This past school year was difficult for Jeremy . . . extremely difficult. Lots of tears shed, lots of protests silenced, and many, many restless nights. Not just for him, but for me too. He was mentally and physically exhausted, and I was at my parental wit’s end. My spirit just couldn’t take it anymore . . . FHL Autism Mama down.
(You can read a quick excerpt on our kindergarten year experience and my “lessons learned” in the Organization for Autism Research’s August newsletter, here: OARACLE August Newsletter)
But where my spirit succumbed to the overwhelming pressure and I was feeling distraught and discouraged, my heart just wouldn’t let me give up.
THIS is too important.
HE is too important.
We cannot have a repeat of this school year again. EVER.
Over the course of the summer I visited numerous schools, met with several administrators, and attended multiple IEP/educational team meetings. My goal: to find a school that would nurture Jeremy’s natural inquisitiveness, champion his strengths, incorporate his interests, and help replace non-desirable behaviors with appropriate ones by helping him learn how to be a student and engaging him with appropriate peers. All this, while trying to get our school district to support out-of-district placement in a private school setting.
Fast forward to the first week in August. I review my findings with the district’s special education coordinator in preparation for the upcoming IEP meeting and we are in agreement. There are some administrative hiccups, but she works diligently to save him an enrollment spot at the selected school. IEP meeting takes place the next week, school placement is confirmed, and intake/staffing meeting is set for this past week. We are golden! Or are we?
After the intake meeting, I bring the kiddo to the school to meet his new teacher and support person, and to get acclimated with the classroom. The first 20 minutes were a little spastic. He’s looking around the room for letters, pulling books off the shelf, examining every nook and cranny, etc. That is to be expected. No worries. But then, oh then, he goes into full-on melt down mode.
“I don’t like my new school.”
“There aren’t enough letters.”
“School is mean.”
“I don’t like HER.” (the support assistant).
“I don’t like that thing on her face.” (teacher has an obvious flesh-colored mole)
“I want to stay home. I want to LEAVE. I don’t want to come back.”
. . . insert cries, hysteria and bewilderment . . .
He struggles. We leave. He falls asleep in the car on the way home. And, I cry.
Due to the “rocky” introduction, the teacher and I decide on a modified start to the school year: arrival after the bell and all the kids are in classes, and a much shorter day. We want him to start off with positive school experiences, while he gets used to the new environment.
Monday. Day 1.
The first day of 1st grade lasts one hour. All the while, I am in the administrator’s office waiting with baited breath until the teacher comes in to say “so far so good.”
We are not in the clear, but small progress is still progress. Later that day after big brother comes home, we head to his baseball game and this appeared as we packed up and headed back to the car.
I believe in signs, do you?
If somewhere over the rainbow, dreams really do come true. Then I know that this school year is going to be truly transformational for you kiddo, and I have faith that the best is yet to come!
Today is Day 3. He stayed for two hours, and had a really good day! 🙂
I also got approval today to substitute the required navy polo uniform shirt with a navy tee-shirt and/or long-sleeved tee-shirt when the weather breaks. Each morning has been a challenge getting him dressed in his uniform. This kid has a major aversion to buttons. He WILL NOT wear a shirt with buttons – ever. So for the first 3 days, he’s been wearing polo shirts with the buttons cut off. Hey . . . you gotta do, what you gotta do!
We are going to stick with 2 hours for the rest of the week and probably have him stay through lunch starting on Monday. I’m hoping the navy tee-shirt will make the morning routine just a bit easier for him and allow us to leave on time for his designated school start. We shall see.
I’ll keep you posted. But, in the meantime . . . I’m going to keep looking out for rainbows! And if you happen to see one yourself, smile and say “Jeremy” for me will ya? Thanks in advance!
~ FHL Autism Mama