the board’s decision overrides (Autism/special needs)


In January we were notified that Jeremiah would be moving up to Kindergarten in the next school year. We’ve been so happy with his progress in his current preschool (he’s now on his second year), that we were in trepidation of him moving forward. His birthday fell twelve days short of the cutoff for entrance to Kindergarten (meaning he would be one of the youngest kids in his class), AND he has Autism, which means he’s developmentally delayed. His teacher, who we greatly respect, had the same fears we did, in fact she said those fears kept her up at night. (Jeremiah has a way of pulling at people’s heartstrings.)

We are all for inlcusion, but Jeremiah isn’t ready for Kindergarten, and we know if he had another year in his preschool class, his success would be much better.

Reasons why Jeremiah isn’t ready for Kindergarten:

  • He doesn’t interact or play with his peers. He’s come a long way this year and is noticing his friends, which is awesome, but play/social interaction is a foundation piece for his future that he hasn’t developed yet.
  • He’s not able to sit still. I’ve been in the classroom he’ll be moving into and the teacher expects a lot, which is great for kids who are neurotypical, but difficult for children like Jeremiah. I’ve volunteered in my daughter’s Kindergarten class, they read quietly for twenty minutes, then they move to circle time where the teacher reads to them, then comes quiet writing workshop. Yikes! That’s at least an hour that I’m not sure what Jeremiah will do, and the class is only three hours long.
  • He’s learning more of what a two-year-old might be, versus a Kindergartener.

So, we had some concerns, plus he’d be one of the youngest kids in his class. We asked the preschool director, Karla*, to keep him in preschool another year. When Justin first spoke with her to discuss the situation, Karla said in a very motherly tone, “Many parents are concerned when their children go into Kindergarten.” Justin assured her this isn’t about our “baby” moving into Kindergarten, it is expressly the concerns I listed above, PLUS the worries we have for the teacher.

Karla said that ultimately the decision would be made by the team who works with Jeremiah – the teacher and three therapists.

We had also met with the school principal, Ellen*, and the psychologist, Jackie* (both have observed Jeremiah in his classroom) and we thought they were in agreement with us. But when Karla called Justin earlier this month, she said the final decision was up to her and the principal, she was very abrasive and said the decision was…


What? Karla’s never observed Jeremiah, yet she was making this decision which would affect the rest of his life. We also thought it odd that the principal had sided with her, because we weren’t getting that vibe.

“Don’t allow educators who’ve never observed your child make monumental decisions for them.”

Karla said there were three criteria that determine retention, and Jeremiah has to meet two of the three. They are: 1) The child’s birthday falls within ten days of the cutoff. 2) The child is ONLY socially or emotionally delayed. 3) The child has only attended one year of preschool.

Jeremiah’s birthday falls so close to #1 that Karla was willing to let that one slide (all sarcasm included in that statement). He didn’t meet #3 because this is his second year of preschool.

And about #2. Jeremiah didn’t meet that one because he’s more than socially or emotionally delayed. Basically it was explained to us, in Karla’s opinion (yes, the woman who has NEVER met my son), if Jeremiah were to attend preschool one more year he wouldn’t be socially and emotionally caught up. This criteria is set up for those who they have the “hope” of developing in those areas.

Not cool.

So, in the mind of the preschool director, the decision was final. However, she didn’t know that in our minds it wasn’t. I began talking with therapists, and trying to get ahold of his doctor and the psychologist who diagnosed him. I was gathering letters and information on the importance of him repeating preschool one more year, to set him up for success in the future. My gathering wasn’t going well, because I couldn’t get a phone consult with his doctor, and the psychologist is unreachable in the time I have to make phone calls (without a little guy jumping through the house screaming).


But I had a big surprise (such wonderful news that I bawled when I read it) last Wednesday when I opened my emails. There was an email from Jeremiah’s case manager (yes, there are several people involved). She said the school board had changed the entrance birthday/age for Kindergarten enrollment. They moved it back two months, so this means Jeremiah won’t be five by the selected date,

so he can’t move on to Kindergarten!

In the end, the school board made the decision for us. Jeremiah will attend preschool another year. Wooohooo! Everyone who was in support of him staying in preschool, which is everyone minus two, is laughing at the situation. It’s funny how some were sticking their heels in, staunchly against Jeremiah staying another year, and behold the decision was made FOR them, and they were taken out of the equation. As one person involved said, “I call this sweet justice.”

We spoke with the principal, and she said she had no part in the decision to move Jeremiah into Kindergarten. I don’t know what Karla’s problem is, but it seems she can’t get her facts straight.

God is watching over these kids, He shows His protection over them continually; new programs popping up, and our kids are the first to go through, new services becoming available, beginning with these two, and BIG decisions made by school boards that affect Jeremiah. It’s been amazing to watch.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Some other posts that may be of interest:
Out of My Mind – including special needs
what is inclusion?

does your child like their therapist? (adoption/foster)



*These tips are for those who use therapy to help their children, I am not recommending that all parents take their children to a therapist.

In We’re Our Child’s Best Therapist, I wrote about how, well, exactly that, we’re our child’s best therapist. Why? Because we know them best and we are with them more. This doesn’t mean every family who has a therapist on board should chuck them out the window, that’s not what I’m saying. However, it’s imperative to take home what you learn in the therapy office and implement the techniques at home. You can ask your child’s therapist what they suggest you do to follow through.

They may have you ask your child questions in a different way, look for triggers that upset your child, or provide sensory activities for your child. (All of these recommendations are great initiatives even if they aren’t recommended by the therapist.) You are an essential component to your child’s healing, the more you can help your child outside of the therapist’s office, the better they’ll do.

You will also need to use your intuition. Intuition comes in handy throughout all aspects of adoption related issues. Always keep your antennas up when introduced to new advice coming in. Weigh it and decide whether you’re comfortable with what you’re being told (whether you’re reading it in a book, blog, or website, or hearing from a friend, relative, or professional), or what’s being done with your child.

Our experience with an attachment therapist taught me the importance of listening to my Mommy Intuition (Dad’s also have this intuition if they’re involved with their kids). Not all attachment therapists are like the one we met with, but it’s important to be aware of what the therapist is doing with your child. If, at any time you feel they are doing anything harmful (emotionally or physically) you have the right to stop it immediately.

This may be embarrassing for some of you, and you may be in a situation where you think if you wait it out, it will get better. Understand that you are your child’s voice, younger children may not say anything if they’re uncomfortable, or know how to express what they think or feel. If your older child comes from a neglectful or abusive background they may not say anything either.

The therapist we took my daughter to didn’t hurt her physically, but it two visits she made it very clear to Payton that her behavior was her fault, without even getting to know her. She told Payton how horrible she’d been to us. This is true, but Payton wasn’t acting out towards us, being belligerent, controlling, and manipulative because she wanted to, it stemmed from her early childhood, and blaming a child does not heal them.

The second therapy session took it even further. She didn’t physically harm Payton, but it was traumatic for her. I made a HUGE mistake that day. When you have a child that is so out of control, and you’ve worked with dozens of kids and had great success, you’re at a loss for what to do when it comes to your attachment challenged child. What I didn’t realize like so many others is it takes time + consistency + compassion + dedication + so many other ingredients. I thought this attachment therapist could help. I was wrong. There are therapists who can help hurting kids, she just wasn’t the one.

Another therapist, Scott Chaussee, had been available to us through the Department of Human Services. We’d only utilized his services on a couple occasions. (He’s the one who taught us the healing benefits of rocking and helped us with Payton’s sleep issues.) We hadn’t talked to him in a few years, but he called days after that therapy session that went completely wrong. Go ahead and tell me there’s no God and I’ll give you dozens of instances such as this.

Scott wanted to do a brain scan on Payton (Dr. Bruce Perry had trained him – how awesome is that?), and while he was in our home we talked about the attachment therapist. I wanted to get his opinion since he was familiar with attachment and was of the same opinions as Dr. Bruce Perry. In the end, he said that if someone doesn’t like their therapist, adult or child, then he doesn’t see how therapy can take place. He also said he feels play therapy works best for children who come from traumatic backgrounds.

On the first point, I definitely see what Scott is saying. If I was supposed to talk to, open up to, and receive direction from someone I didn’t like, therapy would fail. Scott is right, it’s the same for our kids. If our child doesn’t like going to therapy, what benefit is it? If the relationship between therapist and child is stressed, how will meeting with that therapist help your child heal? I don’t think it will.

You’ll have to be careful and use that intuition I mentioned earlier, because if you have an older child or teen, they may hate therapy, because, well they don’t want to be there. They don’t like talking and it’s hard for them to delve into the past where the pain thrives. You will need to decide whether it’s the child making a ruckus because they don’t want to attend therapy or whether it’s a founded opinion. Listen to your child and validate their opinions, they may not be correct, but they have the right to be heard if they can share them appropriately.

If your child attends sessions alone and they share what’s going on, and red flags are raised, talk to the therapist. Ask your child if they would mind if you attend therapy with them for a while.

It’s also important to remember that older children may have been to therapy while with their bio parents or foster parents. You may not know what that experience was like for them, in fact there’s probably a considerable amount of their past you don’t know.

We can learn about our children, we can help them by listening to them and letting them open up to us (you can read how to do that here). Help your children by listening to your intuition, and be in contact with the therapist at all times.

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