Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Leishman Family: My Autistic Son

My son was diagnosed with autism and ADHD at age four. The doctor said he was severely retarded, would not show affection or love and have no imagination. I was devastated. I moved to be near services and brought a behavioral expert into our home 2-3 times a week for several months. He started early SPED Preschool and he was not ready for kindergarten until age 7. He was potty trained by four and a half. He saw psychiatrists and took meds and I took him to speech therapy, as he only had a few words to his vocabulary. He began stuttering when his vocabulary was bursting to get. He got lots of love and gave lots back. I kept him at a school near his child care due to ongoing morning problems relating to his inability to focus in the mornings, which made it difficult to get to school on time in the mornings. Thus, it became a part of his individual education plan (IEP). He has continued to develop, but just at a slower pace than typical.

When he started high school he did much better at being on time to school, as he was very excited about starting high school. The goal for improved attendance was removed from his IEP since he seemed to have turned a corner. Over time, his former challenge to stay focused and on task in the mornings became a Goliath problem again. He is not defiant or unwilling. He has Aspergers. Planning, pushing, prodding, nagging and begging are not the fixes. I have tried all of these.

I got electronic telephone calls that stated that he was tardy, but did think about it, because I knew he was late. I dropped him off, already exhausted for the day from my efforts to get him there. I got a couple of letters that spelled out the system in place, but as I had gotten them before, I did not even do more than glance at it, give a speech to my son and go on. I did not realize the laws had changed.

I would like to think that if the goal of timeliness was still on his IEP, it would have made a difference in what came next, but I believe that it would not. Over spring break I received a letter from the school that said they had sent a referral to the county attorney. I called the school to question them about it and the principal was not sure who my son was. He said he would have the coordinator call the next morning and we would have a conference call. It did not happen. I called again in the afternoon, but received no reply. When I finally talked to the coordinator she told me his IEP was sent as collateral information and that I should see that in the copy they sent me. It was not in my copy, so I don't know.

Now we go to court to determine if the law has been broken and if I am a negligent parent of truant delinquent. I contacted an attorney who wanted $1500 retainer and then $200 an hour. I am a single mom and just started a business. There is no way I can afford an attorney. My son has been through a great deal in his young life but he is a fantastic kid. He is in choir, a Christian youth/house group and has plans to be a youth pastor. He is an anti-smoking and anti-drug activist. He finds the kids that are alone to talk to them and include them. I have every reason to believe he can be successful.

Teresa Leishman
Lincoln Public Schools
Lincoln, NE

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