Monday, February 11, 2013

The Unfairness of Acronyms

It occurred to me today after my second IEP in two weeks that there are just some things I just shouldn't know. I'm not a teacher. I think I *maybe* wanted to be a teacher for about 5 minutes before I realized that I do not have nearly enough patience. I do recall wanting to be a Special Education teacher but I don't really know why that was what I had chosen. But seriously, I do not have a fraction (mili-fraction, is that a word? It should be) of the patience I see in the teachers at my sons' school.

My degree doesn't even come close to education, law, medicine or psychiatry but with my boys, I can certainly see where studying each of those even for a little while would have been most helpful. My first run in with the plethora of acronyms I would one day know and use daily in normal conversation was DSM-IV. I had NO IDEA what that was when I read Cameron's first formal evaluation and no one explained it to me at the time. Actually, I remember reading that evaluation while sitting behind my computer with a search engine open. There were that many words that I didn't know. But right there at the top was Cameron's name and then DSM-IV: 299.00. First up, what was DSM-IV and secondly what did 299.00 mean?

That's Autism (according to the medical professionals) 

DSM-IV 299.00: is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (of Mental Disorders) - Version 4 (IV): Pervasive Developmental Disorders category (299) . Current or Active State (00)

But WAIT! There are changes... enter DSM-V and an excellent graphic that shows the proposed changes:

That day sitting behind my computer was just the beginning. Today I found myself saying,
"The IEP has to be continued after the SE completes the FBAs and Data Collect. Then we can make the IEP goals more accurate and verify that there are enough PBS in the BIP."
What did I just say?  About once a month, I think to myself: WHY DO I NEED TO KNOW THIS STUFF??? The Answer: 299.00

After almost EVERY meeting, I have a list of things I have to go home and look up. Sometimes it is something I've looked up before. Because just because I know the acronym, that doesn't mean I know what it is! I wonder if I will ever fully understand this diagnosis, all the ins and outs, all the educational implications and medical issues.

Forget what my diploma says (I don't even know where it is!), forget that I ever received that BS (another acronym!), I'm currently in the school of Autism and graduation day is far far away. Until then, for those of you in the trenches like me, here are some of my favorite cheat sheets. You may not know what each acronym means or the overall purpose of the hippocampus but this will get you by until you can go home, grab some hot tea and a plate of cookies, a notepad and a pen and Google to your hearts content.

A non-exhaustive list of Special Education Acronyms, I think I could add a few:

The brain... ahhh... the brain. It is amazing that it can do as much as it does. 

I just LOVE this graphic of the brain and which parts do what. I imagine seeing it in some old-time book with brittle pages. 

Above all, understanding the Acronyms don't mean a thing unless we understand our children first. The most important part of being my Son's advocate isn't about understanding what words mean what, it is about understanding THEIR words (gestures, signs, PECS) and being their voice. They rely on me to speak for them and if I don't understand them, I can't do my job.

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