There was another first for our 13-year-old this week.
We worked with the wonderful team at H’s Distributed Learning School to update his Individual Education Plan (IEP) and for the first time ever H was there to take part. He wasn’t completely interested – but we built-in other options for him so he could participate at a pace and level of involvement that was comfortable for him. He began the meeting with us, and then, when he felt he needed to, he drew back into an activity on his computer. I am really proud of the way he handled this and how he was able to join in again when he had something to say, or when it seemed important to encourage his involvement.
Have no doubt… he was taking it all in
It was interesting that he was wearing his headphones – but made the point that he was able to hear all that was said. He stated that he ‘had the volume at the lowest level’ so he could still hear the discussion.
It may seem like a small step… but it was and important one in terms of H’s role as a self-advocate and the right of self-determination. It was a gentle beginning – and there is a little part of me that feels a kind of tugging shame that we hadn’t done this sooner. In all honesty, though, I think H is just now at the point where he is becoming interested.
I will let that shame go… (There it goes… Released!)
He was able to join us and take part in the meeting at a level comfortable for him because we think this needs to be scaffolded, and Craig and I want our child to be supported in developing the skills of self-advocacy. I loved it when his resource teacher suggested that someday he might be the one running the meeting. Thank you Mrs. M for that gift of possibility! It might not be this year, or even next, but it is a reasonable goal, and one that makes huge sense to me.
Involving H was a wonderful shift for his educational team and a positive step for him.
As a special education teacher, I have noticed that an IEP is viewed differently when the student is present in the room. It makes a difference when the person being discussed is at the table: the process of involving a student in the writing and planning of their own IEP makes sense. It encourages respect for the individual because their presence provides a reminder and a lens through which each chosen word is more carefully considered and the impact of each goal and outcome contemplated. It puts the individual where they belong… as a part of the Individual Education Plan.
We will be supporting H to play a greater role in participating and developing his future Individual Education Plans as he continues to develop.
This is self-advocacy…
This is inclusion!!
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2012)