When my son, Reese, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3, it was a shock. I wondered what he would ever be able to accomplish.
It turned out quite a bit.
He did it with the help of dedicated teachers and administrators as well as fellow students.
My wife, Kathy, said the school people she came in contact with at the Woodall Psychoeducational Center, Baker Middle School and Shaw High School always made her feel like Reese was the single most important person in the world to them.
In June 2000, Reese graduated from Shaw walking across the stage with other students, one of whom even took the time to flip the tassle on his cap at the appropriate time.
An avid reader, Reeses education was such that now, with the aid of a job coach, he works at Publix and loves it. He earns money and, most important of all, he makes a contribution to society, which was always everyones plan.
School personnel from more than 20 years ago stop by to see him. One of his former teachers goes to movies with Reese and Kathy.
There will be a lot of new children moving into this area because of changes at Fort Benning brought on by Base Realignment and Closure. Some will have autism or some other disability.
Patrick Knopf, the Director of Exceptional Students for the Muscogee County School District, anticipates that number to be at least 10 percent.
The advice he gives to parents is sound no matter which school district you place your child.
The most important thing is for parents to get us the information about their child as soon as possible, Knopf said. The process takes time, so the sooner the better. It is for the parents convenience as well as ours.
Though the school district will do its own evaluation because each states criteria is different, it is important for officials here to see records of all past evaluations and school records and hear from the parents. A temporary plan can be made.
Everything is done on a case-by-case basis, Knopf said. We want to put students in the school that has the services they need.
He said the district likes to keep students in their home zone if possible.
Knopf said the school district takes evaluations seriously.
We really dont want to have to undo a placement, he said. Thats not good for the child or anyone else.