because sometimes, you just know

Reading and Writing 10/2009: A [District]Public Schools reading and writing evaluation was conducted in 2009.

Brooke’s performance on the Written Language portion of this test showed that her written skills are an area of strength when compared with other students of her age. She was able to copy and spell many words and sentences for her age group. The examiner chose to stop testing when the linguistic demand on the written tasks increased (such as sentence combining). Although decreasing the item set is permitted for a student of Brooke’s age, this reduction of test items did affect her score in the area of meaningful content.

Brooke is likely to need extra support with decoding unknown words, retelling stories, and understanding content (comprehension) as the demands in literacy increase.

I am not able to talk out of my mouth, however I have found another way to communicate by spelling on my computer. (and yes that is me typing on the computer by myself)

I used to think I was the only kid with autism who communicates by spelling but last year I met a group of kids that communicate the same way. In fact some are even faster at typing then I am.

~ Carly Fleischmann

The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible. ~Vladimir Nabakov

For the past three years, we’ve had our sights trained on opening the world of reading to our girl. And it’s working. Her team is amazing and with the fearsome combination of their knowledge and dedication and her tenacity, the proof is now, as they say, in the pudding.

But reading is only half the equation. Literacy is about, as it says right there on the name of the evaluation, reading AND writing. Because we were all so focused on reading, writing didn’t get a whole lot of mention whenever we sat down to hash out her goals.

When we first met to start the Oh So Pleasant Process of hashing out next year’s IEP, I brought up the idea of a separate writing goal. The team pointed to the reading goal. Yup, saw that, thank you. Looking for a writing goal.

“It’s in there,” they said. “With reading. It’s all intertwined.”

Yup. I see that. Not what I mean.

I asked for a separate writing goal. It’s an area of strength, I explained. It’s an avenue for self-expression for a kid who struggles with language. I think it warrants its own goal.

The team said that honestly, they thought that she wasn’t quite there yet. I know that it was hard for them to say that. It’s a tough response to a starry-eyed mom. I appreciated their honesty. But where she was in that moment wasn’t the point. Where she had the ability to be in twelve months was.

I said, ‘That’s OK, she doesn’t have to be there yet. But this is a year-long document. And given not only her progress to date, but the intensive support that she’s getting from all of you, I think we have to assume that she WILL be there within a year’s time. On a lot of levels, I think it’s vital for us to function on the basis that this is what we’re working toward.”

I didn’t ask for anything grand. Didn’t need to have her writing novels by the end of fourth grade. But I wanted something in that document to acknowledge that writing was an achievable goal. Three years ago, it had been identified as a strength. This was something that this kid was going to be able to do. Easily? No. With support? Hell yes. We just had to agree that we thought that she could.

Once I’d explained my thinking, the team was on board. Sometime within twelve months, they agreed, this would be necessary. I signed the IEP on Friday.

Goal #4 — Specific Goal Focus: Written Expression

Current Performance Level: What can the student currently do? Currently Brooke is working on writing prompts within the classroom setting. With use of a visual organizer, such as ‘EmPower’, Brooke is in the beginning stages of developing a writing piece. With cueing, prompting and verbal rehearsal, Brooke is able to develop a topic sentence and 3 supporting facts to support her main idea. Brooke benefits from visual reminders for the editing process.

Measurable Annual Goal: What challenging, yet attainable goal can we expect the student to meet by the end of this IEP period? How will we know that the student has reached this goal? With use of visual tools and organizers, Brooke will increase her ability to create a writing piece that includes a beginning, middle and end having to do with a preferred or prompted writing topic in 4 out of 5 opportunities.

It was a rainy weekend in Boston. There wasn’t a whole lot to do outside the house, so we spent a fair amount of time just hangin’ around. Katie spent far too much time on her iTouch, but Miss Brooke made good use of the time.

The following were done absolutely, positively, completely independently. No prompts, no help. Nothing. All her.




There are very few times on this journey that we are able to say, “I just know.” That we are able to look across a table at the people who have the degrees and the knowledge and the experience to know better and to simply say, “I’m sorry guys, but I just know.”

Sometimes, no matter how much we may doubt ourselves in every other aspect of parenting our wondrous kids, there’s a voice that pops up from deep within the Mama Gut that says, “We’re selling my kid short and that’s not OK.”

And when we hear that voice, we’ve got to heed it. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

Or perhaps, the porridge.

43 thoughts on “because sometimes, you just know

  1. So very true. The number of times I’ve had to tell a social worker – or even my own mother – “R is autistic, not stupid/oblivious/ignorant”. He knows perfectly well what is being said and when he’s being talked about as though he’s not there. And every time this happens I feel the angry old Mama Bear waking up in me to rip somebody’s hide.

  2. Thank you not only for sharing these masterpieces with us but for fighting for what you know is right for Brooke!

    Love you,

  3. “We’re selling my kid short and that’s not OK.”

    That gut feeling is strong and should never be ignored. I love that the team got on board with you and I LOVE all that she wrote over the weekend!

    Oh my goodness!
    Holy cow. That is just awesome.
    Go Brooke! And go Mama for just knowing. And pushing.
    I never thought I’d find so much hope in Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood.

  5. Thank you so much for this. So awesome! I needed this today, as I am thinking about what I will say in a meeting this week with my son’s teachers because in some areas, as you said, “We’re selling my kid short and that’s not okay.”

  6. What a delicious treat…to not only be proven right, but to have that rare concrete evidence of the possibilities.

  7. Gobsmacked with joy and pride in your sweet Brooke! Your post is so incredibly timely for me and my Nik. 🙂 And the idea of a separate writing goal? So simple and yet, we get suckered every time when “they” tell us “oh, it’s all in this (xyz) goal.” Nope. Thanks for the food for thought, the ideas, and for sharing this incredibly beautiful success.

  8. My son just proved that he can read. Quite average, actually, for a kid his age. I am so glad I saw this today. It is food for thought…I bet before we know it, he can do some writing like Brooke.

    Brooke’s stories are all kinds of wonderful. I bet you were bursting with pride…and I hope she was, too!

  9. Funny timing, I was just looking at E’s assignments/grades online and was fairly buzzing with pride at just how far he’s come when I came over here. I have found in recent years that while E may have trouble expressing himself verbally, he is more comfortable with written expression. And when it involves something with rules to be followed (and sometimes broken), like poetry, his eloquence is breathtaking. Brooke’s “work” this weekend was amazing, talk about progress. And good for you for insisting on the writing goal. I have a feeling she will not only rise up to meet it, but shatter it to bits!

  10. Oft used quote from my mother-in-law, who ran an infant program, “the mother always knows”. Always remember you know your child the best – you just have to get people to listen to you

  11. Loved this post for all it symbolizes…for our kids, for us as moms/parents. But most of all I loved that everyone lives “happily ever after”! 🙂

  12. Love her use of the worse “sobbed” in The Three Bears. That baby bear didn’t just cry, he sobbed. Good for you for pushing, great for her for working so hard. She may just have a blog of her own some day and have more followers than her mama…..

    • oh my gosh, that was my favorite part! sobbed, muttered, roared! that was what got me more than anything else. well, that and the fact that she spelled ‘built’ correctly, i mean, really? lol

      but yes, should she ever choose to write her own blog, i would shout from the roof tops, then happily hand over the keys and call it a day 🙂

  13. As someone who has lived with being autistic for 42 years, one of the most frustrating things I see is the following equation: autism = special needs education = slow learners with limited capacity = no real future. This is so untrue as to be extremely cruel. People with autism learn at different rates in different areas. This leads them to an extremely “unbalanced” progress according to the standard educational models.

    What all this means is that they can be far ahead of their peers in one area while far behind in another. This tends to lead to school being a mix of simplistic tasks followed by impossible ones in mainstream classes and in special education classes having their entire curriculum dumbed down to the level of their weakest area. This does not serve them well.

    John Mark McDonald

    • So true. Unless you are lucky to have a team and teachers with high expectations, each with the understanding that the child’s route to meeting them may be slower and less conventional than that of many kids.

      We have been lucky enough to have encountered people like that for most of my son’s life…and are so, so grateful for it. In fact I refer to them as his “guardian angels,” for there really is no other word for those amazing, dedicated professionals.

    • John Mark, It really does make it challenging to design appropriate programming for our kids – and especially imperative that we don’t try to shoe-horn them into one-size-fits-all programs which typically truly fit none. Individualized Ed Plans truly need to be just that – individualized. But the challenges remain in terms of finding / creating the resources to carry out these plans. But there’s far too much at stake to give up on working to make it happen! Thanks, as always, for your perspective. It’s very much appreciated. – J

    • Mark,
      THANK YOU. You have given me the words I need to explain how I feel about our IEP meeting last week. You said it in a nutshell. Thank you.

  14. I have noticed in the past with two on IEP’s that they don’t want to improve on the strengths, just the weaknesses. I had asked repeatedly for more advanced math sheets TO DO AT HOME with her and never got them. I guess this momma didn;t push hard enough. Thanks for the reminder. We do a lot at home that they don’t work on in school now she does not have an IEP anymore.

    MacKenzie loves writing stories too, yet another thing she and Brooke have in common.

  15. My sons IEP meeting is tomorrow for his pre-k goals for next year, I’m looking fit them to focus on what he WILL be able to accomplish, not just improving on what he can already do! This was just the perfect reminder that I DO know and that it’s my job to make sure THEY know too! I loved the artwork and stories by Brooke, they are my inspiration! Thanks, I needed it!

  16. Love everything about this! The reminder to listen to our inner knowing… And that a pot of boiling water is really all you need for happily ever after.

  17. Amen to that! Brooke’s work is beautiful…she’s gonna surprise them all. Sometimes it feels like they don’t expect much from our frustrating. I mostly let the team dictate the goals these past 2 preschool years. Then I had to finally demand they take off all the nonsense goals My baby already mastered before she ever started school.. shape, color, body part &letter id. Such a waste of time and disservice to her. Getting ready for next year’s IEP meeting for kindergarten …gonna take your lead and make sure they are much more specific and challenge her to do all I KNOW she can do!!
    re specific and challenge my girl to do all

  18. I hadn’t thought of adding things that My David is good at as part of the IEP, thank you so much. I love his stories he’s 20 out of 22 sight words for reading but not writing to wear people understand what he wrote. He’s only going into 1st so it’s not expected of him, but I’ll have to make sure it is expected. Also,he’s adding and subtracting smaller numbers I’ll have to make sure we keep that progressing.
    I love her stories thank you for sharing them!

  19. absolutely!! Yay Brooke! I just knew lots of things for my boys, and usually everyone would just stare at me…like that stare when they are thinking ( that mom is crazy as a straw!!)…THe one thing we have as parents is to believe in our kids!!!! I have a before and after on my utube channel of my youngest son that I wanted to share..this same boy I was told would not do anything….be anyone….achieve anything!!! Keep telling the stories!!!! Parents need to know that their intuition is crucial to their SURVIVAL!!

  20. Way to go Mama! We are the voice for our kiddos. And we can’t be pushed into a corner or silenced because then we aren’t giving our best to our kids! High Five! Oh and her drawings are the cutest I’ve seen! Seriously? She needs to take a turn for me in Draw Something! 😀

  21. Markers fade quite easily, may I suggest you take good pics of the pages each (flush and close cropped), and then print those out to make a book? My daughter was writing and illustrating her own books for a while. I took good pictures of them and then had them printed into a book. Gave them out to the G’parents for gifts, one for my daughter’s bookcase, and one for ourselves. The originals are tucked away.

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