As we’ve already been into the school year for little over a month now, my son diagnosed with Autism has had to overcome some minor obstacles. He’s at a new school that is inclusive of children from grades Pre-K through 12th grade! He’s a nine year old, fourth grader.
The first day of school for our family was quite overwhelming due to the following:
- I’m pregnant, I have Bipolar Disorders and PTSD; so currently I’m extremely sensitive to lights, sounds, smells, etc.
- Our son diagnosed with Autism,he too has sensory issues, specifically lights and sounds.
- The noise level was extremely high as the morning music being played via the intercom system not only contained major static, it went on for more than 5 minutes which seemed to be a bit much.
- The organization of the children to be dismissed to their classrooms wasn’t efficient. It didn’t make sense to me why we weren’t allowed to take our children directly to their classrooms since we’d (the parents) had been given their teacher/classroom assignments the week prior. We had to be packed into the auditorium and then beginning with the Pre-K class, each class was called to line up, in single file format, and then escorted to their assigned rooms. This again “to me” was a step that was an unnecessary waste of time. If they (the school staff) needed to speak with the parents regarding the schools curriculum, school rules, etc. I personally felt that could’ve been done after we’d gotten the children settled into their classrooms and introduced to their teachers. It would’ve reduced a lot of the noise and overall anxiety in everyone.
- I didn’t like and still do NOT like the “community supplies!” This is why I purposely only “send 1/2” of the requested supplies to school and I distribute what my child “needs” throughout the year upon request from the teacher. I explain to “EVERY” teacher he’s had, at the previous and current school, due to his Autism there are certain types of pencils, crayons, and markers that I purchase for him since he’s no longer in occupational therapy and we are working to maintain his stability without that support. It’s amazing how they will ONLY admit that all the supplies listed on the school supply list ARE NOT for your child specifically and that majority of those supplies will be placed into a container that “they will distribute” to the students as needed, when you ask. If you NEVER question it, you’ll never know. That is unfair to parents who can afford to purchase the supplies, because it gives parents who can’t or simply claim they can’t an opportunity to NOT get or inquire about getting resources to assist them in that area. What about the funding that the schools receive? Can’t some of that funding go to “purchase school supplies for the less fortunate?” Each year “I offer” to bring in additional supplies for children who may need them in the event there are parents who are TRULY “low or no income” and therefore can’t accommodate such. Mind you, I’ve been unemployed since “March 15” and prior to that I was unemployed from “January 12 – November 14” and I still managed to “buy” my son his school supplies. Being a previous employee of his previous school, and a previous Vice Chairperson of the Parent Policy Council via United Planning Organization (UPO); I have witnessed many parents, “purposely” wait until the “free school supply giveaways take place” and they only contribute the bare minimum, while their children benefit from parents like myself who are actually purchasing good quality supplies for their child. THIS IS A POLICY I AM TRULY GOING TO FIGHT TO HAVE REVOKED OR REVISED EFFICIENTLY!!!! Again, I ask what about the funding the schools receive? Can’t some of that funding go to “purchase school supplies for the less fortunate?” If they can ALWAYS delegate funding to go towards the teachers computers (IMacs, Dells, and HPs) or the students electronic devices (IPads, Chromebooks) why can’t they delegate even a small portion towards school supplies? Hmm again I’ll continue working on that behind the scenes as time goes on or I’ll continue putting my foot down if I continue to get resistance on discussing and resolving the matter.
Here are the great things I noticed about the first days and weeks:
I enjoyed seeing that my son was able to make a quick adjustment to the noise and the lights. He was still a bit apprehensive regarding entering the room and engaging immediately with the other children. I explained to him prior to him attending the school and during our summer tour, how “chaotic, but beneficial” attending such a school would be for him. I explained that he needs to become more comfortable in “large crowds and lots of noise” because that’s the reality of the world that we live in. I explained that with his Autism he needs to be able to function within these types of environment efficiently and without having fear or a meltdown.
He understood and we made our plans accordingly and as realistic as possible without ever having attended a school like this. This new school contains lockers which require a combination lock. This is something my son has never seen or experienced working with. He still doesn’t have a combination lock. Before I purchase the lock I want to ensure that he’s comfortable “placing his items in, removing them, staying organized, etc” without having the added pressure of remembering a combination to enter and exit it.
He enjoys having a locker! It reinforces him being a “big boy” and slowly approaching his teenage years.
He’s already gotten accustomed to the new schedule, he’s enjoying his new lunchbox. His new lunchbox is from Costco it’s called “Arctic Zone Ultra High Performance Expandable Double Capacity Lunch Pack!” This works great! The ice pack remains frozen and keeps the contents cool from approximately 7:30am until 5:00pm daily. His school days begins at 8 but ends at 4 pm, however some days in our haste we may not unpack the lunch pack until around 5 pm because he’s anxious to get in and get settled after a long day at school. Each day you’d swear he’s been to work. I believe he experiences a partial or complete sensory overload daily but is learning to overcome it. I recall several days rushing back downstairs to unpack and place the ice pack in the freezer only to find that his salad was still quite cool as if it had been refrigerated and the ice pack contained at least a piece of ice inside and was still cold itself! This was a great investment. I am going to purchase one for myself as a proactive measure, since I’m eager to return to work either prior to or shortly after we welcome our new baby!!!
If you’re interested in purchasing the lunch pack you can get a great description and pricing from Amazon, by visiting the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Arctic-Zone-Performance-Expandable-Capacity/dp/B00XQ2IOJ8/ref=sr_1_1? ie=UTF8&qid=1442942856&sr=8-1&keywords=arctic+zone+lunch+boxes.
Oddly I couldn’t pull up the lunch pack on Costco. com and became thoroughly annoyed so my trusty backup “Amazon” came in handy!!
He’s also enjoying his new High Sierra Elite backpack. It contains plenty of pockets and room for a laptop if needed. Again since Costco.com isn’t pulling it up (possibly because these are “in store only items I am assuming” you can visit the following link: http://www.amazon.com/High-Sierra-Business-Backpack-Suspended/dp/B00K8897HQ.
He’s also integrated into the classroom quite well. I am awaiting a followup regarding their initial review of him in the classroom so that we can create a 504 plan befitting for him and this school. He’s integrated so well, he’s actually been asked to “not talk as much” go figure in class! LMAO there’s always a catch 22! He took the redirection on the chin and kept it moving. I explained to him that I’m happy that he’s making new friends and adjusting and none of the children are making fun of him. I also explained that he doesn’t want to allow his excitement to interfere with classroom instruction; that’s what lunch and recess is for.
This school doesn’t have recess daily. I have a love hate for it. I love it because it’s teaching the children early on that life isn’t “fun or a game” however I hate it because it doesn’t give them the time they need to de-stress throughout the day. I already see how exhausted Jr is daily after coming home. He is very adamant however about completing his homework within hours of arriving home, so that his evenings are his to “relax” as he so often puts it.
What I am doing to ensure that he’s successful against all odds:
I carry out 90% of the communication, etc. that goes between him and his school.
I assist Jr in the areas that I am strongest in and his father assist him in the areas that he’s strongest in “upon Jr’s request” because most nights Jr is able to do his homework independently without any assistance.
I have revised Jr’s schedule to accommodate his new school’s arrival time accordingly because we are accustomed to the dismissal time as that hasn’t changed. Jr’s evening schedule is inclusive of breaks, especially during the periods where he’s using electronics to ensure that he’s protecting his eyes as much as possible until we pickup his tinted glasses that include anti-glare.
He’s already able to do many other things independently and only needs reminders periodically. He can shower/bathe himself. He can prepare small items in the microwave (primarily reheating meals already prepared). He assists with bringing down and sorting his dirty laundry. He has finally grasped the concept of hanging up certain clothing items. He also can use his timer to ensure that his TV goes off at night so that he can rest. He uses a timer on his Ipad to assist him with maintaining track of the time he spends using electronics and the time he spends on each break as recommended by not only his father and I, but pertinently by the eye doctor.
I am keeping notes of all his strengths and weaknesses which aren’t many weaknesses, however as we all know that “1 little thing or 1 big thing” can trigger regression and we must always be on standby. However, I encourage you all to enjoy the moments of triumph! I don’t care if it’s one hour, one day, one year, ENJOY IT!
I am also tracking the progress that I see and the few updates that I have verbally received from his new teachers. I am anxious to hear their “official report” once we have a meeting to discuss the 504 plan for this school as opposed to what we brought with us.
I encourage all parents to remain abreast to your rights as parents and advocates for your child. I encourage you to visit the National Academic Press website by visiting the following link: http://www.nap.edu/. This website offers “a wealth of information” on various topics! Many, if not all their books offer “FREE downloads!” Yes FREE information!!
You can also take advantage of the My Autism Team website by visiting my personal profile here: http://www.myautismteam.com/users/HBICTIFFANY. I must admit I am not very active on this website. This website is a good resource for those looking for doctors, teachers, other parents like ourselves who need a constant support system.
Due to my Bipolar Disorders and PTSD I often become overwhelmed with the amount of discussions etc that take place there as well as the Autism Spectrum group on Facebook and need a break from it. Not to mention, it deters me from being able to write blogs such as these to share my experiences and advice which I’ve found to be more helpful than the commenting that takes place in the “group setting.” Again whatever works for you, use it!
The last resource that I’d like to share with you all is called Rethink click the following link: http://rethinkrethink.com/ . Their full name is “Rethink The First Choice For Inclusion Education”, they are a blog site as well that has various topics and resources. Yet, what I’ve personally found most helpful are their webinars which you can access one of the recent ones by visiting this site: http://go.rethinkfirst.com/instructional-environment-best-practices/.
The reason that I prefer the webinars over the blog is obvious “I myself am a blogger!” I sit and read and write and read and write numerous hours each day on various topics and that’s not inclusive of my social media usage! Lord only knows LMAO, so when I want information “fast and efficiently” their webinars are the best answer for me. Often they even motivate me to share my experiences whether it’s on my personal blog or the site of someone else.
You can be and many are the expert on your child! Do not let their degrees, or years of experience I often hear people brag about intimidate you in anyway.
Trust me I’ve had Director’s of Special Education applaud and come to me for advice on different matters regarding developmental delays and mental illness (of course quietly) but they’ve come to me! I’ve had them utilize my services to assist in motivating other parents to not only become more active, but more accountable regarding their child’s education.
This is an ongoing process but remember where there are trials there will be triumphs. Remember my motto: “Autism isn’t a disability, it’s the ability to see and experience the world differently!”