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  • Writer's pictureKatie Vahey Gaebler

Changing schools: Entering an ASD program

In early December 2019, John and I attended a required IEP status update meeting at Bryson’s school. It formally started at 3pm, but there were so many people asked to be in attendance, it felt almost open house style. I arrived promptly at 3pm, with the 2 primary social workers, Tina and Monika, setting up their conference room. I had been in this conference room before, and 5 people made it feel full. Between John and myself, Tina and Monika, the school’s Principle and Assistant Principle Samantha and Janelle, the school speech pathologist Crystal and kindergarten teacher Amy, and from the school district area Psychologist Katie, OT Kelly, SPED director Janelle, and our ABA BCBA Shaina, (that’s 12!) this was a full room. The goal of this meeting was to determine next steps for Brys, whether Mitchell was the best environment for him, or whether a specialized ASD classroom would be in his best interest. Everyone had a piece to weigh in. As had become typical for me in these meetings, I was braced for whatever would be.

Through my interactions over the previous 4 months, I had come to highly respect everyone at this table that worked with my son. Every meeting they provided data driven evidence on daily/weekly/monthly Bryson’s activities, challenge behaviors, and their responses to his behaviors. What worked for him or didn’t seemed unpredictable, and their data showed that fact. I had grown accustomed to the charts and graphs, bullets of response strategies, that came with these meetings. By this point his IEP was a 50 page packet, not including the quarterly progress reports with similar data from our ABA team, that was often included in his IEP. Through my regular interactions with this school team, including in this setting, I witnessed and was in awe for their dedication and care for my son. Between all else going on in our lives- an 10 month old baby, a new job that was growing more frustrating by the day, among the mired of regular home front responsibilities and business, I had delegated the management of Bryson’s day to this team, and considered them to be near saints for their work.

Going into this meeting, Monika and Tina opened with acknowledgement that no outcome was yet determined, but this dialog was necessary to have all the weigh in on best next steps. I had been both mentally full and trusting of Bryson’s care over the past months, that toward the end of our 3 hour meeting where it was determined Bryson’s best interest would be to attend a specialized ASD program, this result brought me to tears. I wasn’t sure if I hadn’t actually expected it that my tears came from surprise, but the thought that my little boy needed to experience another big life transition, that we were going to experience another change to our daily logistics, was hard for me to digest. I didn’t want to face that my little boy was “so different” he needed to be someplace specialized that so few other kids could be apart of. I too knew the facts of how Brys was bets supported: small classroom environment, high student-teacher ratio, consistency of daily routine. This new school environment would provide what our 6 previous school settings were unable. But would it actually work?

Because the school day was altered (later start and end) to what we had accustomed, and John and I still needed to go to work, which made transportation an issue (compared to the issue it had already been), Tina recommended we could request a private bus service. This all seemed crazy that we would need it, but of course we wanted whatever would work.

A meeting with the team at the new school was arranged, and I would get to meet with Bryson’s new teacher individually as part of the intentional transition. We would also schedule a follow up date for Brys to see the classroom and meet teachers on his own before the next semester resumed.

January 9th would be Bryson’s first date at his new school, and we would spend the holidays in down time with family, preparing for this next new adventure.

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