This morning, my wife and I sat with a group of eight faculty and staff at our son’s elementary school. Included were Matt’s teacher, his classroom aid, the Special Education coordinator, Speech and Occupational Therapists, a Social Worker and a couple of others whose titles I’m missing. We were all there to discuss two things: Matt’s progress to date on his current IEP (Individualized Education Program) and to begin setting up goals and standards for next year’s IEP.
For those who might not be aware, my son Matt was diagnosed with autism when he was two. Since then, at the beginning of every school year, a group of us have all gotten together to hammer out what sort of developmental, social, academic and other milestones that we want Matt to achieve in the upcoming school year. All of these goals are recorded in a single document – the IEP – and that document essentially becomes the road-map to follow.
As his parents, we’ve continually set the bar rather high and thankfully, the school and the administration have been behind us 100%.
Current Grade: KindergartenThe absolute best news that came out of this morning’s meeting is that Matt continues to excel academically. Everyone at the table freely admits that in terms of his ability to learn and absorb information, he is right where any kindergarten kid should be (and in some areas, even higher).
He knows his letters, shapes, numbers, patterns, and sight-words. His writing is coming along and despite an earlier incident where he stuck out his tongue at the class before running out of math, he’s actually doing ok with math concepts.
He’s also improving on his social skills: following multi-step directions, initiating conversation, asking for help, playing with others, etc. Overall his speech is better and we’re told the other kids in his class often help Matt whenever they see he might be losing focus on the task at-hand.
Yet he certainly has room to grow on relationships, socializing, and acknowledging others. It’s not uncommon for autistic children to be not-so-much selfish but rather self-focused. Matt also needs to work on knowing when it’s ok to walk away and take a break versus being patient and keeping still. Some might think this could be an attention deficit thing. It’s not. It’s just autism. But it most certainly can be worked on.
And to think, at the beginning of the school year I was truly terrified that he might be taken from the class and sent back to pre-kindergarten for various behavioral issues. He wasn’t and although it took a bit of time for Matt to adjust to the more structured environment that kindergarten has over preK, he’s truly excelling and beating everyone’s expectations.
Up Next: First Grade
In addition to going over where Matt stands in terms of goals set in his current IEP – we also discussed, agreed upon, and documented a list of goals to be included in the IEP for next year’s leap into first grade.
There’s no way (nor reason) to list them all here – a long with the measurement standards, frequency of testing, etc. – but suffice to say we again kept the standards high and again have no reason to believe Matt won’t achieve everything we know he can.
Just know that the main focus of next year’s IEP is socialization. The more he advances in school, and of course in life, Matt needs to be able to fit in with others around him. He needs to be able to converse normally, request and respond, and behave properly in groups and in public settings. He can do all of this. He just doesn’t do it consistently.
Needless to say, my wife and I are very proud of Matt and we’re certainly thankful for all the support he’s gotten a long the way.