Today we had a meeting with school district officials to draft an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for Martin’s next year. Martin got his first IEP in December 2007. That meeting involved reports that showed my kid at least one, if not two standard deviations below other children in verbal development and other developmental measures. One learning goal in the plan was that Martin would answer yes or no questions fifty percent of the time with a verbal prompt. That means that we were hoping for Martin to answer such a simple question, with some assistance, only half the time. I cried through most of that meeting.
Martin’s new IEP includes goals of following game rules when playing with other children, increased proficiency with asking questions, and continued effort to help Martin process language without the aid of visual or verbal cues. It also projects his inclusion, for at least part of the day, in a typical first-grade classroom.
While Martin’s new plan was exciting, the best part of the meeting was hearing from Martin’s Occupational Therapist. Miss Sandy works with all the students in Martin’s class. She was also Martin’s OT when he was in a special needs preschool in 2007-2008. Until Martin started in the autism classroom this past January, Miss Sandy had not seen him since he left the preschool program in May 2008. During today’s meeting, she talked about her shock at meeting Martin again. “When I had him last time, he could only say ‘Hello, Miss Sandy.’ Everything else was basically gibberish. He communicated what he wanted though gestures and gibberish. That’s it. I can’t believe how well he is talking.”
The art teacher sat through Miss Sandy’s account of Martin’s history and looked totally shocked. She had been working with Martin only this past semester. She looked at us and said, “Of course I know that Martin is autistic, but I would never have guessed that he had such severe struggles with verbal development.”
I used to wonder if my kid would ever, ever talk. I contemplated a life with him that included no conversations. Today’s meeting is not the only proof that things have changed. Tonight, Martin looked over at his sister – who was finishing up an evening snack – and asked, “Sasha, how was your bowl of ice cream?” That’s not gibberish.
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