Wednesday, April 13, 2011

No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks

It took me five grueling years to get my Masters in Business Administration.  Five long years of night school, of charging thousands of dollars each semester on my credit card to pay tuition to Johns Hopkins University. 

Five long years of working, studying, working, studying. Finance practically killed me, don’t get me started on Statistics.  

(There’s a reason Statistics sounds like Sadistic.  But I digress.)

 During those same five years, I moved from Manhattan to just outside Washington D.C., took a new job, had two direct reports quit while simultaneously trying to manage an acquisition, planned a wedding and got married, moved again, and had a baby.  Finally, I graduated in May 2000!

Such a waste of time. 

Seriously, I have a specialty in Strategic Planning and what I’ve discovered is… you can’t strategic plan your way through autism.

Here are the degrees that I should have gotten to help me as a parent of a child with autism.

Medical degree
I’m tired of reading the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities and understanding the words “is”, “the”, “an”, and “autism”.  Seriously, it would take me 15 minutes to get through one paragraph.  Please, lord, give me a SWOT analysis and I’ll buzz right through that thing.  “High levels of homocysteine and low serum paraoxonase 1 arylesterase activity in children with autism”… not so much.

Oh believe me, I’ve tried. I tried to get my brother-in-law to explain medical studies to me, in plain language.  He’s a neurologist, and his advice was to simply stop reading the studies.  Yeah, right, Pete, like that’s gonna happen.  Could you please just break it down for me?

I’m tired of arguing with doctors about what medical tests to order to figure out why his gut hurts, and why he always has a funny rash on his arms, and what is making him so obsessive, and I know that something’s bothering him, I just know it.  A mom knows these things.

And I have my theories, you know, because I’m always reading those pesky Journals and medical studies.

Special Education degree
I have a sneaking suspicion that schools must pass along some secret in class to their Special Education teachers because who can muddle through a 36 page Individualized Education Plan and really address all those goals and objectives?!

Conor will pick his nose only twice out of ten tries with 80% accuracy.  Check!

Yes, my son’s IEP is 36 pages long.  Twenty of those pages are his Functional Behavioral Analysis and Behavior Intervention Plan, I swear.   Special Ed folks actually call this the FBA/BIP or--say it out loud with me--the Fa-Bib-Ip.  I am not joking. Fa-Bib-Ip.

When Conor is in crisis and he bites his hand, do not respond.  If he starts gouging at his eyes, please respond quite rapidly.  Check!

In all seriousness, teaching Conor has always been a mystery to me.  Oh, we used the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), and social stories and video modeling, discrete trial training, pivotal response, blah de blah de blah. 

But I never feel like I really do a good job explaining things to him.  It’s that damn communication disorder.

Law Degree
We’ve recently had to enlist the aid of an attorney and an advocate to wrangle with our local school district about my son’s placement.  I felt I should be prepared.

I mean, it’s not enough for me to pay someone $350 an hour to make sure they know this stuff.  I have to read books and watch how-to DVDs about it myself too.  (Hey, I watched Erin Brockovich, you know. My boobs might be smaller but I can still be helpful.)

But I think going to law school might help me understand regulations such as—

(f) Rule of construction. Notwithstanding any other individual right of action that a parent or student may maintain under this part, nothing in this part shall be construed to create a right of action on behalf of an individual student or class of students for the failure of a particular SEA or LEA employee to be highly qualified, or to prevent a parent from filing a complaint under Sections 300.151 through 300.153 about staff qualifications with the SEA as provided for under this part.”


When I read this, the voice in my head sounds like the adults in the Peanuts video.  Wah wah wah wah wah wah wah.

I think law school must teach you how to drink the right amount of coffee so that your brain doesn’t painfully twist around in your head reading this kind of language.

In the end, I just don’t have the time and patience to earn another degree.  I know parents who do just that, however.  They go back and get a degree so that they can help their child and their family progress. 

Personally, I just talk to whoever will listen about my son, his challenges, our struggles and our hopes.  I visit doctors, psychologists, teachers, experts, and parents to see what everyone is doing and trying.  I go to conferences and seminars on topics that pertain to what we’re coping with. 

At business school, we called this “networking”.   To me, it’s just being a mom.


Valerie said...

Trust me, unless you have a degree in neuropharmacology AND in developmental pediatrics AND are currently involved in the research, you still are going to have issues understanding medical research articles.

PS - Just had Ryan's IEP on friday; 36 pages.

Alisa Rock said...

Wow, I thought my kid was the only one with such a long IEP!