Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My son gets all As and Bs, but he won’t graduate from high school

Every quarter Nick and I are invited to a special “Honor’s Breakfast,” a breakfast hosted by the school in honor of the kids who make the honor roll.

My son has made the honor roll every single quarter since he started middle school--two years ago--because he gets As and Bs on his report card--and he’s in a special needs class.

A Special. Needs. Class. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always proud of him, and, lately, I’m proud of the fact that he has taken an interest in reading his own report card and noting the good grades and the few comments some of his teachers have written about him in the special comments section.

I’m glad that he does well in school and that he knows it, too. But my problem is this:

Since he’s in special needs and that he does not follow the typical curriculum, but, instead, a modified curriculum designed for him and for his needs--then what is the actual measure used in grading him?

I already know the answer to this question. There’s no measure. He is not at the top of his class because he is not competing with his class; he's receiving good grades for simply doing the work given to him and learning the information at his own pace. He receives a good grade for simply moving forward and, well, learning.

And of course I’m very proud of him for this and for his quarterly achievements--even if it’s not based on the same academic performance and measure of his typical peers… And I will always be proud of him for whatever he works hard for and achieves; I tell him this all the time, because I know it matters.

But what I do worry about is that even though he’s doing well and receiving good grades based on this modified criteria, he will not meet the requirements to graduate from high school. That is: he will not wear a cap and gown and walk to the football field or march through the gymnasium to partake in the ultimate celebration of his life--and receive his diploma--the very same diploma that demonstrates his years of hard work and achievements. In other words: he can attend quarterly honor breakfasts and chew down some donuts, cupcakes and bagels, but he won’t be attending a graduation--or a “congraduation,” as he calls it.

Ironic, isn’t it?

The biggest problem is that he knows all about this “congraduation” and that one wears a cap and gown on their “big day”; a day that I believe he’s looking forward to just as much as he’s looking forward to finally leaving school, but I don’t have the heart to ask. It’s actually funny because I joined Facebook about a month or two ago and one of my classmates from high school found an old picture of our high school graduation ceremony. It was funny to see, but not all that fun for me, because I know that my son will not have one of his own to look back on, some twenty five years later, or to simply remember the day fondly.

And I would love to show him this picture because I know how tickled pink he would be to see an old school photo of me, especially at my high school graduation ceremony and all decked out in my cap and gown …for my congraduation…

But I can’t bring myself to show him the picture.

Btw: I'm third in from the left, front row.

14 comments:

babs m said...

Well that's a punch in the gut. :( I'm just getting my head around showing Little Miss through the puberty years--I hadn't thought as far as graduation yet. Geez. Is that really possible? She couldn't graduate just because she's in autism support half the day? Guess I've got more to worry about than I thought....

Anonymous said...

Geez, I didn't know that either. They can't let them walk with their peers? They can't let them experience a sense of accomplishment? They can't let them don a cap and gown and give them some sort of certificate? I say we start lobbying for it. I know Nigel wants to graduate too.

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

Um, that was me, that second comment. I was aiming for the shift key and hit enter by mistake!

Holly Nappi Collins said...

I don't know how your state works, but in Mass. if he doesn't pass our state's standardized test, then no. He actually will stay in a school program until he is 22. I haven't told him that part either...

I still have lots to learn about his adult years and a work program... I believe that will come next year.

It's an interest issue because if he could graduate from high school then life would be harder for him as far a supports... so there is a "hope he doesnt graduate" issue looming...

I do plan to do what I can to let him attend the graduation...if he wants to.

Holly Nappi Collins said...

I did find this information:
http://www.susanohanian.org/show_special_news.html?id=150

stated that kids with special needs can still attend graduation with their peers but will get a certificate...It's a state-by-state thing, so check with your state and school district..

Anonymous said...

You have been reading my mind Holly... 6th grade Tommy had all As last quarter, and this quarter one teacher already warned, well.. informed him that she only gave him a B. We have a typical school peer come over often, she was almost unable to keep her lips sealed when Tommy went on and on about his straight As.... so I was having some of the same thoughts about the grading system.
Off topic.. I went searching for homework crisis help and found your blog... do you have any suggestions... he would rather get in trouble, argue, distract.. anything to not have to do it. And I know he can do it. It is partly his fine motor skills and the writing, but the typing is just as tough since he hasn't mastered the keyboard. I need a fresh idea.
Thanks, Adrienne In South Windsor CT (I am not an official blog member)

Holly Nappi Collins said...

Adrienne,
Oh I do understand homework problems... Nick has always complained about doing homework and gets easily frustrated halfway through... Personally, I help him through the assignments the best way I can and reward him when he finishes, with tv or video games, chocolate...

Perhaps another reader will offer some other helpful advice.

ps. there is no official blog member...everyone and anyone can commment.. and I'm glad you did.

Mama Mara said...

If your school doesn't allow him to get a "completion certificate" with his peers on graduation day, maybe it's about time they started. Go get 'em, you fearless female!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Holly,
This link is to a great form that we already filled out this afternoon.

http://printables.familyeducation.com/forms-and-charts/school-forms/51511.html

It turned out to be a no homework day, but I did have him work on a long term project for a half hour. And we filled out the form.

I am so happy to have found your blog. I look forward to checking out your previous posts.
Thanks for sharing a part of yourself and helping us remember that we are not alone!
Kindly, Adrienne

Holly Nappi Collins said...

Adrienne, Thanks for sharing that link, it looks very helpful...

Em said...

Holly, can I leave TWO comments? I apologize for using your blog as a conduit, but in reading your comments, the "anonymous" commentor (who seems to be adrienne from South Windsor) lives in the same town we do. We are in South Windsor. If you want to somehow connect us, I would be happy to talk with her about our school district and maybe share some ideas. You can direct her to my blog perhaps...as a way of connecting us?

Thanks. And thanks for being the middle man. LOL

Em said...

And now, my REAL comment...

Reading your post really communicated both the pride and the heartbreak you are feeling over all this. You are so happy that your son is learning and so proud of his progress. But knowing he will not walk across the stage is awful. Like other comments, I thought it was always possible to be in graduation and just receive a certificate of completion. But at least you get the honor and the fun of participating!

Even if the suits in the state capital have said "no"...don't underestimate the power of the IEP. Those federal laws so often over-ride state and local laws. Having him participate might become an IEP goal???

Either way, I really hope this works out for you and him. Son18 is attending high school for five years instead of four...but will be part of graduation when he finally finishes. I'm not sure how much he cares. But we care. LOL

Alicia said...

My son has a form of Autism too. He's almost 8yrs. old. He calls "graduation" "congratuation" too, I thought it was the cutest thing, I wrote it in his journal. I think it's a terrible thing they won't let your son graduate with his peers. It is good that your son has a mom who is so sensitive to his needs and feelings. You are more important than his peers even if he doesn't see that now.

hope4jackson said...

This topic is close to my heart. My son is just in 5th grade, but the writing is on the wall. He will receive a "certificate of attendance". We live in Indiana, a state that allows that "certificate". Glad to have found your blog thru a friend.