Friday, June 7, 2013

The Short Bus...

Yes, if Braden rode a school bus, it would technically be what some people call “the short bus”.

I stopped being upset by that term years ago, but I still don’t like it. It doesn’t build people up…it does just the opposite.  

It’s just like the word “retarded”…I don’t get why people use that to be derogatory when it is so hurtful to people with children with low cognition.  

Not cool.

Braden had his “three year re-evaluation” and annual IEP a few days ago.  That’s always a big meeting because every three years, they have to “prove” that he still needs special education services and then target his new needs from the growth (or lack thereof) he has had in three years.

The report was sad because it pointed out so many things Braden Hofen is not good at, but it also is happy because it shows how far he has grown.

As a teacher and then Principal, I used to get frustrated when parents would act like the severe deficits we were showing them were no big deal and just more news. It felt like they were choosing to not accept the fact that their kids had those big deficits as they focused on “all the growth they have made”.


I get it now.

Hearing those deficits didn’t crush me;  I merely ignored them. I did read the report.

Most of it.

Sometime I got tired of hearing how bad things were and how poorly he scored, so I skipped those pieces after the first couple of sentences.

I get it…

He’s very delayed.

Extremely delayed.

And it’s their job to provide those data to show where he is currently functioning. Our team is FANTASTIC and I admire and value each and every one of them. They don’t mean any harm or to be negative or mean at all, just as I didn’t when I was in their shoes.

BUT…the Braden Hofen I know can do so much more than those tests showed. It’s just that we measure ability and strengths in one way…standardized tests and informal tests…common element of “tests”.

When he was three years old, when he was trying to say “mama” he would say, “ma…. And I would literally slowly count to 10…then came the second syllable….ma”  Now he talks non-stop at an appropriate pace!! AMAZING!!

He’s very delayed from his peers, I am not ignoring that and I’m not kidding myself but from when he started to where he is now…holy smokes!!  Just AMAZING!! 

I choose to focus on that!

I choose to focus on the gifts he brings….and I do get the deficits…but I want to make sure everyone else gets the amazing growth. Those deficits really ARE no big deal!

I “GET” it parents of mine from all the years I was in the Principal/Teacher seat. 

And I’m sorry I didn’t “get it” then!!

So much of what Braden knows is in his brain…it really is in there but his brain has a hard time outputting that information on a test.

And every time a parent used to tell me that I thought to myself, “You are in denial.  I appreciate that you believe in your child but we don’t see the same levels of functioning here that you are describing. Please listen to us when we tell you how far we have to go.”

So as I approached this meeting, I prepared for it.  I assumed they would roll their eyes, smile, pat me on the back and send me on my merry way. Which is kind of what happened.

Complete role reversal. 

Total 180 for me. And I had to laugh at the irony.

I had specific examples…so when they said that they were going to work on word problems with addition and subtraction and what a stretch that would be for him and how hard it was because of his delays and things that are not strengths…

I pulled out the book we had read the night before. One of the pages had three bowling pins lined up and one had fallen over.

Braden stopped me from turning the page and said “MOM!! Look!  There are three bowling pins, one fell over so take it away. How many are left?  Use your touch math!” 

Shock and awe…all around the room, well except for the three that knew him the best who just smiled and shook their heads in agreement.

Much of it is in there. 

I’m a realist, not everything is “in there”…but a lot more of it is there than we think.

The trick with autism is finding the way to unlock it to let it out so WE can see it.

Three years ago at his last re-eval meeting, I didn’t care what his goals were or what they wanted to do because I didn’t think he was going to live to see first grade. The words on that page didn’t matter.

I still don’t know that he’s going to be here for his next annual IEP or three year re-eval BUT…since he IS here and is in remission right now…we are hoping for it.

And we are continuing to search for ways to unlock all of that stuff and get it out.

He’s a bright boy. And we have a team that believes that he IS bright and capable and they won’t give up on him.

A mom can’t ask for more.

So no short bus for my B-Man….

I think he should have a stretch limo…

because to his momma,

he’s kind of a big deal!