The first time we included him in his IEP meeting, he was in elementary school. I didn’t not have any child care available that day, and so the Navigator “worked” on homework wearing headphones while I met with the team a few feet away in the classroom.
One of the things we talked about was his standardized test scores – up and down like a yo-yo. Apparently for the last one, he took 10 minutes, hitting the “enter” key on the computer over and over, not reading the questions or trying to answer them, so that he could get out and be done.
His score reflected his lack of focus on the test.
We also talked about his refusal to do homework. The plan we put into place to get him to finish his school work was going well, but he regularly refused to do his homework and I was refusing to fight him about it.
The pile was getting bigger and bigger.
His teacher suggested a strategy to tackle the homework and asked me what I thought.
“I think it is a great idea but why don’t we ask him?” I replied.
Then and there, the Navigator was included in his own IEP meeting.
He liked the strategy his teacher proposed and agreed to it. Then she talked to him about his standardized test scores and how his future teachers would look at his scores, before the teacher got a chance to know him, and would think he was only reading at a kindergarten level.
I could see the realization dawning on him – it was making sense to him as to why he needed to focus on the tests.
One of the things I liked most was the school psychologist explaining to the Navigator what the IEP was for and, more importantly, telling him that someday he might not need an IEP.
“Just because you have Autism doesn’t automatically mean you will always need special education supports. Someday you probably won’t need the supports anymore.”
That was a revolutionary idea for the Navigator, one that he liked.
Looking back over the years, I was so proud of how far the Navigator had come and how hard he worked. I could see how well he was doing and what great strides he made.
That didn’t mean that things might not come up in the future, and I was very glad to still have the safety net of the IEP for us, just in case.
More importantly though, was the opportunity he was given to starting guiding his own future – to start navigating his own way.
*An IEP is an “Individualized Education Program” which
“defines the individualized objectives [for] a child who has been found [to have] a disability … [and] is intended to help children reach educational goals more easily than they otherwise would. … [T]he IEP must be tailored to the individual student’s needs … and must especially help teachers and related service providers … understand the student’s disability and how the disability affects the learning process.”