We had survived middle school relatively unscathed. He had those fresh out of college teachers who were excited about their profession and so eager to teach. My son really benefited from being there. He entered high school continuing on with advanced placement and honors courses. He was turning out to be fine young man. His stated preference for the advanced courses was that those kids were there to learn and so was he. By this time he was used to attending his IEP meetings and participating. He had retained the same oral interpreter (About Oral Translation) that he had since third grade. She had followed him from grade to grade for six years. He had a wireless FM system (FM Listening Systems) for class use, help from a teacher of the hearing impaired, and speech therapy.
The first IEP meeting of his freshman year was scheduled and I had prepped myself to pursue real time captioning. We had trialed voice recognition software (Speech Recognition) to be used by the instructors, but it wasn’t effective and required too much in preparation to be effective so I saw real time captioning (What is Real-Time Captioning?) as the next step at the cost of about six thousand dollars.
I had spent a considerable amount of time and energy researching and preparing for this meeting. I had reviewed applicable laws and the educational benefit and access he would receive from it. We all sat down at the table and I began to outline my proposal for this new service I wanted for my son, to maximize the instruction he would be getting in the class room. My request for real time captioning was met with arms across chests and much eye rolling, but then I had expected the opposition and wasn’t the least bit phased by it. During my years of advocating for my son, I had been told no numerous times and always had been able to bring the IEP team around to my way of thinking. Unfortunately I overlooked one thing that would derail my request.
This time things would be different because this time I had failed to do the one thing that I should have done. I failed to do the one thing that would have made my plan successful. I failed to discuss this plan with my son before the meeting!
I would have saved myself time and energy for when I turned to him and asked how he felt about real-time captioning he replied that he did not want it!. Not only did he not want the captioning he no longer wanted the oral interpreter following him around, and he no longer felt the need for speech therapy either.
As I sat there with egg on my face I realized that my son had become a self-advocate! For all of those years, since his birth, it had been me at the table, making decisions that would help him get the services and supports that he needed. Now, it was time for me to step back and respect his wishes. So … I agreed to try the things he wanted for a grading period then revisit it at another meeting. I’ll admit it was hard giving up the safety net of services that I had in place for him realizing how hard they were to get in the first place, but the hardest thing for me to take were the smirks on the faces of the district staff as I had to give in and respect his decisions.
Well I am glad to report that he was right and he continued to be very successful with only the wireless FM system and the instruction from the teacher of the hearing impaired, and that was minimal. His grades continued to remain A’s and B’s in honors and advanced placement courses until he graduated. In his senior year we co-presented on his disability and the laws protecting his rights to his honors psychology class and in closing the presentation he said – “Always give time for the person, to see who they really are,” he said. “Not just on the outside. By taking time you will realize what you might have missed on the inside.” (The Path to Graduation)
In closing this story of the little boy who would never read above a third grade level, he went on after graduation and applied for services from the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation – DVR (Vocational Rehabilitation) and was found eligible for their services. Based on his individual plan for employment – IPE, (Developing Your IPE) he was funded to attend Florida Gulf Coast University (FL Gulf Coast University). DVR also provided him with a laptop and wireless FM system and off he went to college. After two years studying business he decided he liked working with his hands and went into the heating and air conditioning business. He is married and has two sons of his own.
My reward for all of this is an empty nest with no one sitting on my couch and sons that are living independently pursuing their own quality of life. You would think that my involvement would end here but I am still picking up the ringing phone helping others as I write this continuing to pay it forward. (Pay It Forward!)