When I reflect on the past year I remember vividly how painful Gavin’s IEP process was last year. I had a lot of fears about what it meant for Gavin to enter school. We had no idea how many service hours he would receive or what type of classroom they would place him in. I can recall, as if it were yesterday, when one of his reports from the school psychologist popped into my inbox. The report stated my almost three year old son was functioning at an 18 month old level. Reading that made holding back the tears impossible.
His language was limited. They wrote in terms of his communication, that Gavin could only use single words, which were mostly approximations. At the time of the test, Gavin used limited sign language, but he couldn’t pair his signing with eye contact.
His evaluation for social skills noted that he played along side peers but did not necessarily interact with them. When observing him playing with toys he could only stay with an activity for a minute. He showed the most potential for growth when he had staff support, but still showed manipulative behaviors
such as grabbing and yelling at his peers.
We wrote simple goals for him which included pairing two words together, engaging in purposeful play for more than five minutes, responding to his name 80% of the time, and so on. These goals seemed so unattainable to me during the meeting. However, as scared as I was to give these goals to him, I knew deep down that they were exactly what I was hoping he would be able to one day accomplish.
Doug and I by no means live and die by the IEP and it’s goals. The important thing for us is that Gavin is getting his appropriate service hours (which he ends up with extra b/c the school is so amazing) and that we are seeing growth in his development. So it was humbling at this year’s IEP meeting to receive report after report showing us that he achieved all of his goals from last year.
As each teacher/service provider took their turn sharing their update, they each fought over who was his biggest fan. They couldn’t say enough positive things about him and recommended that by the end of this year he transition fully into an inclusive classroom. This year my tears at the meeting were tears of pride and happiness.
Gavin was assigned a new Speech and Language Pathologist this year. At the meeting she said to us that she thought she was handed the wrong IEP when she met Gavin. She stated that the child on paper was not the child sitting in front of her in the classroom. She couldn’t believe his goal was to pair two words because she is consistently having eight to ten word sentences with him. She looked at me and Doug and said, “I don’t know what you are doing at home, but keep doing it”. We are a team with his service providers and teachers. That is why it all works.
I’ve said this in other posts, but Gavin is by no means cured of Autism; he still has a plethora of daily struggles. Language is one huge hurdle that he is excelling at and it opens up a lot of doors for him now that he can express himself. His social play has improved, but still has a long way to go. The positive is that he is interested in other kids and wants to be able to interact with them.
I write my blog for many reasons, one being because I want to be able to help others. I know that our results are not going to happen for everyone. It’s a spectrum for a reason, but I can’t encourage people enough to not be afraid to get their child tested. Autism is a very scary word. It’s a label that no one wants for their child. However, the best thing we ever did for Gavin was get him tested at only 19 months old.
The majority of people told us we were nuts. They repeatedly said to us that boys talk late, but we knew better. Once the red flags were pointed out to us, we weren’t doing him any favors ignoring his needs to accommodate our fears. If you think your child has a delay it’s best to get him/her tested. The answer isn’t always Autism, much like it wasn’t with Kendall for us, but we got answers on how to help her developmental delays.
I often think about where Gavin would be right now if we waited to get him tested. If we had listened to everyone else. I watched him for so long be painfully be locked inside his own head without the words to communicate with us. I literally wrestled with him while he screamed because he couldn’t tell me what was wrong. When I reflect on those moments I realize I will never regret getting him tested. However, if I didn’t and he was still locked in his head, I would definitely regret that I waited.