Our first Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) meeting was… well, it wasn’t horrible, but I wouldn’t say it was an amazing experience either. The meeting was to determine Drake eligibility for services and what services they would be. Since Drake has an official diagnosis of Autism, we knew he would qualify for services, and we thought he would qualify for a preschool program.
I entered the meeting hoping for an integrated preschool setting since Drake is often flexible and his ability to communicate is expanding rapidly, but I remained open to a non-integrated setting if the committee had sound reasoning for it. I just wanted him to start preschool because he was so happy to visit the school when we had the evaluations done.
Here’s what happened.
The meeting was boring and dry for the most part, and everyone seemed nice. It started with introductions and then one member of the team read the evaluations out loud for 15 minutes, rattling off scores and comments made by the evaluators. They discussed basic paperwork stuff like how long he’d been in Early Intervention (EI) and the name of his doctor. Boring.
A shift occurred at this point and they asked if I’d seen any improvements since he started EI. (Uh… YEAH!) They asked our special education instructor for his opinion about Drake progress, which mimicked my thoughts. That led into discussing the preschool program.
The committee told me Drake would do a full day, 12-month program at a specific site. They didn’t ask what I thought, what I wanted, or how Drake would handle it. This irked me. I had never heard of the program, so they told me to schedule a visit.
They sorted out how much therapy he would get without asking my opinion, and then they said that the evaluators had made goals for Drake, and they would write them in his IEP. They asked our special education instructor what the education goals should be.
At the end, we completed a short entrance survey which was plain idiotic. (Who comes up with these questions?) They asked if I had questions, and we were done. That was it.
Here’s what went wrong.
First of all, so far when discussing options with our therapists and evaluators, they only talked about two program options for him. At the meeting, the committee wanted to place Drake into a preschool that I had not heard of or researched. I was blindsided by this mysterious third option. I was prepared for the two preschools I knew about, and I had already picked the one I preferred, but I also knew I was comfortable with the other preschool. The third preschool threw me off balance and left me confused.
Second, I should have spoken up about his goals. They didn’t go over them with me at all. Luckily, I knew what they were because I’d talked about our speech goals with the speech therapist, the OT put his in his evaluation, and I listened to what the special education instructor said. I didn’t disagree with any of the goals, but my opinion should have been considered.
Third, overall the committee focused on the evaluations and what the professionals had to say. They didn’t care what I thought about Drake’s education. I might as well have not even been there. I’m not sure I want Drake in a full day, 12 month preschool program, and I’m not sure I don’t want it either, but what I wanted didn’t matter either way during the meeting.
Fourth, while this is a small thing... when the committee said what Drake was eligible for, they acted like I should have been over the moon with joy. I am thankful for the opportunity to send Drake to a preschool equipped to help him for free, but I am also an analytical person who can see the flip side of the coin. Should I be so happy to put the care of my son in the hands of the public school system? I’m not so sure. While I remain grateful, I continue to have reservations.
Here’s what I learned.
There’s no way I could have known all this before I experienced this meeting. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say, but next time I will be better prepared.
I learned that I need to speak up. If I want to talk about the goals, then I need to ask about them. If I want my opinion considered, I need to voice it immediately and enthusiastically. This is hard for me as I am shy in groups of people, but the committee isn’t going to ask my opinion. I need to give it.
I should have asked more questions about the full-day program vs the half day programs. I’m not sure it would have made a difference as I am sure the school district believes that their schools are best for him, but I could have discussed it more.
Here where I am at now.
After that meeting, I am more certain than ever that I want to homeschool our kids! Like I said, it wasn’t terrible, but to see the ownership the school district takes over the children and their goals is unsettling as a loving, overprotective mother who has only rarely been away from her babies! I’m not saying that my opinion of Drake is the only one that matters, but it deserved far more consideration.
In the end, it turned out okay. Damian and I decided that the third preschool, a small program, is a fine option for Drake’s preschool, and the committee’s recommendations were reasonable.
Edited to add: I did a vlog the day we had the meeting. For my initial reaction, you can check it out here.
Every child with Autism is different, and every family is different. This is my take on Autism. I don’t pretend to speak for everyone impacted by Autism, just myself.
Autism, to me, is a way of experiencing the world and a way of thinking that differs from the majority of people. This way of thinking and experiencing is a challenge because it is hard for us typical people to understand, and people not impacted by Autism don’t care to understand. (Not judging. It was me once too.) There are plenty of other challenges people with Autism face, but it seems to me a lack of acceptance and understanding for neurological difference is the root of many challenges people with Autism face.
Autism makes Drake different and being different isn’t bad. It makes life more difficult, and Drake will have to work hard to overcome people’s misunderstanding and discrimination. But his difference is important. Having people in our world who see things differently and think differently is essential and important for progress in our society. Drake’s different way of thinking shouldn’t be stamped out of him, but nourished.
I don’t want Drake to conform for the sake of fitting in with the rest of us, for making us more comfortable. I don’t care if he acts like other kids or adults as he gets older as long as he is happy and living a personally fulfilling life. Autism is part of who Drake is in a meaningful, sometimes difficult, and often wonderful way. I would never want to change who he is. I love him for who he is. I want only for him to be his best and most authentic self and to find happiness in this world wherever he can. It is what I want for all my children.
Welcome to the family!
We are a laid back, fun, family of four living on a dime in 900 square feet. Life might not be perfect, but every moment of every day, it is beautiful.