Monday, March 23, 2009

IDEA and Autism and Nursing School, oh my.

I was once a big opponent of the no child left behind law. I felt that the only way it could work was by redirecting funds to the bottom end of the bell curve and cutting programs for the gifted. Since both I and my husband were considered gifted, it concerned me that our children wouldn't have the resources they deserved to do really well in school and not be bored to tears like I was.

In regards to no child left behind, I must now eat my words and retract that opinion. Not because my opinion was wrong, but because I've had to re-evaluate no child left behind from a new perspective. IDEA, no child left behind, is the guiding laws behind everything that is being or is not being done for my son by his school.

As a result, I am being forced to learn the ins and outs of that law very, very well. It's not in the school's interest to educate the parents in regards to their rights or their child's rights. IDEA forces them to evaluate the kid (Child Find) and construct an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) but when you get to the IEP meeting, the school wants to provide the minimum amount of services that they can get away with.

When Vasili was diagnosed as autistic, it was an unpleasant, unexpected surprise that I had barely begun to come to terms with when I had to meet with the school to discuss his education plan. I didn’t even know what the education plan meeting entailed when I walked into that room. There were six of them and one of me. Guess who won? I didn’t even know what questions to ask, and I’m the medical professional of the family.

Due to my own colossal, but now rectified, ignorance, Vasili is receiving a minimal amount of services by the school. A couple hours of group speech therapy per week, and the occupational therapist is barely involved. He is being mainstreamed, but has a visual learning aide/schedule to go by.

While I agree with mainstreaming Vasili, since he is not at all retarded, I am not sure that his current IEP is serving his interests as well as it could. It is adequate, however, so I will let it ride to the end of the school year. When he is starting 1st grade, however, and the annual IEP meeting is held, there will be... changes. Because I know his rights now, and I have the support of groups like the Autism Society of America to back me up and provide all the paperwork, advocacy, etc, I need to fight the school.

One of the more interesting side effects of Vasili's diagnosis is that it has changed my approach to nursing school(RN to BSN program, I am already a nurse) assignments. With each new project, research paper, and presentation due in school, I am delving deeper and deeper into the cutting edge of autism law, genetics, biomedical research, and so on.

My BSN capstone project will be on autism, too. And it wouldn't bother me to go into research on this topic. It is an epidemic, and the loosening of the DSM-IV-tr criteria alone *cannot* account for what is nearly a 1000% increase in prevalence! Nor do vaccines alone account for it, in case you wondered.

But between work, kids, writing and revising, and homework/research, the only free time I have these days is really late at night. So now I email everyone, and blog. Sometimes, I tweet.