4 mins read

An Autistic Child Loses a Teacher Mid-Term

My child with autism is mainstreamed into a “regular” classroom. Always has been. During his entire school career, he’s had an aide. However, he’s used to having a general education teacher and being around typical kids. For the most part, his peers are also used to him (and his aide).

This year, however, has been quite the challenge.

What happened?

For 6th grade, my son was assigned to an incoming (new) teacher. This teacher was transferring into the elementary school from a charter school. She had elementary school experience and we were very happy to discover the she had personal special needs experience as well. She told us she had helped to raise her two autistic nephews.

Once again, we felt Lady Lucky was following us around!

Did things so smoothly?

Not really.

At first, she missed a bit of time due to a family member’s illness.

Then, she got an illness and began missing time even more time.

She missed about two weeks, tried to come back to work, but then missed more time.

Just when I thought we were finally going to get some consistency, she began to miss work yet again. Apparently, her illness returned and she just couldn’t shake it.

What happened at this point?

My son went on winter break for two and a half weeks.

I assumed that whatever illness was bothering my son’s teacher would be cured by a long winter break.

I was surprised when my son told me after his first day back that that his teacher was not there.

That afternoon, I emailed the principal, “Can we know what’s happening to my son’s teacher?”

The principal told us that a letter was going out the next day to inform all the 6th graders that my son’s teacher was taking a leave of absence until the end of February. The principal was in the process of bringing in a substitute that would be able to consistently take over the class for that period of time.

For how long exactly?

Well, we don’t know. And, I’m sure neither does the teacher.

How did we handle this with my son?

I explained to my son that his teacher is a human being, she has a life, but sometimes that personal life gets in the way. I stressed to him that I was sure she’d rather be healthy and teaching. She didn’t do anything (get sick) on purpose. This was unexpected for all of us, including the teacher, but sometimes life throws those pesky curveballs.

He was just going to have to accept this unexpected change and do his best.

I have some concerns, however.

What are those concerns?

I’m not unsympathetic, but I do wonder how long she’ll be out.

I would love to know if her leave of absence will extend to the end of the school year, or not. That way, our son could be better informed.

Are there any other issues?

A new teacher was found. I contacted the principal and asked if we could call an IEP or just meet informally to discuss our son. We didn’t know if the new teacher was okay with an informal face to face, but my husband and I really wanted twenty minutes or so just to catch her up.

Of course, I also mentioned in the email that the teacher HAD to review my son’s IEP. That’s a requirement, even in this situation.

Did we meet with the new teacher?

We did.

We had a nice meeting with her. She had read the IEP and we felt she had a decent grasp on the situation. She had questions for us and had even noticed a few things about our son already.

We stressed to email or call us with any questions or concerns about our son.

My husband and I felt the meeting went well. We felt the new teacher was ready to hit the ground running.

Which teacher will end the school year?

We don’t know yet, but we hope to know by mid-February.

For now, we’ll just have to wait to see how it plays out.

More on Kimberly Kaplan:
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