|The Watcher - Painting by Thomas Blackshear II|
At around 3:30pm Wednesday, September 28, 2011, I received a phone call from the school where Ashton attended. As a parent, anytime the caller ID reads “THE SCHOOL”, I think we innately freeze and our heart stops beating. I personally think that biological response triples for those of us who parent children with special needs.
The following is part of the reason why....
The following is part of the reason why....
“Good Afternoon Mrs. Parker, I am calling to inform you that Ashton got out of the school today.” “Please don't worry, he is safe now, but just wanted to call and let you know what happened.” The “downplaying” of the event promptly followed.
Once I was able to get the facts this is what occurred...
At lunch (around 10:30-11:00am), Ashton's 1:1 aide got up from the lunch table to fix his oatmeal, once she was away from him, Ashton promptly got up from the lunch table and proceeded to run through the cafeteria, down the small rear hall and out the side doors leading outside. Once he was outside the school he proceeded down the middle of the side road in front of the school towards the major highway/byway the school resides on (a major roadway where cars are know to travel the upwards of 70 miles per hour-speed limit of 55). Thankfully when he was about 15-20 feet from the highway a woman driving towards Ashton stopped her minivan, got out and intercepted him. She then led him back to the school.
What isn't said here is that I have recording after recording of IEP meetings (If you are not sure what an IEP is read here) prior to this event detailing his known elopement behavior. Especially once I knew that this school year would start with a brand new teacher, a brand new principal and several new aides working within the classroom I made sure that I over explained during several IEP meetings WHY we have a 1:1 written in the IEP and the importance of someone being within arms reach of Ashton in order to prevent something like that from happening.
There are many horrible, terrible, devastating outcomes that I am sure were rushing through your mind as you read the details of the event. I am beyond thankful that Ashton's angels were working overtime that day and that nothing horrible happened. It did not however, leave the school void of responsibility. After multiple meetings it was finally decided that it was appropriate for him to attend a private day school for children with Autism at the county's expense. It was promised by the new school, that he would have a 1:1 aide with him at all times and thankfully we haven't had any successful attempts at elopement since he started at his new school.
I am in shock at how well he has done and how far he has come in the last several months since this placement started. To find an environment where you see tremendous growth in your child is priceless. It was like a huge burden was lifted off of my shoulders, I felt like I didn't have to fight so hard anymore. I felt like all my dreams had come true....No more IEP meetings where you leave feeling like you want to crawl in a hole and die, defeated. NO MORE!! These people really care!
On to recent frustrations.....
On the last day of school June 15, 2012 I received a lovely letter stating that due to the fact that ownership of the school had changed hands and that the curriculum was changing they were not going to be able to provide a 1:1 student/aide ratio any longer.
The event that occurred in September came rushing back full force. After speaking with the representative from the school that following Monday it was ultimately determined that NO ONE was going to receive a 1:1 aide and there was no way around that. They understood if I felt that placement elsewhere was appropriate for him. A flood of emotions hit me in that moment and I again felt defeated. What happened to not having to fight anymore? What happened to thinking that “these people REALLY have my sons best interest at heart”. I felt like an environment that demonstrated without question to help him was being pulled out from under him like a deceitful rug. After I said somethings that I now regret, I sat in my car and cried. I cried one of those ugly cries...you know the ones I am talking about. Make up running, sobbing with the ugliest possible contortion to your face...Yeah, that’s the one!
After a head slitting headache and the drive home. I realized I can not do this on my own anymore. Jon has never really been involved in the kids schooling. That has been completely and utterly on my shoulders alone. I attend IEP meetings alone, I go through IEP's alone, I research education laws on my own, I draft/edit IEP goals on my own....I don't care if he has no clue what is going on, I need support. We talked.
After I vented to Jon, prayed and slept, I felt a little more refreshed the next day. I called the representative back and started with an apology for my emotional response and asked if we could call a meeting to discuss options. We are talking about developing a safety plan for Ashton that meets his needs to prevent elopement without a 1:1.
This is my prayer..please join with me!
Heavenly Father, thank you so much for continually keeping Ashton safe and getting him in this program where he has shown so much growth. I know that you have a plan for this situation and that you ALWAYS have his best interests in mind. Please help us develop a plan that works. Please give guidance to the teachers and aides that work with Ashton. I pray that he continues to grow and learn in this new program. Above all, please continue to keep him safe. Place your strongest and fastest angels around him. In Jesus name, AMEN!