Parenting is a steep learning curve.
During Amigo's junior year in high school, we learned that it doesn't matter if the doctor or doctors diagnose Asperger's Syndrome; the school system doesn't have to recognize or follow a doctor's recommendation.
We learned that teachers might make statements that recognize typical autistic behaviors, but when it comes time for a formal evaluation, they'll conveniently forget they'd ever said so.
We learned that school social workers often consider their role as "just the paper pusher." It's too bad that this one didn't read the papers thoroughly. We learned that we're very capable of pushing papers ourselves; we found significant errors in her report.
We learned that a child with multiple disabilities may experience neglect because one main disability can mask the other with overlapping symptoms and confusion in applying diagnostic tools. "Avoids eye contact?" The kid is blind! Modify the assessment, please.
We learned that students in their teens develop coping skills, making symptoms of autism harder to observe. The state criteria for educational autism, however, focuses on young students to the exclusion of all others.
We learned that parental involvement, while mandated by law, still isn't worth squat when it comes to actively advocating for a student.
We learned that attending a long IEP meeting filled with heated discussion can be very hard for a teenager.
We learned that if an administrator doesn't want to provide formal state guidelines, we can find them on the state's web site. Convenient for us: not so much for the district.
We learned that we speak the educational/ legal language much too well for an ordinary family.
Based on these difficult lessons, we've decided to file a formal complaint with our state department of public instruction. They'll have 60 days in which to address it. No matter what the result, our discontent will be noted and recorded, and the school personnel will have to revisit the diagnostic process and the results. We have one last opportunity to work with the district before filing. However, if the special education administrator doesn't return our calls, we'll have no choice but to take legal action.
These are not the lessons we'd hoped our teen and our family would learn in high school.