Montessori education for autism

Broken Promises

FAPE: Broken Promises

Amajor theme in our personal saga has been a consistent lack of support from our public special education system.  Despite our good-faith efforts, our relationship with them evolved into an adversarial one that sadly compounded, rather than alleviated, the agony we have experienced as a result of the diagnosis.  To this day, we struggle to make sense of this counterproductive and self-serving system.

Like other children with disabilities, our son is theoretically entitled by federal law to “free and appropriate public education” or FAPE.  In reality, we spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in independent evaluations, legal fees, etc., in efforts to secure appropriate therapies and educational placement for him over the years.  We always acted in good faith and in full cooperation with the school district.  Yet, every year, we were presented with an illogical educational plan and a completely inappropriate placement.  I personally visited multiple placements in our district, and others, in the hope of  somehow, somewhere finding a meaningful and appropriate program for David I would have grabbed even a mediocre opportunity just for short-term relief, since I was physically and emotionally exhausted, but I couldn’t find anything that came close.  Although I met some talented and dedicated special education teachers and therapists, nowhere did I see evidence of intensive, individualized, and scientifically based programming in place that would promote my son’s remediation.

We were advised by other parents, and even special education lawyers, to place our son in a district-proposed placement for a year to document regression—just for a better chance to prevail at a potential BSEA (Bureau of Special Education Appeals) hearing.  However, we could not fathom this option considering the slow progress our David was making at the time and his susceptibility to regression. As a result, each year we were compelled to reject the inadequate IEP and services, and to continue with our unilateral home program.  To add insult to injury, we were classified as non-cooperative parents by the school district.

Shortly after David was diagnosed, my husband and I started investigating other school districts in hopes of securing appropriate services for our son.  However, as I researched special education services in other districts and heard personal accounts from dozens of families on my online parent network, it became clear that our district was not an aberration.  I learned that FAPE, despite its admirable objective, suffers from systemic flaws and is not well structured to meet the unique educational challenges of the children with autism.