trying not to laugh, I told her not to lie about being sick in order to get out of going to church. She looked at me, shrugged, and said, "Well, it was just one little lie."

Now do I want my daughter telling lies? No way. But am I thrilled that we are now at a point where she needs to be taught not to lie AND to not justify the lie? You bet. Two years ago, I couldn't imagine having such a conversation with her. Now I'm starting to deal with the NORMAL things that parents have to teach their children. And I'm loving it!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ian Gromowski

Yet another innocent child was forced to "take one for the herd." Another family devasted. When does it end? Rest in peace, Ian. Your death will not be in vain.

Monday, January 19, 2009

"Because I Have Autism"

Becca has been aware for quite some time that she has autism. How well she understands what it is, I don't know for sure. Last spring, she became aware of what it means in terms of being discriminated against. She doesn't understand bigotry, but she knows her autism resulted in her being excluded.

When Becca was still attending school in our district and was beginning second grade, her TSS decided to start a lunch buddy program. She would have Becca choose a friend and they would have lunch in a quiet room in the school, away from the noise and constant activity of the cafeteria. She had the full approval of Becca's teacher and the school principal, and the parents of the children also had to give their permission. There was one little girl in particular that Becca frequently asked to join her for lunch. I won't use her real name, I'll call her Cathleen. Initially Cathleen's mother gave her approval for Cathleen to participate twice a week. At some point, though, she changed her mind and decided she only wanted Cathleen to have lunch with Becca once a week. She made sure there was no chance of the girls having lunch together more frequently by sending Cathleen to school with a peanut butter sandwich, being fully aware that Becca has a severe peanut allergy. Still, there were a few other girls that would have lunch with Becca, and every day she and Cathleen would play together at recess. Each referred to the other as her best friend. The teacher also assigned Cathleen as Becca's "homework buddy" in the classroom. She was to remind Becca to write down her homework assignment and put her books in hr backpack. However, her mother suddenly decided that this was too much of a "burden" for her. Becca went in to school one morning to find her seat was changed. Cathleen was paired with another child. The teacher seemed unaware that Becca actually had feelings and didn't bother to explain the change to her.

Cathleen came over for a play date, and I spoke at length with her mother. Cathleen also attended Becca's Christmas party, and her mother was present the entire time, which gave her plenty of opportunity to see how well the girls played together. We talked a few times about scheduling more play dates. We finally came up with a date and time. Cathleen's mother had somewhere to go that morning but said she would call me as soon as she got back and then I would bring Becca over. This would be the first time Becca would be going to someone else's house without me present. It took a lot of work to prepare Becca for something like this. I think most parents with children on the spectrum can understand this. I had a social story prepared for Becca, and we read it together repeatedly. We waited and waited for Cathleen's mother to call. The afternoon passed by, and Becca was just heartbroken. I finally took her to the playground. There was no phone call, no explanation. I just didn't know what to tell Becca.

I accompanied Becca's class on a field trip, and Cathleen spoke to me about what a good friend Becca was to her. It was gratifying to hear another child describe Becca's positive qualities. Although Cathleen was protective and helpful toward Becca, it was clear that she truly enjoyed the friendship and didn't just befriend Becca out of sympathy.

Becca knew exactly when Cathleen's birthday was, and Cathleen must have mentioned a party because Becca assumed she was going to attend. She was in for a rude awakening. I will never forget her words as long as I live. "Cathleen's mother won't let me come to Cathleen's party because I have autism." She then repeated everything Cathleen had said to the TSS about why her mother wouldn't allow Becca to attend, all ridiculous assumptions about autism. I talked with the TSS, who confirmed everything. In the meantime, Becca started to go into denial, saying she WAS going to the party. There was no way I was going to tell my daughter that Cathleen's mother was a bigot who didn't like kids with autism. I lied. I said there was a misunderstanding and that Cathleen wasn't having a party after all.

I have often wondered what would've happened if I hadn't made the phone call. I am still convinced she would've put an end to the friendship over the summer break. I still think it was right to call this woman on her bigotry. But the price to pay was high.

I called Cathleen's mother and calmly asked her to please ask her daughter not to mention the party at school, as it was upsetting to Becca. She said she was sorry that Becca felt hurt. Then I asked her if she didn't want the girls to be friends. She started becoming very defensive and made excuses for her actions. She then said Cathleen was the one who chose not to invite Becca. I knew very well from the conversation that had taken place that that wasn't at all true. She turned it around on me and said I was taking it personally. Well, yeah, since it was my child being devastated, I guess I was taking it personally. She offered to have a "separate" party to which Becca would be the only child invited. Last I knew, "separate but equal" was not equal. I politely declined. Then she asked if I would forgive her. I'm pretty forgiving, but what she was doing was asking me to forgive her in advance for something she intended to do that she knew would hurt my daughter. She had the opportunity right then and there to turn everything around, and she didn't want to, but she wanted me to forgive her. I said nothing, and she got uncomfortable. We ended the call.

Any satisfaction I had in knowing I had addressed this woman's hurtful behavior was very short-lived. The following afternoon I received a phone call informing me that Becca's TSS would no longer be allowed in the school. Being the vindictive creature that she was, Cathleen's mother had called the school principal and said her daughter's confidentiality had been breached when the TSS confirmed to me what Becca had said. There was no proof of this, so the school had to find something else. They read the daily log book the TSS sent home to me, in which she had helped Becca obtain and write down the phone numbers of some kids so that she could invite them for play dates and parties. They had been looking for an excuse to get rid of the TSS, and the spiteful actions of an embarrassed woman gave them the excuse they needed.

The school year ended, and surprisingly Cathleen was allowed to attend Becca's party and come with us to a movie as well. Her mother and I acted as if nothing had happened. I really think she wanted to "prove" to me that she had no problem with Becca's disability. There were talks of more play dates, but then the excuses began again. When school began and she learned Becca was being homeschooled, I think she decided she could drop all pretense. Cathleen was supposed to attend Becca's birthday party, and Becca was so excited to know she would be there. On our way to the gym where we were having the party, Cathleen's mother called and gave us some lame excuse. I told Becca, and the look on her face was heartbreaking. She grew very quiet and had a look of resignation. She no longer had any real enthusiasm for the party. The day was ruined for her. A few weeks later the girls saw each other at another child's party. They were inseparable and had a wonderful time together. Cathleen asked me again if Becca could come to play at her house. I just told her to have her mother call. I made one last attempt to arrange a playdate. It was met with the usual "I'll let you know." However, this woman had no problem soliciting a donation from me for one of her pet charities. And that was the last I heard from her. The invitation to Becca's Christmas party went unanswered. Becca still talks about Cathleen and cannot understand why they can't play together. I don't know how I will ever explain it to her.

I learned that Cathleen's grandfather is the executive director of the human services agency where Becca attended preschool. This agency is the largest provider of services for developmentally disabled individuals in our area. I wonder if he knows how his granddaughter is being raised to discriminate on the basis of disability. Would he care?

I'm sure I sound bitter. I really try not to be, but my daughter continues to be hurt. It's not like this is the first time something like this has happened. There have been other children who have wanted to play with Becca. It's the mothers that have prevented it. I remember a little girl from dance class coming up to me and asking to have a playdate with Becca. Her mother grabbed her by the wrist, told her to be quiet, and nearly ran out of the building.

So much for autism awareness. Can we stop raising money for it? People are plenty aware. They're aware that they don't want their precious little darlings exposed to it. They don't want our kids in their classrooms, and they don't want their tax dollars spent on special education services when they could be better spent on sports programs.

Last year when the school principal wouldn't allow the TSS in the classroom, I was compelled to tell her exactly what had brought about the vindictive actions of Cathleen's mother. The principal suggested we have a parent training on autism. She thought the PTO could arrange it. My response? "She IS the PTO." Yes, the woman who had hurt my child so deeply was one of the most active parents in school organizations, and she would be responsible for educating parents on autism. I declined the principal's offer.

Becca does have one very good friend now. Her name is Victoria and she lives three hundred miles away. She is the daughter of one of my oldest friends. We only get to see each other a few times a year, but the girls get along great. When Becca does something a little quirky, Victoria will look puzzled, then shrug and join in with whatever Becca is doing. She seems to think Becca's little quirks are kind of cool. We're making plans to visit each other more often this year. But somehow, it just doesn't seem right to have to travel three hundred miles to see your one and only friend. It just shouldn't be this way.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Which is the better value???

I just received the EOB from Becca's tonsillectomy. Twenty-thousand dollars. Yup, that's right, twenty-thousand for a same-day procedure, no complications. My C-section didn't cost that much. For only thirteen thousand I got three days and nights in a private room with a great mattress and delicious food, and I went home with a beautiful baby girl. Gives me something to think about. If we didn't have the insurance we have, would it make sense to have her tonsils removed? I think having another baby would be a better value.

OK, all joking aside, Becca really did need to have her tonsils removed, but this is what really bugs me about health care. There is NO WAY it cost anywhere near twenty thousand to remove tonsils. I know my insurance didn't pay the full amount, but it's absurd that they can artificially inflate the price like that. Becca's special needs stroller is just another example. She can walk, just not for any distance. If she walks for more than a block she can't do anything else for the rest of the day. She also has trouble navigating through crowds because of her visual perception and motor planning deficits. She had long since outgrown a regular stroller. Our primary insurance agreed to pay for a special needs stroller. It took four letters from our pediatrician, and numerous phone calls and threats of legal action from me, before our secondary insurance finally paid the balance. I can almost understand why. When we went to the hospital to pick it up, I took a quick look at the invoice that was attached. Three thousand dollars! I remarked on the price, and the physical therapist that had fitted Becca for the chair said the insurance would only pay about half that amount. Out of curiosity I went online and checked the manufacturer's website. The stroller could be ordered directly through them for just over fourteen hundred. When I received the EOB, I saw that the insurance had paid the medical supply company a little more than that. I think it's safe to assume they had purchased the chair at a lower cost, so some profit was surely made. Had the pediatrician and I not been so persistent, Becca would not have the stroller. Rather than deal with suppliers who inflate the cost, the insurance companies will just continue to deny claims. This is not the first time we have had to fight the insurance company. A couple of years ago I had two different appeals going on. I appealed each matter four times. I was actually starting to get the appeals confused. It took a hearing to get one matter resolved in Becca's favor, and the other was settled right before a hearing. Fighting for medical care, while simultaneously fighting for Becca's educational rights, became a full-time job. When does this end? I would like to be hopeful that, with the incoming administration, we will see some relief. Unfortunately, it's looking to me like even more restrictions are ahead of us, with a one-size-fits-all approach to health care. I sincerely hope I am wrong!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I actually put some clothes on for this one!

Another painless IEP meeting. Can't believe I'm actually saying that, after all we went through with the school district. I just love the cyber charter school. I'm still a little nervous before each meeting, because I'm so used to having to fight so hard for every little thing. I've come to expect contentious meetings. Now, with this school, I tell them what I think Becca needs, and they say OK. We just had another meeting. I got dressed for this one, unlike the last one where I wore my bathrobe. Yes, the meetings are conducted over the phone. Heck, I could've baked a batch of cookies while this one was going on. I'm still amazed at the services we're getting. Tomatis, Interactive Metronome, and FINALLY some ABA. Never would've happened in the school district. We're also getting a vision therapy evaluation, and they are sending a program for Becca to learn keyboarding. They let me find my own therapists and will contract with them. I've been able to get evaluations done by people I know and trust. Becca no longer qualifies for physical therapy, but the evaluation was done by someone who has worked with Becca before. I trust his judgement. Becca gets more speech and OT than the school district was ever willing to give her. The district completely ignored the assistive technology evaluation we had done by one of the leading experts in the field. They still wanted to do their own assessment, which I know would've resulted in another denial of services. The cyber school, on the other hand, read the assistive technology report,and within a week after the IEP meeting I received the two programs Becca needed for written communication. Finally, with the services Becca is getting now, there is some hope that we will be able to make up for all that was lost in those three years with the district.

Friday, January 9, 2009

So it all comes down to curves?

or lack thereof???

When I got over my initial rage at the amount of money wasted on so-called research like this, I looked at it for the entertainment value it provides. So did all the folks over at Age of Autism. Everyone needs a good laugh now and then.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Long post alert!

At some point I may have to be very careful about what I say in regards to my daughter's school district and all that happened over a three-year period. Obviously I'm not going to reveal the name of the school district or the location other than to say we live in the suburbs near Philadelphia.

Becca began receiving early intervention services through the county at sixteen months and then transitioned to the local I.U. at age three. She then attended a preschool program through an agency that contracted with the I.U. and had related services and therapies both in preschool and at home. Becca loved preschool and I loved sending her there. Not once in three years did I have to worry about her safety or well-being. I chose to provide transportation, and that gave me an opportunity to speak with her teachers frequently and watch her interact with those around her. For three years I felt like I was actually part of the IEP team. I felt my input was valued. Never once did I experience a condescending attitude from a teacher or therapist. If I felt extra services were needed, it wasn't too difficult to obtain them. I never even gave a thought to due process. Our IEP meetings sometimes ran over schedule because everyone had a funny little Becca story to tell. The staff actually cared about Becca and wanted to see her succeed. We had the option of keeping Becca there for one additional year and delaying kindergarten, but everyone thought that she was definitely ready to transition at that point. Our local school district sent a psychologist and a speech therapist to evaluate her. The psychologist's recommendation was regular kindergarten classroom with itinerant autistic support. An IEP was developed that stated Becca "had no behaviors that would impede her learning or the learning of others."

The school district was in the habit of grouping children by diagnosis. Kids with autism went to one school, those with Down Syndrome went to Lifeskills at another school, CP at another, and so on. Inclusion? Least Restrictive Environment? What's that? Even though Becca was to attend a regular classroom, we were told she could only receive autistic support services at one particular school. If we chose our neighborhood school instead, there would be no services for autism. So we reluctantly sent her to the other school, and I attended the kindergarten orientation. I listened to the principal talking down to the parents in the most condescending tone, and I knew we were not off to the best start.

Kindergarten did not resemble anything I remembered from my own childhood. Becca had just spent three years in a preschool program where hands-on learning and free choice of activities were an integral component of the curriculum. There had been plenty of opportunity for movement throughout the day, and circle times had been limited to about fifteen minutes. Now, she was expected to sit for long periods of time at a desk in an environment with a heavy emphasis on academics. The teacher told me that she had informed Becca that she, not Becca, was the only princess in that classroom. Right then and there a battle for control had begun.

There were issues right from the beginning. Early on there was an incident where Becca was wandering around the school and nobody knew where she was. There were several incidents where Becca tried to leave the school, but each time my concerns were brushed off. One Monday afternoon Becca was punished by being made to sit on a wall during recess for some minor infraction that had occurred the previous Friday. She had absolutely no clue why she was being punished. There were meetings; the OT stressed that Becca needed recess each day and that it should never be taken away as a punishment; the teacher sulked. Becca did well academically but began to develop behavior problems we had never seen before as she tried to deal with the sensory overload and increasing demands of keeping up with a regular classroom. In preschool she had had three hours a week for OT with an emphasis on sensory integration, seventy-five minutes each week of speech therapy, and weekly PT. Now, she was getting only "consultation services" for OT and PT, and thirty minutes of speech each week with another child. No surprise she regressed.

There were plenty of other issues, but looking back kindergarten was great in comparison to what would come next. We had decided to place Becca in our neighborhood school, and she would get additional help needed through the learning support resource room. There was no reason to keep her in a school with an autistic support program when she got almost no support from that program. They never even told me they had a social skills class. I heard of it from another parent halfway through the year and had to request that Becca participate. So Becca started attending our neighborhood school. Her teacher with thirty years of experience had never taught a child with autism. She wanted to learn, and she was willing to communicate with me, but her teaching methods were just too rigid. She was too quick to have Becca removed from the classroom at the slightest sign of a problem. The principal was not a disability-friendly person. Other children with disabilities had transferred to this school, had been set up to fail, and had been sent back to their previous schools. I was determined not to let that happen with Becca. The teacher measured Becca's success by how well she fit in with the other children and by how much she acted like them. By those standards, Becca could never succeed. Yet, there was no plan in place to help Becca fit in. The principal insisted that Becca had to have a TSS in order to attend the school. While I was more than happy to have our TSS there and fought to keep the services in place, to require a TSS was against the law.

Midway through the year we saw some very sudden changes in Becca. She started making little noises repeatedly, and they increased rapidly in frequency. One day she looked at me as if she was confused as to why she was making these noises. I knew she could not control what she was doing. I immediately spoke with her pediatrician, then scheduled an appointment with a neurologist. With a family history of Tourette Disorder, I was pretty sure I knew what we were dealing with. But I wasn't prepared for just how she would be impacted. Becca already had issues with OCD, anxiety, and distractability, and Tourette Disorder exacerbated the situation. Becca had been on Zoloft for the OCD, but she began to react badly to it, and her pediatrician felt it might be increasing her tics. In addition, it was making her disinhibited. She began getting discipline notices at school for behaviors that were clearly beyond her control. We got her off Zoloft, but she had to go through a week of horrendous withdrawal symptoms. She suffered tremendously. I really thought we had reached our low point then. I didn't think it could possibly get much worse. The neurologist gave a diagnosis of Tourette Disorder but said she couldn't do anything to help us. I practically fell on the floor. Who was supposed to help us if the neurologist couldn't? She did prescribe Tenex, which actually helped with the tics for a few months.

Apparently there were some meetings about Becca to which I wasn't invited, and it was decided that Becca should see the school psychiatrist. The teacher told me she had attended classes taught by this psychiatrist and thought he was brilliant. She thought he could really help Becca. Desperate for any kind of help we could get, I agreed to the evaluation. In the meantime I received a notice indicating the school wanted to consider the "best placement" for Becca. I immediately called the learning support teacher, who said it was the district's position that Becca should return to her previous school. She gave me no reason why, and couldn't tell me what it was that they could do for Becca in that other school that couldn't be done for her in her current placement. I told her flat out that Becca would never return to that school.

I didn't know at that time that I didn't have to take Becca for the evaluation. I've certainly educated myself on our rights since then. Very early in the evaluation it became clear to me that the psychiatrist was just going to agree with the recommendations of the district. So we spent ninety-five percent of the evaluation with him recommending the change in placement and me explaining why we wouldn't agree. He was very surprised when I told him of our negative experiences at the previous school, and he admitted he hadn't been there for about eight years. He also said thirty years earlier it was the best program around. So there you have it, a psychiatrist recommending a program of which he had no recent knowledge. During the evaluation Becca exhibited one little vocal tic. Her tics had been under control for a few months. But after that one tic, the psychiatrist recommended she could benefit from Haldol. Yeah, that's right, Haldol. Like it's 1965 or something. He quite obviously had no knowledge of the best treatment for children with Tourette Disorder.

The school district knew they couldn't force a change in placement. I threatened due process to get some of the services Becca needed for the following year. The school promised a lot but delivered nothing. The TSS left on maternity leave, and we got a new one who was fabulous. Becca started second grade with a new teacher who was supposed to be more flexible than the previous one. I thought we were off to a great start. A few months into the school year, I learned there was an incident where Becca had impulsively written something on the board, just a few words from a story she had read. Both the classroom teacher and learning support teacher decided she had to be punished. They tried to make her stand on a circle at recess in front of all the other children. She cried because she didn't know what she had done wrong. They told her she had to stand for ten minutes, and she asked them if she could stand for twelve since it's her favorite number. That alone should've told them she had no concept of what was going on. I couldn't believe this had happened because her IEP stated she was not to lose recess. I checked the latest copy of the IEP and saw that that stipulation had been removed. They had pulled a fast one on me! I remembered back when I had signed the IEP, the teacher said she had left the program modifications and specially designed instruction "pretty much the same." I had been fighting so hard to get PT, OT, and evaluations added to the IEP that I just didn't notice that one thing they had removed. It was intentional, and now they were going to use it to their advantage. I was shocked at the message they were sending the other kids as well. How could they get other children to understand and accept Becca's disability if they had her singled out as one of the "bad" kids by punishing her for her disability? I called for an IEP meeting and was accompanied by a lawyer and education consultant. The teachers were petulant and defensive; the spec. ed. supervisor was practically screaming. It was not a pretty scene. But the IEP was changed, and they also agreed to having the teachers trained in educating children with Tourette Disorder (they never followed through, though).

Out TSS was just awesome. I don't know how she stuck it out, though, as there was such hostility toward her since she had intervened when the teachers had tried to punish Becca. That was the beginning of the end for her tenure there. She did amazing work with Becca, most notably setting up a lunch buddy program in a quiet room twice a week. She would facilitate conversation and then encourage the children to play together at recess. This resulted in Becca actually having some real friendships for the first time in her life. The program was so successful that the school decided it shouldn't happen. There seemed to be an issue with anyone else doing anything successfully. They found an excuse to get rid of the TSS just a couple of weeks before the school year ended. I'll elaborate on that in another post. Despite getting rid of the TSS, they didn't have a plan in place to provide Becca with an aide. I had to have the psychiatrist write a note saying it wasn't safe for Becca to return to school without an aide. They immediately provided an aide. I think they knew there would be legal action, as there had been another incident when the TSS was absent and Becca had walked out the side door of the school and was missing for about twenty minutes.

We had another IEP meeting. The spec. ed. supervisor requested a facilitator from the state, and then proceeded to make a fool of herself by screaming at me during the meeting. We had to continue the meeting, and things got even worse. They reluctantly agreed to some of what we wanted, but I had no confidence they would comply. I also learned of an incident where Becca had been sleepy in class and didn't feel well enough to take a reading test. She has low muscle tone and has difficulty sitting up for any length of time, and she was falling asleep in school almost every day. I had already informed the teachers she was being tested for mitochondrial dysfunction. But the teacher was relentless and insisted Becca sit up. Becca had a meltdown, which by the way NEVER happens at home. She has not had a meltdown outside of a classroom setting in YEARS. If she's getting upset, I can diffuse it in 15 seconds flat. The "professionals" at school can't seem to deal with it though. They decided to punish her for getting upset. They punished her by not allowing her to have a friend accompany her to social skills. Um, I thought social interaction was the whole purpose of social skills. To punish her by not allowing her to interact with a friend was just plain cruel. I think that's what did it for me. I knew I couldn't let the situation go on any longer.

While reading over the IEP that I just couldn't sign, I thought back to three years earlier when they had written that Becca had "no behaviors that would impede her learning or the learning of others." Now, they had put in the IEP that she had "subjected the class to outbursts and aggressive behaviors." My little girl, who is the kindest, most caring child I know, was basically being labeled as aggressive. There was no mention of all the times she had been the VICTIM of bullying. Yeah, that was an issue too. She had been taunted and bullied, and there were several children who would just manipulate and take advantage of her. But no, she was the aggressive one.

I was also concerned about how the district had handled behavior issues with other children. I knew they had called the police on a couple of young children with autism. I also knew they liked to get kids placed in "emotional support" classes, and once there, you never got out. We ended the school year without an IEP in place for the following year. Almost immediately Becca's tics all but disappeared, even though she was off her medication. She thrived at summer camp and was relaxed and happy. I had looked into several private schools but found none that I thought were appropriate. But I knew sending her back to that school wasn't an option.

I met a parent who told me about a cyber charter school. His son who had Asperger's was being educated at home through a "virtual school." I was impressed with what he told me. I learned his son was getting excellent services and therapies, the kind of things the school district would never have given us. By the end of the summer I had researched this option and had enrolled Becca. It wasn't easy coming to this decision though. I knew Becca would miss being with other kids. Despite all that had happened she actually liked going to school. I had to talk with her about it, and I didn't want her to think she had done anything wrong. She knows she has autism, and I told her that it wasn't a good school for her because the teachers didn't really understand autism. She told me she would just forgive the teachers. When the day came to start the program at home, she said, "I have an idea. Let's make my autism go away. Then I can go back to my old school."

Becca has adjusted, and I'm thoroughly enjoying the experience. Our IEP meeting was painless. I wore my bathrobe and slippers (it was done over the phone). We basically got everything we asked for, and we got to choose our therapists. I couldn't be more pleased, but it should never have come to this. We are not done with the school district. Their failure to meet Becca's needs and educate her appropriately is being addressed. Stay tuned!

Before autism