Ian loves playing with legos. "He likes to build spaceships," his mom, Lucia, tells us, "anything that flies." She says that his favorite thing to build recently has been a homemade fidget spinner. "He figured out a way to do it, I don't know how, but it's really cool." Lucia is proud of Ian’s progress at home and in school – it’s been a long journey since he was first diagnosed with Autism - and it’s far from over.
When Ian was three years old, Lucia brought Ian to their local Regional Center for an assessment after employees at Ian’s daycare brought up concerns about his development. The Regional Center assessment diagnosed Ian with Autism. “I had no idea what to do, or where to go,” Lucia says. The first place for Ian to go was his local elementary school. With an Autism diagnosis from the Regional Center, Lucia figured that Ian would get services from his school. It wasn’t that easy. “(The school) kept wanting to remove his Autism eligibility. They tried to put him in a regular classroom, then went back and forth. At some point it’s like – does he have autism or not?” He does – and the school finally acknowledged that fact – but he still wasn’t learning.
“The training and support of TIGER (Learning Rights' Training Individuals for Grassroots Education Reform Program) helped,” Lucia says of her first encounter with the school district, “I discovered I’m a ‘jollita’ (or 'little gem') finding necessary information and resources.” With the skills she learned in TIGER classes, Lucia advocated for Ian to be moved to a different school within the district that could support his needs better. The district agreed, and he started attending a Special Day Class specifically for students with Autism. Lucia saw a difference immediately. "He learned words and colors and shapes, he became more social and more active." Now she has a special communication plan that keeps her up to date on Ian's progress and allows her to help him at home in ways that are beneficial to his work at school. “But,” she says, "we're not done yet".