The Beginning of a New Year 2023


The beginning of a new year is an interesting time. You’re hopeful that the things that happened well will continue to go your way in the new year. You’re also hoping that the things that did not go well last year will magically stop because there’s a new year involved.

I get it. When we were having tough times at school prior to a break, I was hopeful that the break would give my twins some time to decompress, get their acts together, and launch into a new school year in a better mood. Sometimes that worked. Sometimes there was more pushback that translated into behaviors at home and at school. I was always grateful for the years where the break did the trick – that they were glad to go back to school. But it was always the first three weeks of school after the break that made me on edge – would this be a good year or not?

And on those years that were not, I had to put on my advocacy hat and help the IEP school team figure out solutions to decreasing the behavior without disengaging the student. Because I knew, if we lost the love of learning, we’d lose the battle entirely. So, always, step one – call a meeting.

Did you know you could call an IEP meeting anytime? It doesn’t have to be just for the annual meeting – it can be held anytime you see a developing issue that requires some problem solving, new accommodations, or new goals to be set in place.

Those meetings in January or early February were often tiring. I had to prove that something in the classroom was triggering the behaviors that we saw either in the classroom or at home. Behaviors looked a lot like pushback or refusal of doing schoolwork. I also had to prove that there was academic impact because of the behavior or attitude. We had to see grades slipping to get the attention of everyone on the team.

The solution during these meetings were often a rewriting of the goals and adding in new accommodations. The main goal for many years was to ‘manage stress and frustration’. The tools we used to do that were always changing – deep breathing, teaching of alternative stress relievers, advocacy, reduced assignments, one on one coaching, small group for testing, read or scribe during testing. Something, anything to reduce the anxiety of having to do schoolwork.

It all worked good and well until COVID. The switch to all self-directed, online work, was not what one of the twins needed for educational learning. There was a great deal of gnashing of teeth, verbal complaints, refusal of work. We got dispensation to pretty much bail out on all the subjects except for the one they were failing – Physics. In that case, we accomplished getting through it through hiring a private tutor through zoom to go over homework 2hrs a day, 2 times per week. Plus weekly one-on-one check ins with the schoolteacher. We got through it. But lost the love for learning. School was no longer a preferred activity.

We are now three years past that first Covid year. The twins have graduated, gone on to community college, and earned associates degrees in general studies. The two years following the trial through Physics helped shape the accommodations and class structure for my one twin to succeed in college – they didn’t like going through the classes, but stuck with it to the end.

We’ve now graduated to the couch, temporarily. We’re all taking a break before the next phase of adult living with Autism. It’s been a good break. The twins and I both have our routines that keep us busy and entertained. We’re hopeful for a good future ahead and a smooth 2023. You can hope too.

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There’s hope.

Simple steps can produce steady results.

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