Better Call Saul. (From the TV show, of course!)

 

When Greg entered 4th grade, his teachers thought he would stick to a task longer, write better journal entries, learn more social skills and have improved behavior if he had a one-on-one aide.  Seeking TSS, therapeutic support staff, and Wraparound services, was a huge decision for our family.  We'd functioned without government support, without medication and without taking any other extraordinary measures to raise Greg.  Our goal?  We wanted Greg to be fully included.  Surely with an aide, he would stand out as special and not get the chance to play normally and learn normally with other children.   

We didn't call an attorney.  Not yet.  

We sought help and Greg did, indeed, profit by having an aide.  The teachers were right.  It became evident to us that Greg was not keeping up with his classmates in reading, math or any other academic subject; thus, in cooperating with our school district, we pushed Greg toward a more restrictive environment.  It was tough to admit that we would have to change our educational plan for Greg.

In middle school, Greg's teachers tried to include him.  Some felt he would be better placed in a life skills class, but we persevered and Greg was able to stay with his friends in a somewhat inclusive environment.  Jay and I felt Greg needed daily language therapy, yet due to funding and unavailability of a therapist for daily hours, Greg only received speech twice during a six-day cycle.  The TSS aide, unschooled in language therapy, was discarded in favor of school aides who accompanied Greg to his classes and encouraged him to make choices and be more independent.  They showered him with love and support.

We didn't call an attorney.   Not yet.

We pushed for a few inclusive classes in high school.  Even after Greg's Language arts teacher told me, point blank, "Your son needs to be in life skills," I resisted.  We eventually made that change when Greg's behavior deteriorated.

We didn't call an attorney.   Not yet.

Our school district continued to encourage us to allow them to teach job skills to Greg.  We agreed that this was necessary, but we knew our son.  He could do any hands on task that he enjoyed.  We resisted the district in their recommendation of placement into a life skills environment.  We felt to this day that we were acting in Greg's best interest as his parents.

What Greg couldn't do was talk.  We wanted daily speech therapy with a few classes of inclusion and some behavior support in special education classes.  Unfortunately, this educational plan didn't work.  Greg's lack of necessary skills as well as his resistant behaviors held him back.  

Not yet.

I endured the painful reevaluation at the Kennedy Krieger Center in Baltimore where Greg, unable to make choices or describe scenes in pictures, failed the tests and was reclassified as mentally retarded.  In retrospect, it was cruel to subject Greg to this testing at his age.  Surely he felt helpless dealing with a psychological evaluation while fully aware of his deficits.  Greg, please forgive me.  I should have rejected this evaluation.  You must have been equally frustrated.  I love you, and yet I made a mistake.

We signed Greg up for life skills classes.

Not yet.

When Greg was in tenth grade, we discovered that his speech therapist had not shown up for one on one sessions in several years due to his poor behavior and her belief that Greg's speech would never improve.   Jay and I were livid.  I'd wanted her to get special training in the new language programs available for autistic children, but she was convinced that Improvement in language was unattainable for someone as autistic as Greg.  I sit here shaking my head, still angry about the lost years.  With autism, one must never give up.  All parents know this to be true about their children.

Not yet.

The school district gave us some of those missed hours with an experienced autism language therapist and Greg began to communicate again.  Due process is time-consuming, and we'd resisted it.  When Greg refused to get on the school bus one day, we realized that we needed to move him to the most restricted environment, and the school district agreed.   They even paid the entire bill for private school.   We finished our schooling there.

No need, not yet....

We never did call our attorney.  Greg functions today in society.  Yes, he lives in a group home.  Yes, he works in a protected environment.  But he waits in lines.  He communicates his basic needs.   He goes into the world to bowl, to drive Go Karts, to jump waves and to dine.  A collective effort of friends, family members, educators, administrators, well-intentioned aides and therapists who knew how to educate autistic children made sure that Greg would become the adult he has become.  Had we called a special needs attorney, our lives would be different.  We simply didn't have the time to litigate.  GREG didn't have the time.

We got what we needed by working with our school district.   When you fight with an attorney, you might end up with what you want, but the school will be angry, and you will feel that the district is complying because someone ordered them to, not because they love your child.   

Because Central Dauphin School District did what they could to accommodate our concerns, we were always able to negotiate a reasonable course of action that satisfied both sides.   The parent who faces constant opposition, however, with negative or no results, had better call Saul.

 

 Loves My Child

Loves My Child

Robin Morgan Kazakavich, AKA, Miss Morgan, worked with Greg in middle school.  She helped us in our quest for inclusive relationships while teaching Greg social skills, speech, academics and life skills.