"What stood out to me about Michael is that she never let up. She never stopped letting the school know that she felt if her son had more hours with other children, they would see improvement. She kept a positive relationship with the school and was able to advocate strongly for full school days for her son come this September."
- Jessica DaSilva-Fisher, Michael's Navigator
Here's Michael's story in her own words:
"I have two sons. As a mom, you try to compare. Everything was super when my oldest was growing up. I didn't have any concerns. When my second, Ethan, was almost two, I started seeing things I didn't see in the older one. I know every kid is different. But I could tell there was something a little off. He got the diagnosis of autism by two and a half.
At first, I would say he was getting about twenty hours a week of support services—from the Applied Behavioral Analysis to Head Start to Early Intervention. But after three years, Early Intervention ends, and you have to go into the public school system for services. The school system was telling me, well, he's doing great, so we're going to give him partial days, six hours a week.
I was terrified. I didn't think it was enough. At his first IEP meeting, there were about ten people in the room. I was advocating for more time in school. But they wouldn’t give it to him. Jessica gave me the advice to write a comment on the IEP. I’m signing this, but I do not agree with the number of hours my son is getting. So, they knew I was not happy with it.
He started school with three half days a week. And the minute he got into school, they were pulling him out for all the services, like occupational therapy and speech. So, he did not get enough time with the other kids. He learns better when he’s around the other kids.
After maybe six months, the teacher admitted that it was a problem, and they switched him to five days a week. His teacher is wonderful. I always keep in good contact with the school. I write them notes all the time. If anything changes, if I see something. It’s constant. I have to be in really good communication with the entire staff, so my son will get what he needs. Nobody knows a child better than their own mother. I was taking prerequisite classes for nursing school, but I paused that because I need to be able to give more time to Ethan. He’s getting very good support from school. But it’s the advocacy, the persistence, the good communication between me and them—that got us all this stuff my son really needed.
And I’m very grateful for the services I get from my Navigator, Jessica. She’s dropping off books in my mailbox, checking in on us through the app, going to the school meetings with me. It really impressed me.
I've seen lots of progress. Ethan is brilliant. He knows his stuff. I think his thinking is beyond other kids of his age. He's doing everything I expect him to do and more. He still needs help when it comes to solving problems, changes, doing something else if things don’t go according to the plan. Socially and emotionally speaking, things are not where my goal is yet. But there's a lot of changes.
I went to the most recent IEP meeting on my own. I advocated strongly for the full day and had the teacher’s support. And Ethan will have full days come this September. I take it little by little, but I think he is going to meet my goals for him."