This week, Cade had a great victory, and a great disappointment.
The school district called and told me that they had observed him in his preschool class, they were amazed at how well he is doing, and they wanted to recommend that Cade attend Kindergarten this fall in a typical classroom. This has been one of our goals since the day I received his diagnosis, so this news put me over the moon. However, I still feel that he will do better with one more year of preschool, so I was planning on having him attend a typical preschool this year, and start Kindergarten next year. I found a preschool program that I fell in love with. The school is private, the class sizes are small and very well structured, and it is an all day program with hours similar to what he is doing now. I felt that the program would be a great bridge from special education to regular Kindergarten for him, so we filled out an application.
I turned in Cade's application (which stated that he does have an ASD diagnosis) and asked the receptionist how long it would take before I knew if he was going to be accepted. She said "For preschool? He's accepted! We accept everyone!" I was excited and went on my way. A few hours later, the teacher called and told me that before he was "officially accepted" he would need to come into the school for some "testing". I took him in the next day, and 10 minutes later, he was done. The teacher called me that afternoon and said that she felt that Cade was not a good fit for the school. She recommended that I wait and apply again next year. I asked her how she was able to come to this conclusion after only seeing him for 10 minutes, and not asking me anything about his history, standardized test scores, or current school performance (which, by the way, is age appropriate in all areas of development). She said "well, he knows his letters and numbers pretty good, but he isn't sounding out words yet, and he seems to be a little immature." Really?! You're telling me that you turn away every immature 4 year old boy who isn't reading for your preschool program? I doubt that... that's not exactly what the receptionist said. I'm sure that the "autism spectrum disorder" written in on his application had nothing to do with it.
Can you imagine if a child in a wheelchair came to the school and the teacher told him that she wasn't willing to make accommodations for his special needs? That would never happen, but happens with autism every day. Just this last month, a bill was on the legislation floor to mandate insurance coverage in Utah for children with autism. The bill didn't pass. Can you imagine if children with Down's Syndrome were denied coverage and a similar bill was introduced to mandate their coverage? It would be a different story entirely. I'm pretty sure that anyone who voted against the bill would be run out of the state!
I'm a very private person, and for the past two years, I have kept most things about my son's diagnosis to myself. Through the experiences that we have had, I'm now realizing that our society has much to learn about autism. These kids need support, and I am going to do my part to raise awareness. Austim Awareness Day is coming up on April 2nd. The Empire State Building is going to be lit up in blue lights to "shine a light on autism" to help raise autism awareness. We will be lighting some blue lights of our own that day. If you have any questions about autism, please contact me. I would be more than happy to share our story of autism with this spectacular kid.