I remember growing up hearing the phrase "separate but equal". This referred to Brown v. Topeka Board of Ed. Supreme Court Decision in the 1950s where it was determined that segregation of African Americans and Caucasians in school was not acceptable. Everyone, regardless of race, gender, etc was entitled to the same educational experience (which expands beyond education). This decision was ground-breaking and has changed the face of education, especially in areas where segregation was considered the norm. But I find myself looking at my children and wondering if I am doing the same thing.
You see, Ballerina is in a General Education classroom. It took a little while, but she is now thriving. She has the support of an IEP and the school is behind her. She has a shadow in the classroom to help keep her on task and she's now participating in group activities, making friends, even passing her reading tests. At her birthday party last weekend, she was the "Belle of the Ball", welcoming everyone when they arrived and making sure everyone was having a good time. It was absolutely amazing for this parent to witness.
Music Man, on the other hand, is in a Special Education classroom. He is more isolated from the rest of the school. He has a teacher and a paraeducator working with him full-time that couldn't be beat! And he too has made some amazing progress, both that I'm hearing about from school and seeing at home. For example, his ability to sit and listen to books in the evening has NEVER been better. He attends to the story, participates when and if it's appropriate, and really seems to gleam pleasure out of the experience. But his anxieties are getting stronger. And as he grows, it's becoming harder to control his outbursts because he demonstrates fight-or-flight behavior. He has most of his specials with the other kindergarten classes, eats lunch and recess with them as well, so he isn't fully isolated. Yet, he isolates himself. He has no desire to form friendships or relationships (except with his sister [and brother to a lesser degree], and that's only because THEY initiate). His need to control every situation is absolute and he cannot handle someone telling him what to do. Several of his behaviors seems to have improved. For example, elopement was a problem earlier this school year and now he seems to understand that will not be tolerated. Also, some of his toileting problems have also improved. But my measurement of success for him is very different from hers.
We all have heard the expression, "If you know one person with Autism, you know one person with Autism." For me, that statement is very true and leads to some very confusing consequences. I need to look at them separately. They are unique individuals with their own needs and specific issues that need to be addressed. They each have their own IEPs that have very different goals. And the truth is, they're NOT in the same program, even though they attend the same school.
But we're back to "Separate but Equal". They are treated separately, each of their goals are given the same weight, but they're not the same. I have to see them that way. But I also have to make sure that I'm not short-changing one for the other. I have to make sure that they both have the same opportunities for success. I have to be sure that one is never short-changed in favor of the other. And this is a skill I don't think I have ever mastered. Many days, I'm not sure if it's even possible.
Separate But Equal.
My name is Ilene and I am a Stay-At-Home Mom to 3 amazing children. Big Brother is 7 and a typical second grader, in almost every possible way. My twins just turned 6 (a week ago) and are both Autistic. My daughter has also been diagnosed with an alphabet soup following ASD, and my son (although not officially diagnosed) also probably should have several more letters after his Autism diagnosis.
We live outside of Washington, DC and we manage to make it all work. We have seen some HUGE improvements in both of the twins, and we've had our setbacks. But first and foremost, they are 2 amazing 6 year olds who I wouldn't trade for anything in this world.
I blog regularly (when I'm not suffering from Writer's Block [which has been plaguing me for a month]) at My Family's Experience With Autism.