Where a dad of two great kids (one on the autism spectrum) muses about life.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Well, it's been about two and a half weeks since the kids have gone back to school. We keep waiting for phone calls, frantic notes, or disparaging comments, but haven't had them. We think things are going (mostly) OK.
Buddy Boy starts this year in a self-contained "communications" classroom for about 2/3 of the day, with him going out to "specials" (art, music, computer, Spanish) with his gen-ed peers, accompanied by an aide. This is more time out of the self-contained class than he had last year, and we think this is a good thing. I don't think that inclusion is the end all and be all for everyone, and don't think that Buddy Boy would thrive if he was in the gen-ed class all day at this point. But we do feel that it's a good thing for him to get to know his NT peers (and them him), and to spend some time interacting with them.
His teacher in his communications classroom is one of his former aides from last year, who is now a teacher. She seems fairly eager to try to please us, and appears to be working hard, but it is also apparent that she is in a bit over her head (somewhat disorganized, frazzled at times). But her heart seems to be in the right place, and she seems willing to talk with us on how to improve things, so we're trying not to push too hard (don't want to make her jaded in the first semester on her own).
We have discovered a few problems, like the fact that Buddy Boy was getting 60 minutes of math instruction/week, vs. 300 minutes/week in the gen-ed class. This was totally unacceptable to us, and we're working with his teacher to get it a bit more equitable. Even though we work academics with Buddy Boy on a year round basis, we don't want him set up to fail by not challenging him appropriately academically.
There was also a problem with them reporting that he sometimes did not go to his proper classroom after being dropped off in the morning (all children have to be dropped off at the door-no parents can come inside). We countered (with a letter of support from his pediatrician) that it was unreasonable to expect him to always go directly to his class without getting distracted along the way, and that since we couldn't walk him to his class, they should have someone meet him at the door. They now do.
A more serious problem was when we discovered that they were "not exactly communicating well" with us. Buddy Boy was supposed to (according to a written agreement) supposed to be included for 15 minutes/day in the morning with the gen-ed class with an aide. His papers have been coming home indicating each day that he attended that class and was doing his work OK. It turns out that Buddy Boy told Liz last week that he wasn't going to that class in the morning. When his teacher was asked about this, she said something to the effect of "Well, he wouldn't settle down during that time period, and was disturbing the other kids, so we put him back in the communications room and he did the work there."
We can understand that if he's consistently disruptive, and after various strategies have been tried, that it may be determined that it's not the right place for him. We've tried suggesting a later time of the day, but we think that they don't have an aide to accompany him at other times, so this is why they picked first thing in the morning. We've also suggested they give him some time when the other kids aren't in there to just explore the room, but don't think they've done that. We aren't opposed to having them try different strategies, and even understand if he's temporarily removed. But to keep sending home slips saying he's going to the gen-ed class, and not indicating anything wrong, just irks us to no end. And it makes me wonder what else they're not telling us. But since he did mostly well for the second part of last year at this school, and everyone we talk too says he's doing OK, we're just writing it off to a communication breakdown at this point, and not getting into conspiracy theories.
Buddy Boy generally says that he feels good about school. But one thing I have noticed is a little increase in Buddy Boy's stress levels. He's acting out a little aggressively at home (soft head butts, slaps, and threatening language). It's nothing like he used to do, and he immediately reels it in when we call him on it, so I'm not too worried at this point. Everyone's entitled to a little extra stress when they start a new school year, start a new job, or anything else that's generally considered stressful.
Sweet Pea, meanwhile, has had a fantastic start to Kindergarten. She goes to school for the full day, and reports back excitedly each day what she's done, as well as who did what in school.
So all in all, I think things are going to be OK. We're going to keep a close eye on things, but as long as the teachers are willing to work with us, we'll keep working with them.
Me- Joe, husband of a great wife, and dad to two great kids, who were both adopted at birth.
Liz- My ever understanding wife, who manages to wear many hats (mom, advocate, therapist, teacher) for our kids.
Buddy Boy- Born in 2000. Funny, intelligent, inventive, and autistic. Loves machines.
Sweet Pea- Born in 2002. Typical little sister. Competitive, outgoing, and smart. Loves anything pink.