At the age of two, my son was evaluated through Early Intervention, and we discovered he had speech and cognitive delays. At the age of three, he transitioned to pre-school and received special education service through a local Intermediate Unit.
And then, at the age of five years and ten months, we went to an IEP meeting and a school psychologist told me that my son will enter kindergarten as a regular education student; he no longer qualifies for services; he will no longer need an IEP.
Looking back at our experience with special education services through Early Intervention and our local Intermediate Unit, I am nothing but thankful for the services provided.
I am thankful that such a thing as Early Intervention exists. When my son needed help, he received it, and it was free. Helping my son never had to be something that had to be financed or put on hold because we couldn’t afford it. We never had to choose between something that might help him succeed in life or a bill we had to pay.
I am thankful that no time was wasted. At the age of two, I had concerns because my son wasn’t speaking. After inquiring about Early Intervention, he was evaluated within weeks, and within a month he was receiving services for more than I initially thought he needed. At the time, I had believed my son was just being defiant when he misbehaved or ignored me, but he really couldn’t understand many things. It was not just a speech delay, but he had cognitive delays, as well.
I am thankful that although I was prepared to fight tooth and nail for what was best for him, I never really had to. I read and researched and talked to specialists who all said, you will need to advocate, you will need to fight to get everything he deserves. But, I never had to.
After months of receiving services, there was not much improvement and some behaviors became worse. He couldn’t focus, he simply piled toys instead of playing with them, he chewed holes through all of his collars and sleeves, and he needed constant physical activity.
I went to his IEP meeting ready to fight for more services, but I didn’t need to. He was soon tested for Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). He was not diagnosed with SPD, but in many categories his test showed he had some sensory issues. With this knowledge, new strategies were put in place and an occupational therapist became part of his team, alongside his speech therapist and special educator.
I am thankful for so many of his therapists that were patient and kind and understanding, not only to my son, but to me, too. These therapists and educators were underpaid and overworked, but they were professional and advocated for my son. I will never forget that.
I am thankful that his therapists, special educator, and caseworker took me seriously. They recognized and identified his problems. Although my family was well-intentioned when they said, “He’ll grow out of it” or “He’s just being wild,” these comments did not make me feel better. Deep down I knew he was struggling in a bigger way. Although, I certainly didn’t want my son to have delays, having them identified was reassuring. He did not act this way just because we did not discipline him the correct way or we let him have too much freedom. He acted this way because he was struggling to understand and struggling to communicate.
I am thankful that when I cried because I was scared my son might have autism or might never catch up to his peers or never be considered “normal” there was comfort, but more importantly there was a plan. There was always a paper, a chart, a test, a pamphlet of information, something to fall back on to help me feel like even if everything wasn’t going to be okay with him, there would be a plan in place to help him be the best person he could be.
I am thankful that when he was tested for autism, I was kept busy with a thousand papers and a thousand questions. And hours later, when the testing was completed, a psychologist told me the results right away. There was no possible way that I could go home and wonder for one more second. Although I never received the answers as to what caused his delays and whether or not he would catch up in the future, it was reassuring to have that hope.
I am thankful that there was so much support for one little boy, my little boy.
And, most importantly, I am thankful that we are done; I am so unbelievably grateful that my son no longer needs services. I understand that he may still struggle, and he may need help in the future, but for right now, he does not. He has achieved and succeeded in ways that I did not think possible on the day a therapist suggested we have him tested for autism.
And as I write this, I know that many of you parents, you strong and resilient parents, can’t say “thank you but I am done with you.” You have a long road ahead of you. One filled with meetings and goals and therapies and tears. I will never understand what it is like to be in your position.
I do, however, know what it is like to love your child unconditionally. This four year journey taught me, without a doubt, that no matter if my son was delayed or considered average, if he needed three therapists or none, my love for him did not change. No chart, diagnosis, or 30 page IEP can alter my feelings for him. My love for my child is not part of a goal or an accommodation that can be changed, increased, or decreased; my love for my child remains constant.
After I left the last IEP meeting, I cried.
I cried out of fear. Fearful that without services and support my boy will struggle in elementary school.
I cried out of relief. Relieved that this journey is over for us.
I cried out of amazement. Amazed for all that my boy has accomplished in the past few years.
And, finally, I cried out of gratitude. I am so very grateful for this amazing life my boy has to live and how many people have helped him find his way.
Please feel free to share this and show a special educator or therapist that they are appreciated for all they do!