Yesterday the dreaded thick ugly brown envelope came home. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that has the reevaluation results. I knew it was coming because our IEP meeting is January 5th. I just didn’t think about the fact that it would come home three days before Christmas. And while I certainly was not expecting any new realizations or sweeping gains across the boards, I definitely wasn’t prepared emotionally for what was right there in black and white.
I waived my rights to attend the meeting that would give Debbie’s team permission to test her. It was a routine meeting and they were testing for all the things they’ve always tested for. It had now become mundane and taking the time off from work was unnecessary. So the SLP, SPED teacher, Gen. Ed teacher, OT, school psychologist and other various players convened and signed off on reevaluating Debbie for autism.
Those therapists who needed more information sent home parent questionnaires for us to fill out. As I was answering question after question, I realized this time was different from when we first received Debbie’s initial autism diagnosis. At that time I had scored her as “practically perfect in every way” because I was in my denial phase. This time I was honest with myself and her therapists. And you know what? Debbie came out really freaking low. There was no denying the obvious and what I have known all along…Debbie was not just going to be labeled with autism. Another gut-wrenching label was going to be added to her diagnosis and the pile of what she can’t do was going to grow exponentially. I commented to Vince what I knew to be true, and I told him that even though I was right, if I had to see the label actually written on paper, I was going to be devastated.
And then it came true. The blow landed right in the middle of my gut and knocked the wind out of my sails. There it was in right in front of me on paper in black and white.
“Debbie continues to display autistic symptoms including poor eye contact, repetitive speech, restricted interests, behavioral rigidity, lack of social reciprocity, severely impacted communication, and difficulties with self-regulation. Her current special education disabling condition appears to be appropriate though she would also meet the criteria for a special education of intellectual disability. It is recommended that the IEP team consider this information, along with any additional testing data to determine special education eligibility and for educational planning.”
Intellectual Disability: a politically correct way to say “mentally retarded.” It was made official on paper. And again, I knew it was coming. I was not and I am not in denial. But to see it, to process it, and to understand it was the knock-out blow and right now all I can see is the word “can’t.” The ceiling has just been lowered by several feet and limitations and roadblocks are in our way. They won’t be there forever and I’m not down forever. Eventually I will get back up on my feet and continue the fight. For the time being though, I am hurting and I am licking my wounds. And I think I’m entitled to do so.