Dear Members & Friends,
Maybe all of us have felt powerless to help our autistic children at some point. My point came several years ago, when I wondered what on earth I could do to help my young son, Sam, get ready for kindergarten. Sam had made good progress with the Preschool Autism Classroom, particularly with developing language, but had been there for less than a year—I believed he should stay. If he went to kindergarten the following year he would be four years old when he entered—at that time the school had one autism classroom with children up to 12 years old! At our first IEP transition meeting I sat clueless as the teacher told my husband Dave and me that the only place Sam would have inclusion was on the playground. It all felt wrong to me, but I had no idea at that point what was right.
I knew I had to find answers quickly. I started attending POAC-NoVA meetings and heard the McGrails give the “top 10 things to know about the IEP process.” I met Scott Campbell who told me about Beech Tree Elementary, where his son Ian was in the enhanced autism classroom, and where staff expected my son to be the following year. Scott later gave me the name and contacts of educational advocates. I started tracking down possibilities for private pre-kindergarten and got on our listserv to seek parents’ advice about local options for a kid with autism. Sam attended POAC-NoVA’s social skills camp that summer. POAC-NoVA helped me follow my instincts and find a better answer for Sam that following year.
Though I was not a very active member for a while, I continued to use the listserv and attend meetings periodically. But I never forgot the help this community gave me at a very rough time. When Nicole Zupan asked for people who might be interested in serving on the Board a few years later I responded.
This is the meaning of community—we seek help when we need it and we offer it when we can.
I hope POAC-NoVA can offer you the answers you need to make the often difficult choices we need to make for our children. I hope it can make you feel empowered by giving you good information and a source of support. Most of all, I hope it helps you understand that you are not alone—a community stands behind you.
With my sincerest gratitude for taking part in our community,