We had our ESY IEP meeting today. I guess, if you are of the one opinion, it went very well. That is, his school team felt he qualified for the social skills extended school year (ESY) program. This was a first for us because in previous years he has never qualified for summer services. Come to find out that is because at the pre-school and kindergarten level they only offer the academic course, but once a child reaches first grade there is another critical life skill being addressed: social skills.
We had always known that Matthew needed additional summer services and could not understand why he was not offered ESY previously, until this year when it was explained to us that the younger children need to have academic problems, but social problems were not considered critical. In first grade they are. So it was agreed that he will join other children in our county’s social skills program.
I’m pleased by this decision as I know Matthew needs this help, and because social interaction will be the primary goal for all the children in the program. The number of service hours daily, along with the actual number of school days will offer him a much more intense social skills setting than anything we can provide during the school year. He currently attends a private social skills group, but it only meets for one hour per week and runs for only 8 weeks. That just isn’t enough time to master the skills necessary, nor does it help us learn how to help him.
We will also start seeing a private psychologist to help him develop these same skills. We are hoping the one-on-one attention will promote a faster, more specialized learning atmosphere for Matthew. I am also hoping during the family sessions she will help us expand our parenting toolbox and teach us how to deal with his unique personality and learning style. The very typical disciplinary tools most parents use are not effective with Matthew and we have exhausted our knowledge of methods for getting through to him. This has left me very frustrated, angry and fearful, as I’m unsure of how to help my own son.
I know these programs will not solve all our problems, but I am hoping,they will help us peel back another layer of this onion called autism and get that much closer to the real Matthew waiting to be revealed!