Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The JPS System and My Son

Today, I met with the principal and one of my son's therapists at his school. The subject: my son's behavior. We were discussing his options in the Jackson Public School system. Those options were not pretty.

My son is autistic. He was diagnosed when he was five, just last year. How was he diagnosed? Why so late? You see, I had to research the information on the symptoms of autism, decide that my son fit those symptoms, and ask his speech therapist to refer him to someone who could test him specifically for autism. There was a six month to one year wait list. Sigh.

Anyway, last year, my son was enrolled in another school because they had a Pre-k "exceptional ed" class. His teacher was wonderful. He had his bad days, but they were mostly good. He learned a lot.

Well, at the end of his school year, we thought that maybe he was ready to be out of a "self-contained" classroom. We thought so very wrong. The situation now is that while my son is in a regular classroom, someone associated with exceptional ed services works at the school to work with him in classroom for 30 minutes and out of the classroom for an hour. My son has not adjusted well to being in the regular classroom. I get regular reports of him acting out: screaming, tantrums, kicking. Kicking? My son has started behaving violently towards people. When did he start this?

Children with autism react very strongly to changes in their lives and environment. But this was a little extreme. It was even more worrisome because I've yet to see it at home. That means my hands are kind of tied. How can I help to extinguish a behavior that he has never shown me?

It has been a month since he has started school, and his behavior has become worse. So what can I do? We talk to him about his behavior--my husband and I do--using videos or pictures I've found on Google (he has a limited vocabulary and communication skills). I don't know what else to do. I can't put him in time out at home at 3 p.m. for something he did at 10 a.m. I do make him sit quietly for longer periods of time. He can play or whatever, just quietly in the same spot.

But still, his acting out persists. I have two options right now--home schooling and placement in a self-contained classroom with less time in a regular classroom setting.

The principal of his school batted the home schooling idea down immediately. "Oh, you have to be certified. You have to register him in the district. You have to turn in a lesson plan." No. No, I don't. Not in dear old Mississippi anyway. I looked it up. My requirements are that I submit a certificate of enrollment and that I be his parent or guardian. That's it.

Okay. So, placement in another exceptional ed classroom. What do I have to do for that? Let's see I have to meet with the IEP committee, which consists of my son's therapists, his teacher, the principal, and a person from the Exceptional Education department. Okay? What do we do about my son's behavior in the meantime. Shrugs and blank looks. Nice.

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