My goals for my daughter have completely changed since she was first diagnosed with Autism more than nine years ago. I have been thinking about goals a great deal because her IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting is coming up and for those of you familiar with IEP meetings, it’s all about goals, both long-term and short-term. The parent’s goals, the teacher’s and therapist’s goals, everyone’s goals are discussed and written down. Except for Emma’s. What are Emma’s goals for herself? For those who have children with either spoken or typed language this is an easy enough question to ask. For those of us whose children do not it gets a bit more complicated. Still, I plan to ask, even if I do not get an answer, whether verbally or typed, I will ask and I plan to talk to her about her IEP and what that means as well. I may even type out some of the goals we are thinking about and ask her if she agrees with them.
I have to admit that sometimes when I speak to Emma about things, whether it’s about privacy, our bodies and bodily functions, the power of saying no, the importance of self and self-determination, or something like explaining what is going to happen over the weekend or asking her what her goals are at an IEP meeting, I catch myself wondering if she really understands. What I have learned, what I continually remind myself is that it’s okay to wonder, it’s okay to feel all those feelings, but it’s not okay to act or behave as though she does not understand. I have to speak to her as though she does understand, even when I don’t know that she does. In the end I have to do this, because to believe that she can’t/ won’t/ doesn’t understand and to be wrong is a risk I cannot take.