"Autism & Memoirs of an Old Maid"…C'hele's Story

August 4, 2010

Autism: My Asperger Daughter and High School

Michaela like any other Autistic individual, is unique. She has been diagnosed with Asperger’s, ADHD, an anxiety disorder, and a mixed expressive/receptive language disorder. I have had the pleasure working with many Aspie kids and it is always intriguing to watch how they metamorph as they grow older for good or bad. So it has been with my daughter. Every two years or so, one or two of my daughters challenges will take prescidence over the others. Then in a few years, it will be the reverse. It all depends on what is occuring in her environment at the time.

My daughter is now looking forward to her grade 10th year and it just so happens that she will be in a new school this upcoming September. Change and transitions do not sit well with these individuals but it was a matter of picking and choosing my battles. Michaela’s grade 8 & 9 years were spent enrolled in a special program that focused mostly on academics until it switches over to life-skills training on her grade 11/12th year. For any autistic individual, two years is hardly much time to prep an autistic individual that faces a life-time of social, communication challenges not to mention other difficulties.

But that wasn’t the real issue. What is increasingly disturbing and distressing to me are the teachers who accept a position in a resource room/special needs program with virtually no special education training. For those teachers who may take on working in this area too lightly or deem it an easy position, have no clue the damage they inflict upon thier students. What’s worse, is that some of these teachers seem to have developed the belief that “they are going to fix thier students”. My daughter has had two such teachers, one in primary school for three years and a new teacher in her high school in her grade nine year. Many times I have found myself to be in tears due to frustration and anger and have thought to myself many times, “If I am feeling this way, how is my daughter feeling when her anxiety and sensory challenges are heightened ten times over?”

Yes. Her frustrations and anger has caused her to have many hysterical moments and spoken outbursts that she wishes she were dead. My daughter has always been enrolled in a modified program. She will never attain a regular high school diploma only a 12 year school completion certification.

So. What was the problem this past year? Shortage of support staff (E.A.’s) due to funding cuts. The teacher never persued to check on Michaela to see how she was doing in her electives courses. This means that her work was never modified and she struggled incredibly hard to keep up with her classmates. The teacher also insisted that Michaela participate and do all the final exams at the end of the year. This means doing the same exams as her peers in her classes without modifications or adaptations or an E.A. to assist her. When I inquired on this further, I realized that the teacher had not even prepped Michaela. No practise tests, no examples to provide so she could make sense of what it was that she would be doing. For goodness sakes- we prep our regular/typical students at our high school before finals!! I am not against Michaela taking a final exam- just to see how she does and providing she is o.k. with doing it and has been prepared for one. Throughout the year, Michaela was sent home with homework unmodified. After many phone calls to her teacher, unmodified work was still consistently being sent home. We spent many hours together as I showed Michaela how to break things down, proofread, etc, etc. My assistance caused me to be practically doing all of Michaelas work since she had difficulties with it. There were no instructions sent from school and due to Michaelas short-term memory issues she forgot to write it down in her agenda only to later forget details completely. So we winged it, but it sure caused some extreme exhaustion for both Michaela and I and it was non-stop! I work for a living with extremely behaviourally challenging students all day. Then I come home to my own autistic child who requires my assistance. At the same time, Michaela does not want to be told what to do like a teacher because I’m her MOM! *Ugh!*

After expressing to the teacher the hell that both Michaela and I were going through (all year in fact), told her all my conerns and “why” my daughter was working on unmodified work and “why” she is not giving me any logical answers, all I got was: “I woulden’t worry- this is normal for a parent of a child with special needs to be worried themselves”. She’s fine, she’s fine- she’ll be fine!” And then without expressing it I freaked. Was this her only response? Hell. The woman was not only extremely arrogant, but insufferable. She knew I worked in the field and yet treated me like some ignorant bone-head. She also later on implied that she knew my kid better than I. This caused some further fury for me.

The woman had made it absolutely clear to me that she had no understanding on autism or her students or she woulden’t of had said that. After having a very dignified freak-out hissy fit after the phone call, I immediately called the department of special programs of the school district (basically, her boss). They know me well because I once worked for them for almost seven years in the district.

It was extremely difficult to remain in a professional-like, calm manner as I talked to the woman who was in charge of the resource rooms in the district. I wanted so badly to yell at someone or cry- as I was so frustrated, angry and exhausted. I cannot tell my readers enough how important it is to know the facts, to have a clear understanding of your childs disability and to take notes throughout the year of what you see or question regarding school. It is so important that we as parents, keep an open mind as to what may be going on and to listen to the other side whether we want to or not. What our children are like at home may be an entirely different story at school. For instance, this year I found out that my daughter who is known for her impeccable manners, has quite the aggressive little potty-mouth at school. Let me tell you, it shocked me and when I questioned her upon it she confessed. So never say never. Peer influence is an amazing thing- good or bad!

Once I spoke to the lady in charge of my concerns, she said she would speak to the teacher and get back to me. Making a long story short, she confessed to me that I had some valid concerns. This “resource room teacher” had no idea how to effectively do her job. She diden’t even know how to modify her students work nor did she know how to implement learning strategies geared towards students with cognitive disabilities! I then immediately and kindly asked that my daughter be removed from this program and be placed into another program that I was aware of. This program has an excellent reputation and I wanted Michaela in it since the beginning but high special needs student numbers in that catchment area forced Caela to go elsewhere.

I am elated. Michaela is both freaked and extremely anxious over the change (typical of autism) so once a week we visit her new school. With the school’s floor plan map in hand, we walk around to where her new resource room is and discover where all other pertinent areas are. The regular visits are helping to some-what ease Michaelas extreme anxiety. By the end of summer, she will know by heart where everything is and avoid looking like a “newbie” or overly special needs” as she puts it. This school is in an area where priviledged kids reside and thus, the school provides so much more with regards to programs offered. These programs are right down my daughter’s alley so we talk about this alot as we walk throughout the school. I am relieved- now that summer is half-over, that my daughter is now excited and is looking forward to this new opportunity to move forward. But man, its not without its challenges. It takes constant repetition and reminders to soothe her soul.

Time will tell how things go. In the meantime, we will be prepping ahead of time and practice sewing and cooking before she takes these courses in school. This will boost her self-confidence so she doesnt look too vulnerable in front of her peers. It will help decrease the anxiety she will be feeling being in a new school. Michaela is always hesitant to try new things but after explaining to her that this school has an excellent cafeteria program (something her previous school did not offer) and that the skills she will learn will help her towards a possible future career, she is excited. She loves both cooking and food (eek!).

I will make further posts on how the transition goes and how she does in her new school in fall!

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3 Comments »

  1. Your daughter was very lucky to have chosen you as her mother.

    Comment by anhinga — August 4, 2010 @ 03:36

  2. *Sigh*. Somedays I wonder what she was thinking whilst up there in heaven, *grinnin*

    HUGS! 🙂

    Comment by C'hele — August 4, 2010 @ 05:26

  3. Ditto Anhinga. Keep us updated.

    Comment by davidrochester — August 6, 2010 @ 10:24


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