Yes I know, for you regular readers (anyone? Bueller?), I haven’t posted much so far this year. You’re completely heartbroken and beside yourself, I know…dry your eyes, it’ll be OK. Anyway, Fantasyland was fun, but let’s drift back to reality…
So as you may recall, Preschool didn’t go so well for us last year…
Following the debacle of the last school year, no one was really all that thrilled about going to school this year. And as summer progressed, and I continued to hear nothing from the school district about the upcoming year, I became less and less excited. All of my friends with Kindergartners seemed to be getting letters from their respective schools confirming their child’s placement and who their teacher would be, but we hadn’t heard a peep. Couple that with my review of the IEP that had been written in May, my excitement was 100% gone (other than my upcoming free time).
The IEP Meeting
Our IEP for Kindergarten was written in May. Prior to this IEP meeting, Princess had undergone the special needs testing to determine her Kindergarten readiness, and at THAT result meeting, we were assured that she was, indeed, academically ready to move on. But the IEP meeting revealed some disturbing results. For starters, I had never been told that there were attempts to deal with sensory problems, nor was I asked permission to do so. When I mentioned putting something in the IEP, something as simple as “will be provided a ball-chair or wiggle cushion to help in remaining seated,” I was told that they had tried “everything” to get her to attend, and that nothing had worked. At this time, even with my disbelief, because these measures had been working in both private speech and private OT, I was given the district’s release form to sign, permitting them to even attempt such measures. Now (a) why was I not ever previously told that such attempts had been made, and (b) if a release form is required, why were they even attempted? Then, the most troubling statement of all: “When I did her testing, I was surprised at how much she had actually learned and retained in the classroom setting, since she mostly wanders around the classroom talking to and singing to herself.” Well isn’t that interesting? They permit her to remain in her own little Autistic world, and then have the audacity to question whether or not she has the ability to attend?
I left this meeting with everything I had asked for being put in to place, but I had enormous questions about what kind of situation my child was put in at that school. Alas, the school year ended, and we were out of that school for good. And that’s all I have to say about that….
The New School
A couple weeks prior to the start of the school year, I had contacted the new school and asked for the teacher to contact me. Much to my surprise, she did, and she was more than willing to meet us before the year started and let Princess get acclimated to the school, the classroom, and her new surroundings. At this time, I started to ask questions about what was, or rather what was not, in the new IEP. Many of the goals they had said she failed to meet had been taken out of her IEP and replaced with much harder goals. Not only that, there was not one thing in there about self-care, including bathroom usage. The teacher told me that (a) they usually revisit the IEP in October once the school year has started, (b) the IEP at this level, by law, has to focus more on educational goals than anything else, and (c) it doesn’t really matter to her what the IEP says, if there are things the family would like to be worked on, she’ll do it. Well color me happy…
The beginning of school brought much anxiety and much fear for little Princess. For me? I was excited, because this was as close to “normal” as our lives had ever been since she was born in 2006, but I was just hoping she would want to go back the next day. While I was at work, I got a phone call from the school. Very first full day away from home, very first recess….she gets stung by a bee. Needless to say, I was worried I would never get her out of the house for school ever again. When I picked her up, though, she was all smiles, told me EVERYTHING she did that day, told me about the bee and that “Ms. F” (one of the aides in the classroom) put ice on it and it was all better, and just went home and played all night long. Alrighty then…
So, this is usually when I launch into some diatribe about society and blah blah blah…not this time, kids, not this time. I have not one criticism about this school, except, perhaps, the parking lot size and the drop off/pick up rules, but the fact that we can oversleep and STILL get to school on time erases any bad vibes regarding that, and Princess loves to walk to the car after school and “do the steps” (the sidewalk is horribly skewed…like LA after the “Big One.”). Instead I will just tell you about the good things.
The Good Things
The Special Needs class starts on the first day of school, regardless of grade, which is contrary to the “regular” Kindergarten, which has placement testing for the first three days before the children actually start school, which means Princess wouldn’t have started going to “regular” class the first day, even if she was ready. Also, since she had already undergone placement testing to determine if she was even ready for Kindergarten in February, she didn’t need to do testing. Despite this, though, the teacher wanted to test her and see if she had progressed over the summer. Well…yes, yes she had. And not only that, since she flew through the adapted tests, the teacher decided to try giving her the placement tests for typical children, and she FLEW through those, too. As of October, she had the sight word vocabulary of a 3rd grader, and the reading comprehension of a 1st grader. She is 5. FIVE. As of the first report card in November, she now has a vocabulary of over 400 words. Not that she uses them all in context on a regular basis (though she does have that “NO” word down pat…), but 400 words.
The most amazing discovery of all: when I met the teacher, I told her that wiggle cushions really help her to sit and attend at her OT sessions (she is not a fan of the OT having her do actual work, rather than play in the gym). Remember, the previous school said such measures were ineffective. Email from the teacher on Day 1 (yes…she emails almost nightly): “she did wander away from the table occasionally, but was easily redirected by just saying her name and providing the wiggle cushion. I really don’t see too many problems in her ability to attend.”
By week 7, she was already doing “classes” with the typical Kindergarten class (with an aide, of course), such as Library and Music, two of her favorite subjects. In week 6, the PE teacher requested she be left without an aide to see how she does, and she did just fine. In fact, yesterday, she was “reprimanded” for socializing with the girls during gym, rather than playing the games, a reprimand that brought giggles to both her teacher and myself. By week 8, it was decided she would spend a half hour a day with the typical Kindergarten class, and she would be expected to do whatever they were doing at the same level as the other children, be it doing art, using scissors, writing, playing…whatever.
She has not missed a day of school yet, even dodging the pneumonia bullet that knocked out the rest of the class (granted, there are only 5 children in the class…). Last year when she was sick, she wanted NOTHING to do with school, and usually broke into “violent tantrum mode.” Sunday night, we heard the unmistakable sound of mid-sleep vomiting. 30 minutes later, after getting her cleaned up, her bed stripped, carpet scrubbed, and room disinfected, we determined she didn’t have a fever at all. She was in better spirits, so I said “alright, well you get some sleep, and we’ll talk about school in the morning.” “No, I don’t want to talk about it, I just go to it.” Who are you and what have you done to my child? In the morning, I pressed her HARD as to whether or not she really wanted to go to school, but even chains wouldn’t have kept her in the house. Around 1:00, the school called and said she had gone ghost white and started gagging, so they took her to the nurse’s office to try to get her temperature (would’ve LOVED to be a fly on the wall to see that one…) and have her lay down, but all she wanted was a drink of water and to go back to the classroom.
The Bad Things
There are some fall-backs, though. First off, whatever that classroom aide did to her last year has scarred her for life. The custodian, apparently, resembles the aide, so she goes into full-on freak-out mode whenever she has to go into the hallway, or she sees him. That’s all I have to say about that.
So…she has a best friend. Her and said best friend are a tag team of manipulators from hell, and pick up the worst traits of each other. Really, it’s like best friend has moved into our house…which is not a welcomed thing. He’s a sweet kid, but he is Autistic, and there are behaviors that can come along with that, behaviors we have never had in our house. Along with that, Princess has developed a need to be just like everyone else, and not different in any way. While this is not necessarily always a bad thing, she is losing the ability to develop as herself, and pointing out any difference she has can lead to meltdowns. She has not only mastered “NO” but now she has also mastered “ME TOO” and “NO I’LL DO IT.” It’s not a bad thing, per se, it’s a conundrum. But if that’s the worst thing that’s going to happen, I’ll take it.
The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades
As of today: she is working from a first grade reading/writing workbook, has taught HERSELF math (when all else fails, look at the calendar to figure out what 9+6 equals), enjoys science and social studies, has learned how to write stories on the computer
, how to navigate the internet to play on her favorite educational websites, LOVES music class, library, and PE, and adores her teacher(s) (teacher and two aides). All of her goals are social at this point, because, let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how fast she moves through grades K-12 if she cannot function socially. Oh…and she even wrote a letter to Santa.