Monday, May 07, 2007

On Opting Out

OK, it wasn't that long ago that I wrote a post explaining how we had decided to homeschool and honestly, at that point, I was feeling pretty good about it. This is in direct relationship to how compromising on what I thought was right for Oliver had made me feel so bad.

But then we had the pre-IEP meeting where we told the school district that no, we didn't want to send Oliver to school this Fall. I didn't even mention homeschooling, only that we wanted to delay school for another year. And we wanted his in-home services to continue and we wanted funding for our RDI program. To make a long, long story short, they came back and said no twice. If we didn't send Oliver to school we would get nothing. I felt really worried and scared about it for exactly one day. My gut -- and what I know about Oliver -- tells me that we are making the right decision.

But then there is this little voice in my head making itself heard that says: "So, you think you can meet all of Oliver's needs ON YOUR OWN?" I Do, I Do! I keep replying. But even I recognize that the voice in reply doesn't have the strong sound of confidence. So I review the things I know:

1) I know and understand Oliver better than any professional or therapist ever could.
2) Oliver has made more strides in the last six months with RDI than in the past 18 months with ABA.
3) I am buildng a strong support network: I've got friends who are there for me; I've got a virtual cheerleading squad via blogland; I'm finding other local RDI moms who also fit in that first category but bring an extra-special understanding with them; and of course Nik, who makes me feel as though there is nothing I can't accomplish.

And then there is this: I sit on the advisory panel for Special Education in our city and when we met last week the Director presented the proposed budget for the next school year. During this presentation she discussed their plan to put a greater emphasis on the needs of children with autism at the middle school level. She told us how it had been common practice for the district to recommend placement in residential facilities for children with certain behaviors. Now they will try to address those behaviors in other ways. There was actually more to it than that but honestly I stopped listening after she got that far. Seated to the Director's right was the mother of a 17 year old child who was placed in a facility at age 11. Listening to her comments about that experience in repsonse to the Director's plans were wrenching. I almost had to leave the room. "Not my child," I kept thinking. That will not happen to my child.

I can't know what the future holds but I DO know that every day we take steps towards our future. I feel pretty unsure of myself at the moment. I don't know if I'm making the right decisions but I do know that sending Oliver into a school environment at this point would be the wrong decision.

Still, I sure wish there were a "Parenting an ASD Child Decision Making Manual" out there!


  1. I am constantly second guessing every decision I make as far as Roo is concerned. I still look back on things we did in the past and think what if we had done things differently, but I try not to.

    You are faced with a big decision, but I think your mind is already made up. I know you can do it!!! What happens after one year? Can you send Oliver to school the following year if you feel he is ready for a change then? I am sure you can. I can't see any reason why not. Why not give it a year with your full attention on RDI and then go from there.

    I wish I could be more help. It isn't easy making these decisions.

  2. We all do the "second guessing" thing, but I think we know instinctively what is right for our children. Learning to trust those instints is the hard part.

    It sounds like Oliver has made some great strides in recent months. And it sounds like you know the path you want to take. Trust yourself, trust him. You'll make the right choice.

  3. You have to go with your instincts.

    I agree that it would be so much easier to find that "professional" who would have a crystal ball and could tell us what is right for our kids. But that doesn't exist and there is no manual to follow.

    You know Oliver best and all you can do is take it one step at a time. Still I know understand your anxieties all too well!

  4. But think of all the multiple-choice scenarios! Thanks for sharing the experiences of the mom of the older child.

  5. How old is Oliver? When is his birthday? Henry's birthday is right at the beginning of the schoolyear, and we had him start kindergarten at age 6. The preschool year he was 5 was the worst: really, really rough. So, considering that, if I had been able, it probably would have helped him to put school off for as long as possible...

    I don't think I can offer much help or advice, but I'm happy to be part of that cheerleading squad!!

  6. "So, you think you can meet all of Oliver's needs ON YOUR OWN?"
    Here is the voice of a homeschooler who brought her autistic daughter home eleven years ago, YES, YOU CAN!!!
    1) I know and understand Oliver better than any professional or therapist ever could.
    Christine, you are the world's greatest expert on Oliver! Put the initials WGEO after your surname!
    2) Oliver has made more strides in the last six months with RDI than in the past 18 months with ABA.
    Yes! Because of 1), you are able to make better decisions and program changes, much more quickly and effectively.
    3) I am buildng a strong support network
    Exactly. You are able to build yourself up and stay positive. Having to fight for rights at IEP meetings and then monitor its implementation tends to make you negative.

    Christine, my daughter just turned 18. She is doing wonderfully. She is not a super-HFA college-bound kid, but she is learning to bake and cook. She helps me shop and helps me do chores. She is able to occupy herself in meaningful ways and add joy to our life. She has not been traumatized by being called retarded by the ignorant nor made to feel ashamed for who she is. The behaviors she has, we can and are managing well.

  7. I'm not sure I understand the whole situation, but the school system is *not* within their rights to deny services because Oliver is not in school. Virginia law provides that an IEP & special education services must be made available to home schooled students.

    I am not in any way suggesting that you can't meet Oliver's needs on your own. Just in the short time I have been reading your blog, I have been blown away by your knowledge and dedication. Believe me. :-) I just hate for the system to pass out this misinformation to parents of kids with "special needs" who are considering home schooling.

    A couple of possible resources for exploring your legal rights - (advocacy for home educating families) (kind of a mecca for people seeking advice on special education law)

    For whatever it's worth,


    PS - FWIW, I think Mamaroo's suggestion of opting out for a year and focusing on RDI is an excellent one. :-)

  8. I really sympathize with you, my son doesn't have autism but several rare disabilties.. There is almost no literature at all about his most affecting "apraxia of speech". I have wished many times for a book to help you make decisions about their lives, or books about how to discipline a child who can't talk !