A Tale Of Two Schools…

There are not going to be any pictures with this story.  It is soon going to be written in a paper.  I’m risking not being able to be represented by a lawyer by blogging about this, going to the papers (which I tried to do in the beginning), and by coming out.  There was an injustice done on behalf of my son, and I want to warn other parents that this could happen.  Especially, parents with children on the autism spectrum (particularly those with non-verbal or barely verbal children).

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This is a note from my son’s school in 2011.  It’s a nice note, if you didn’t read the entire notebook, and notice that every single note from September to November was essentially the same.  And even then it looks harmless.  The teacher has very pretty handwriting and the occasional smiley face would mislead you.  The story starts in May of 2011.

My husband was at some school for the Air Force, I call it “Major’s School,” because even though I am a veteran, I hardly cared for the “continuing education” or aka “officer indoctrination.”  My daughter attended a very nice Preschool, I don’t remember the name off the top of my head, and my son went to Beavercreek Main.  We were amazed at Beavercreek Main (in Beavercreek, OH), because in VA, we were told to send my child to a private special needs school.  We were happy with the self contained special needs school, until we went to our first meeting to get my son enrolled at school, and we were asked, “What do you want on his IEP?”  I was spitballing, and answered, “I want him mainstreamed with an aide.”  Figuring that that was some kind of pipe dream.  I was waiting for Ed McMahon to tell me to “Reach For The Stars…” Though he was long dead in 2011.

He had the best teacher, Mrs. Murphy (later teachers we found would be equally great).  The thing about my son, is he has a way with people.  I know perhaps I am biased, but my son gets people to like him. He touches people in a way I just cannot explain or imagine.  Other people can vouch for it.  Mrs. Murphy gave us everything we asked for.  He had a dedicated aide, who absolutely adored him.  He was in mainstreamed, he got asked to birthday parties.  He started to read spontaneously.  He was learning to write.  Everything was going great.  That fateful May, we found out that our orders to Barksdale AFB were denied, and we were going to Eglin AFB, FL.  I thought I would love FL, and I did love FL.  Even though Florida was where my dad died, Florida was where this story took place, and later Florida was where I was diagnosed with cancer.

We were excited to move to a tropical tourist trap, looking forward to our many visits with the Mouse, and excited about year round summer.  We bought a beautiful home in a town called Niceville.  You can’t lose with a town named Niceville!  It was like a dream. We had visited the school districts main office, because when you have a child with autism, that’s what you do.  We handed them a newly minted IEP (Individual Education Plan), and we were told that our children would be attending James E. Plew Elementary.  How can you disagree with a beautiful school with gardens, lizards, and butterflies.

A week before the packers came, we got a phone call.  The school district had changed their collective minds, and had told us, that the school was not staffed for our son, and he would be instead attending Lewis Elementary School.  Less than thrilled with that assessment, we said, “OK,” because we were promised that his IEP would be followed.  We got Niceville, and found out a few short months my husband would be returning to Barksdale for upgrade training.  He would be leaving us for about three months.  Great, I can handle being a single mother for that long.

I went and registered my kids at their respective schools.  My daughter’s school, Plew, was great, I met her teachers.  They showed me the kindergarten classrooms.  She was tested, and all was great.  I went to my son’s school, and alarm bells rang.  I was not allowed to meet his teacher, because she was busy moving into her classroom.  I was not allowed to meet my son’s para, because she/he was not assigned yet.  I was not allowed to even see the classroom.  The principle was less than impressive, and I told my husband before he left for his upgrade class that I had deep reservations about the school.  NOTE NUMBER ONE:  If you have deep reservations upon first going to a school, do NOT enroll your kid there.

I ignored my instinct, and we enrolled my son there.  A few weeks into August, I FINALLY got a call back from the teacher, and they FINALLY set up a meeting with her.  We met in an office, and again I was not allowed to see the room, as it was not completed yet (mind you school was in a week).  I was again not going to meet his mainstream teachers, because they were not available (again alarm bells).  We sat down and talked about my son.  I told them that I knew that my child was capable of being a little brat, but he was a good kid.  He was off that day, because he was on a drug called risperadon, which affected his ability to regulate his body temperature.  I didn’t know this, but they were already formulating a case for my son to be placed in a self-contained classroom.

The evening before the first day of school, we visited the school, and were surprised to see that our son was going to be in a self-contained classroom with eight other children with significant disabilities.  It was a small room, it was a converted band room.  I was informed that my son was going to be sent into the first grade room ALONE, without a para-professional, and then pulled out if he acted up.  Which was NOT what was in the IEP they promised they would follow.  I was then informed that they were going to write a new IEP without testing my son, “To make the placement LEGAL…”  NOTE:  If they need to write a new IEP without testing that “to make the placement legal,” means that the school district has no f*$*ing intention of following the LEGAL IEP.  And again we should have instantly pulled him from the school district.

But we didn’t, instead both my husband and I decided that perhaps the school was right, and he needed a trial period in a self contained classroom to “get used” to the school.  My husband left the first day of school, and when my son got home.  The first of many negative notes.  About a week later I received another note.  My son had solicited a sexual act from another student.  Apparently, he looked her in the eye, pulled out his penis, and told her to “lick it.”  It was odd, because my son would not look ME in the eye.  He did have the tendency to pull out his penis, but it was rare.  And he would not engage in conversation with another human being, much less another child.  It was really concerning, because there is a history of sexual abuse in our family (long story, and I’m not going to write about it).

Anyway, I was terrified.  We were to meet with the school at the end of the week.  My husband came home early to attend the meeting.  We thought that we were going to be involved in a long investigation, because we both knew that a child, who is sexually aggressive is a sign of sexual abuse.  We went to the meeting.  I was surprised that there were just two teachers, no principle, no resource officer, and no other parents.  The teachers had said that they didn’t want it to become a big investigation and they didn’t want to involve the other parents.  They just wanted my son to wear pants every day at school.  I was suspicious, but my husband was amiable to their request.  I kept thinking to myself, if my son actually “did” what they said he did, then shouldn’t there be an investigation?  Is there something happening, or did something happen to my son?  Aren’t they mandated reporters?  Why wouldn’t they report my son’s actions to the police, because technically, my son committed a crime?  Why was this all fixed by being agreeable to wearing pants?  NOTE: If your child is accused of being sexually inappropriate, that is a SIGN that there is sexual abuse going on, even in autistic individuals.  Teachers are mandated reporters, those teachers broke a major law by not reporting suspected abuse.

So like good little automatons, we sent our son to school in pants.  The screaming, swearing, and other behaviors did not stop with pants.  Every single day there was a note in his backpack complaining about him– his behavior, his swearing, or his inappropriate behavior.  I got to the point were if I did his homework with him, he still would get an F.  There was nothing I could do that would satisfy them.  What’s worse, even though the notebook was full of frilly writing and smiley faces despite negative reports every day, the teacher started telling me that he was annoying, he was obnoxious, or that he was bad.  So every day I got the notebook full of negative reports, then I would be verbally reinforced with him being call obnoxious.  About three weeks after the whole exposing himself and soliciting a BJ from another student happened, he had a massive tantrum.  NOTE: If you are getting continual negative reports which are not adding up to what you are experiencing at home or in ABA therapy, there is SOMETHING going on.

The tantrum, though mentioned vaguely in at home notebook, was significant.  My son had a tendency to bang his head.  He normally did not bang it hard, or against hard objects.  At some point during the day, my son had banged his head against a desk 14 times.  He complained that he could not see.  The teacher in question hypothesized that he was “trying to get out of going to gym,” or that it was “pink eye” that he was treated for some two weeks ago.  She never intervened, she never called me when it happened, and she never sent him to the nurse when he complained he couldn’t see.  I called the pediatric clinic on base immediately after he was unceremoniously shoved into my car, and again the teacher complained of his annoying behavior.  The pediatric clinic told me to take him to the ER.  I did so.  The ER doctor hypothesized that Ryan had either bumped his cornea, or he had had a seizure.  Months later we discovered that it was a seizure.  NOTE: A child should not bump, bang, or otherwise hurt himself 14 times without intervention.  I specifically signed a release that allowed his special education teacher to perform a therapeutic hold if my son was a danger to himself or others.

Sadly, a few months later, it was confirmed that he had had a seizure.  Further testing from his behavioral therapy team indicated that he had regressed significantly.  When leaving Ohio, he was tested at functioning at just below grade level (kindergarten), after the head banging incident he tested at a 2-year-old level.  His IQ was at a 70, which was borderline cognitively delayed, it has since dropped significantly.  His IQ fell several points, and is now considered severely cognitively delayed.

We have since moved from Florida, and now live in Colorado.  My son is mainstreamed with an aide.  He has pull outs for Science, Social Studies, Art, and Music.  The reason I was told that he was never mainstreamed was because the kids would bully and tease him.  He has never been bullied here.  The kids know him and like him.  He is actually popular.  The only people I worried about bullying him were teachers.  The psychological staff, and staff at the school have made me feel more comfortable about his school situation.  This situation could have been totally preventable if the school district had just been forthright with their policies of self-contained classroom, and being sent to a separate school than what we were zoned for.  If we had been informed about the school situation before we had enrolled him.

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This is a note from the private placement we ended up placing our son in.  Notice the teachers have awesome handwriting, but it does not contain anything about his tantrums, him being inattentive, complaints about his behavior, nothing.  Nearly every day at ECAC my son came in happy, and he made progress towards his goals.  It has taken nearly four years for him to progress beyond functioning at a 2-year-old level, and now he has progressed to the point were he was when we arrived in Florida.

If you want to skip the long drawn out story, here’s the recap:

  1.  Trust your instincts.  If there are alarm bells regarding your child, their placement, or their behavior, dig deeper.
  2. If your child is accused of something completely out of character, or doesn’t make sense, ask for an investigation, particularly if your child does something that is sexually aggressive or inappropriate.
  3. When you have a non-verbal, or barely verbal child, and their behavior is drastically different between school, home, and therapy ask questions.
  4. A child should not be injuring themselves more than 1 or 2 times.  I understand kids are fast, but there is NO reason for a child to self injure 14 times with no intervention.  Further, if something does happen, which it sometimes does, request that the teachers administer first aid, send the child to the nurse, or notify the parent immediately.
  5. If there are negative reports, make sure the reports are actionable.  Teachers should not use words like irritating, annoying, or obnoxious.  If your child is being described in adjectives like this, then you need to speak to administrators.
  6. Report abuse immediately, and follow up.  The ER doctor submitted a DHS report, which was subsequently “lost” by the school district.  If I had followed up, the teacher would have been fired instead of promoted to principle.

My son’s case is finally getting the attention that it deserves.  There have been at least three instances of children abused at the different districts as recent as 2016.  I know of five cases of abuse before and after 2011.  The systematic abuse of non-verbal and non-communicative children in Okaloosa County has been occurring from before 2011-now.  Parents need to come forward, and tell their stories.

http://weartv.com/news/local/okaloosa-county-educators-arrested-for-abuse-of-autistic-child

http://www.crestviewbulletin.com/news/20170627/baker-teacher-charged-with-child-abuse

http://www.thedestinlog.com/news/20171011/state-steps-in-to-discipline-child-abuse-at-silver-sands

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/526/680/416/no-more-abusive-teachers/

http://www.nwfdailynews.com/news/20171011/jackson-wants-her-own-lawyer-district-would-foot-bill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am Groot

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Photo courtesy of Disney and Marvel copyright 2014

I Am Groot

When I watch television, movies, and even the news in April, I see lots of stories and information about autism.  I am aware that April is Autism Awareness month, for my family autism isn’t relegated to one month, rather it is every day, every month, every year.  We are more aware of autism than the average family.  My son, Ryan has autism.

When I have asked people, who are not as aware as I am about autism, what they think autism is?  They point to characters on television shows, movies, and children and adults in the media, who have autism.  Nearly every single person, or character, with autism is high functioning.  Prime examples are Forrest Gump, Max from Parenthood, Dr. Latham from “Chicago Med,” even the kid who shot all the baskets, the kid who was voted homecoming king.  The media turns a blind eye towards people with autism, who are not high functioning.  My son is one of those people.  Until very recently, there are no mention of lower functioning adults and children in the movies, television, or even in the news.  In 2014, Marvel Comics finally produced a movie that showed a character with limited speech in a very positive light.

You may ask who?  My answer is “I am Groot.”  We first saw the first “Guardians of The Galaxy” movie a few years ago, and my daughter was the first to notice that Groot was my son.  She said that our family was Rocket.  For those that do not know comic book, Marvel, or the movies, I’ll explain.  Groot and Rocket are a pair of bounty hunters that are looking for Star Lord.  Groot is played by Vin Diesel.  Rocket is voiced by Bradley Cooper.  Groot is a large tree creature.  The only thing he says throughout the entire movie is— “I am Groot.”  His partner Rocket, a walking, talking raccoon, translates based on context, body language, and intonation what every “I am Groot” means.  That’s what we do with my son.  Our family has become master interpreters for our son.  We know the meaning behind every phrase.

My son on the other hand is just like Groot, from his mannerisms to his monotonous speech, but he is also like Groot in other aspects.  Groot defends his friends with ferocity.  He has a really wicked sense of humor, and pretty good dance moves.  At the end of the movie, Groot sacrifices himself for his friends.  He grows into a dome that protects the rest of the Guardians from dying while their ship crashes.  While he grows, he transforms the environment to a beautiful starlit dome.  And he says one phrase while sacrificing himself, “We are Groot.”  This statement makes Rocket realizes Groot’s intention, and he begs him not to sacrifice himself.  In the epilogue we see a new baby Groot, who dances and sings to “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5.  Like Groot, my son is brave, strong, caring, with a wicked sense of humor, he is smart, and when he says something, often it is so profound and meaningful.

In the waning days of the month of April, I changed my profile picture to Baby Groot.  I have posted “I am Groot” (sometimes I include emojis to show my mood) at random times throughout the day.  I have responded to other people’s posts with “I am Groot.”  Most people haven’t asked me why, some think that I’m being facetious, sarcastic, or I’m just a moron.  To the few that have asked why, I messaged them my reasoning (I have also posted it on my wall), and I encourage other parents to do the same to bring awareness of children (and adults) with autism and other developmental disabilities with limited language skills.  So in honor of my son, Ryan, “We are Groot.”

I Have A Teenager…

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Thirteen years ago today I gave birth to my first born.  This little boy has taught me the most indelible lessons one could learn.  He taught me about how patient, kind, and enduring love is.  He is one of the most honest, loving, human beings on this Earth.

The story of his birth is amazing.  I found out at around 7 months that I was pregnant with, but at one point in the pregnancy, his twin reabsorbed leaving an empty placenta.  I had severe pre-eclampsia, and nearly went into cardiac arrest during the c-section.  A few hours later, I got to meet him.

The first couple of years of his life was harrowing.  He tested positive for PKU, but it was a false positive.  He caught rota virus at 3 months old, and was hospitalized in Germany.  His daddy deployed to a war zone for five months (which was a blessing considering the Army unit we were stationed with was gone MUCH longer).  At 12 months, he had a severe reaction to the MMR vaccine and was hospitalized yet again.

After he had turned a year, his development slowed down considerably.  Eventually, at 26 months old, he was diagnosed with autism.  He is on moderate to severe end of the spectrum.  He is barely verbal, but often what he says and does is profound.  He has the capacity to change the people around him.  Most, who meet him, work with him, or educate him are never the same.

He has made me a much better person.  He is wonderful person, and I am privileged to be his mother.

I Am Not From The Same Planet

Today on Facebook, I was called a libtard, I was told that I am the worst parent in the world, and that my kids must be spoiled rotten brats.  Why would someone say something so horrible to someone they don’t know?  Because I vocalized my opinion on a story that has gone viral down in Lower Alabama.  A grandfather was arrested in Birmingham for spanking his grandchildren at McDonald’s.

First of all, spanking is completely legal in Alabama.  Secondly, I have NO issue if you want to spank your kids.  Thirdly, I am not the vindictive type of person, who would call the authorities on child being spanked in public, unless you are the type of person who hits your child with a closed fist.  Hell, I spanked my kids a long time ago, but something happened around seven years ago that completely changed my mind.

My daughter was three, and per being part of the nuclear inspection team after a major nuclear weapons incident, my husband was gone inspecting something.  My daughter had done something, I don’t really remember what, but it was something typical of a three year old that garnered the reaction of me spanking her on the butt.  I gave her a spanking, and when I was done and about to explain to her why she had “deserved” that punishment, because that’s what every good spanking mom does.  She hit me, and said, “bad momma, you shouldn’t hit.”

In that one moment, I became utterly confused.  I sent her to her room, and told her not to hit.  It was in that moment, I realized I had two options.  I could punish her more for hitting me, by hitting her, and she is the type of child that would have hit me again.  Or I could change my parenting approach.  I realized in that moment that spanking her was not going to work.  She had outwitted me.

Of course I get the, “How did you teach her not to run into the street, or touch hot things without spanking her?”  Simple, I told her that if you run into the street, you could get hit by a car.  I kept a close eye on her, and didn’t allow her to go near the street.  It didn’t require me to hit her if she got close to the street.  It just required me to say, “Hey Sophie, come here, you are too close to the street.”  If she didn’t come, I would go to her, and grab her.  Again did not require me to hit her to get the point across.  She never really ran into the street.  Same goes for the oven.  She would get close to the oven, I would say, “it’s hot, don’t touch.”  If she got too close I would remove her.  And one time she did touch it, and got a little burn.  It hurt, it scared her, and she never touched the oven again.  It didn’t require me to smack her butt.

As for my son, when he was first diagnosed with autism, we were told that traditional discipline would not work, and could have dire consequences.  Namely, one therapist said, that spanking a child on the spectrum could cause them to become overly violent, or it could cause them to mistrust adults.  We stopped all corporal punishment after we were told this.  The only time he has ever injured me was completely accidental, and he has never purposefully been violent to anyone.

Well, the conclusion of the Internet parenting experts is that my children must walk all over me, they must be disrespectful, and they must be brats.  None of the above is true at all.  I’ll sing the praises of my children.  My son, the one with autism, is one of the most sensitive loving children a parent could ask for.  He has a wicked sense of humor, and his favorite thing in the world to do is tease everyone.  He has one of the most interesting tastes in music, and is a Boy Scout.  His best friend is Thor, my 100-lb Golden Retriever.

My daughter wants to be an ABA-therapist when she grows up.  She is polite, kind, and wicked smart.  She plays violin and sings in the church choir.  This summer she has decided to read the Bible cover-to-cover.  When I asked her why?  She said, she liked church stories.  Her favorite song is “How Great Thou Art.”  Trust me, I have a new found faith in God, but I am not nearly that religious.  She has said that when she gets married that her husband better love Ryan, because he will be living with her when she grows up.

The behavior of on-line commentators utterly confuses me.  I have said nothing about myself, my political leanings, or how my children are.  I have not judged any other parent for their parenting choices when it comes to discipline.  I am one of those parents, who thinks that if a discipline method works for you, and your family, go for it.  But I am also one of those parents, who believes in mutual respect.  That does not mean that I am best friends with my kids (yet, perhaps when they are older we can have a relationship like my mom and I), but it means that I respect them as human beings, and I feel (most of the time) they respect me.  I don’t believe in demanding respect by virtue of age, or experience.  For me respect doesn’t work that way.  It can’t be something forced, or demanded.  Respect is earned, and it can be taken away.

My kids are not these wild children that everyone complains about. They are not entitled, demanding, or spoiled.  They are good kids.  My parenting philosophy is if my kids are the type of kids a grandparent feels the need to discipline, the type of kids that people complain about, or are not respectful and polite, then I am the one who failed, and I need to fix the way I parent them, not the other way around.

 

Writer’s Block

Life

It has been at least two weeks since I last worked on the novel.  I touched it a few days ago, but lost interest– gotta love neurological conditions that do not allow you to concentrate on more than one thing at a time.  I did several mosaics the last few weeks, cleaned the house, concentrated on training, and did everything physically possible to do the one thing that puts me at complete ease.

The last few weeks and months have been crazy.  It started the last week of October when I had to do something incredibly difficult with my daughter.  To protect her privacy, I am not going to write about what happened, only the end result is another child diagnosed with another condition, and facing the decision again what medications are going to be best for what is happening.

On top of that, dealing with the lingering sadness of the loss of my dad, Ryan’s teacher, another child with autism, and just the suck of having to put on a happy face this holiday season.  But there is so much more to look forward to rather than looking back.  Good things have happened too:

My brother did a good thing, and sold a parcel of his business to a church that was expanding.  He is some of the money to my mom.

My son is now doing academics.  Though he is 12, he is now in Kindergarten.  This is a huge step forward from the full-on regression.

My daughter gets to finish up school in the same school she started Kindergarten in.  This is unheard of for military families, but a kind doctor, a great commander, and finally, a stroke of somewhat bad luck, we are staying in Florida another year.

Despite writers block, I am making some headway with the novel.  I am also applying for an MBA program to go back work.  I would like to return to professional work, and I know now that I will not be able to unless I have updated professional skills.  It’s just a matter of deciding what school and what program.

Besides going back to work and school, my running is on an uptick.  I’m averaging around 40-50 miles per week.  I’m as skinny as I when I was in the Air Force.  I’m in a size 2, which I am absolutely thrilled about.  I have four races on the calendar, and I’m no longer injured.  I do have some residual soreness, but it’s not the pain I was experiencing last year.

Another Star Wars movie is coming out in three weeks, and I snagged tickets to it.  Writing can wait.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas…

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I am one of those people.  Our neighborhood decorates for Halloween.  My son insists on putting our Halloween lights in September, before everyone else in the neighborhood.  I try to hold off putting up some of the more obvious Halloween decorations until the middle of October.  Once October hits, he is insistent we get pumpkins.  The years my husband was deployed during Halloween, I ended up getting not one, but TWO sets of pumpkins, because the first set ended up going bad before Trick or Treaters came.

The day after Halloween, I take down the orange lights, and start getting my Christmas stuff out.  As soon as I go outside with the lights and trimmings, my neighbors pass by and roll their eyes at me.  I have even gotten some hateful comments.  One of our neighbors even came by and took pictures, and asked the HOA if it was “legal” for me to put up lights this early.  Most of the neighbors are compassionate once they find out the reason.

My 11-year-old child has moderate autism.  He never asks for ANYTHING for Christmas.  He is not one of those kids that asks for iPhone, expensive toys, or brand name clothing.  The only thing he has ever asked for for Christmas is Christmas lights.  He wants them up after Halloween, and taken down well into January.  After he is done with trick-or-treating, he wants me to play Christmas music while I drive him to school.  His favorite is Barenaked Ladies version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings,” and I listen to that song 5-6 times on the ride to and from school from November 1st to January 8th.  He asks for me to sing “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” at bedtime year round.  Christmas is my son’s favorite holiday :).

So make fun away!  Complain about it on Facebook!  It’s not going to deter me from doing something to make a child happy.  My parents always make Christmas happy for us, because my grandpa passed away Christmas Day when I was two-years-old.  My dad passed away this summer, his birthday is near Christmas.  My son was diagnosed with autism just after Christmas.  Christmas is a painful time for me.  The way I look at it, it helps me feel better about this painful time, and it brings a smile to my child’s face.  Merry Christmas!

 

Dear General…

This is an open letter to beg you to allow us to stay where we are living.  Last week, my husband, a school select for Air War College, found out that he was alternate this year on the school list.  Well, to the non-military reading this, you may ask, well, what the heck does that mean?  It means nothing, and it means everything.  Basically, if someone elects to retire, gets in trouble, or for some other reason not known to anyone, turns down school, my husband may go in their place.  It also means that we have no choice, say, or input on where my husband goes to school.  It means that if he is picked up for school, we will likely be separated for 10-12 months until my husband graduates from school, and gets a follow on assignment.  Since we have also been at this base for a longer than normal period of time (thanks to several doctors and extremely understanding commanders), we are also “hot” for a new assignment.

I understand that I’m just a military wife, and you probably think that I have little to no understanding of how the military works.  Here’s my background, I am a veteran.  I am also a mom to two children with different challenges.  My son has moderate autism, and my daughter is incredibly gifted (and is being evaluated for autism– on the higher end of the spectrum, or ADHD).  The last time we moved everything with my son went tragically wrong.  We essentially “lost” my son– he went from functioning at around a 5-6 year old child (he was 7) to functioning at the level of a 2-year-old.  He was abused at his public school, and wrote to everyone and their mother for help.  Help came a little bit too late, and it has take YEARS for him to return to where he was when we first came here.  He is just NOW catching up.  I know that most generals have children, I ask you to think about what you would do, and how you would feel if your child regressed at that rate.

We have fought and fought to get him where he is today.  If you request my husband to come work for you, thereby deny the reclama that his very understanding commander is about to fill out, and then force my family to move.  If my husband ends up going to school in 2017, it can be very bad for my son.  It takes a REALLY long time to set up services for an autistic child after a military PCS.  It takes equally as long for that child to develop a relationship with his therapists.  By moving us this summer, and with the increased likelihood that my husband will go to school in 2017, you will make him move twice in less than a year, or you will force us into a geo-bachelor situation.

I understand as a military wife, that there are separations.  That’s part of the life that I lead.  I don’t mind them when they become necessary.  I don’t mind the deployments.  I don’t mind the two week TDYs every month, and I have learned how to be a military wife, counselor, taxi cab, teacher, mother, father, and whatever other role I need to do, so that my children have the support that they need.  The separations that bother me, are the ones that are completely and totally preventable by taking a family’s situation into consideration when making decisions regarding one of the family member’s career.  This is one of those situations.  Many of the bases where the senior developmental schools are located are bases that my children and I cannot go to, because of EFMP limitations.

If we stay here, and he was sent to the school that is 3-4 hours away, my husband would be able to participate in my children’s lives.  My son has made amazing strides when by participating in weekend activities with typical children.  These activities are paramount to his continued development.  He will be in Boy Scouts next year (he is Arrow of Light right now), he also plays soccer in the fall for the VIP special education league, and baseball in the spring league for the VIP league.  While I can do soccer and baseball on my own, Boy Scouts will not only difficult, it will be impossible, and it would detrimental to my son’s development.  This is the ONLY activity were he is in contact with typical children– again this is PARAMOUNT to his continued development.  If my husband is far away, and cannot come home on the weekends, my son cannot participate in Boy Scouts.  While I can attend many of the weekend activities with him, women are not allowed on most of the camping trips.  He cannot progress in Boy Scouts, an activity he loves, and needs, without going on those camping trips.  There is no one else who can go with him.  My father passed away this past summer, and even if he was alive, his health is poor.  My father-in-law is unfortunately, untrustworthy, and will not attend camping with my son.  There are not many men in our lives that understands, or tolerates my son’s behavior.

I understand that the needs of the Air Force come before my needs, or my son’s needs, but I ask for compassion and understanding when it comes to making your decisions.  I ask that you please listen to my husband’s boss in this matter, and read this.  With raising rates of autism and ADHD among the military population, I am not the only parent facing this obstacle.  I also am aware that my husband has the option of turning down schooling all together, but I also know that by turning down school, he is putting future progression in the military at risk.  Recently, in SpouseBuzz there was an article that states that military families with special needs children tend to stay in the military as long as possible to take advantage of the premier health care.  We are one of those families.  We don’t want to do anything to jeopardize my husband’s ability to stay in the military beyond 20 years.

I know that this letter is a lot of rambling, and I hope you can understand why I am doing this.  Please don’t take it out on my husband, we don’t need a general inquiry, and please don’t have the Chief of Staff spouse call me (the last time I wrote a letter like this, I was told to shut up and color by the AF Chief of Staff’s spouse).  The way I look at it, my primary duty is to my children, and I will say and do what needs to be said and done to advocate for my children.  I see it as my duty to show you how much power you have over the outcome of my children.  I hope you see this as a means of educating you, and not something more.  Thank-you very much for your service to our country.

Sincerely,

Jodi