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Friday, January 24, 2020

Update on My Kids' Schools



As someone who used to homeschool, then sent to school, then homeschooled again, then sent some to school, and then sent the rest to school, I've definitely shared a lot with you about the educational journey my family has been on. Add to that the two kids with Autism and our journey for special ed, and it gets even more interesting.

I shared with you what happened with Rose's autism diagnosis and the fact that she got into a terrific school for kids with autism and that it's been really wonderful. I also shared my horror when I was reported to child protective services by the child development clinic for pursuing an autism diagnosis for my daughter, because they decided she didn't have it and that my getting my daughter evaluated was harmful for her enough for them to report me to CPS for abuse. Just a quick update on that- CPS paid me a home visit and I showed them all the paperwork I had about Rose's diagnosis, etc... and they officially closed the case. I'm still wondering if there's a way to go after the child development clinic because what they did was beyond horrible, but I'm not sure yet what, if anything, I can do about that.

Anyhow, so that's what is going on with Rose this year and I am very thrilled with her school. She has regular OT, speech therapy, socials skills classes, play therapy, hydrotherapy (yes, they have a pool in her school for that!) and her class is entirely made up of girls with autism, which means that her class is literally designed for her! She has a platform swing and a mini trampoline inside her classroom, they provide wobble sensory seats for the kids to use and many teachers and helpers so there is lots of one on one attention. And of course they don't do ABA, but instead use a DIR/Floortime approach instead. Rose is also thrilled to go to school and never wants to miss a day!


We had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting and they want Rose to also be in social environments that are more challenging for her, and we talked about mainstreaming her part of the time, but with an aide, so it wouldn't just be like throwing her back into the schooling environment that she was in before she was approved for special ed, but rather with a trained aide to help her learn to navigate the social dynamics that are harder for her. We discussed a lot about how to do this, and in the end, we decided to have her join another class in her school that is an inclusion classroom, so that she can learn to navigate the social dynamics there, in a slightly larger class (her class currently has 9 kids, and this other class has something like 15), but with help. The nice thing is that she'll be joining that class at the same time that her main teacher is teaching them, so it'll be a more familiar environment for her as well. This is going to be starting next week.

However, next year was potentially an issue. Rose is turning 6 in March, and is in kindergarten now, and theoretically would be going to first grade next year. Which comes with a whole host of problems, because there are very limited options for autistic girls were we live, and there is no regular autism class in most girls schools (and for various reasons I won't send to co-ed), and I didn't want to just completely mainstream her with an aide because then she wouldn't be getting the regular therapies she's getting now, as they happen through the school system, and the aides that they have in most schools are completely untrained with special ed and end up doing very little to help the kid thrive, and Rose definitely needs more than a shadow.

I was in a bit of a panic about next year, and I called an organization who works with autistic kids and other disabilities, asking them what they knew about schooling options. They told me that depending on different things, they can aid in the formation of an autism class, as long as they can get 4 girls from the region who need such a class. They called up Rose's school with my permission, to see if they could do that, and then Rose's school updated me and told me that they think Rose should continue there for another year before continuing to first grade, and I was able to breathe the hugest sigh of relief, that I can wait another year before figuring out what to do about elementary schools for her.

Anneliese, in second grade, is continuing in the same school where she has been since last year, and the same system that she's been in since kindergarten. Its a great school with values that match our family's ones, and despite the fact that the classes are really large, they're able to help her with specific issues she's having, and they are providing her with a resource room for specific challenges she has and free emotional therapy as part of the school day. I'm really happy with that, and I'm glad I chose that school for her.

Lee has also had big changes this year. Last year in the middle of the year he was forced into school, and the one school that would accept him midway through the year that I was willing to send to, a private school in the nearby town, was really a bad fit for him. He had a great teacher, but socially it was horrible for him, because the kids there were really problematic. He also didn't like how it was scholastically and wanted to switch schools. The school that I wanted to switch him to, also a private school, didn't want to accept him because he doesn't speak the local language well enough and they felt they didn't have the resources there to help him succeed.
So he requested to switch to the regional giant public school (with I think 10 classes of 30+ kids per grade), which after consulting with his therapist, was the best move for him. It hasn't been the easiest change academically, because he was placed in the highest level class there, and his homeroom teacher doesn't speak a word of English. But he really likes the teacher, the teacher likes him, he really enjoys the kids in his class, and socially it has been amazing for him. The school also is providing him a private teacher during the school hours to help him catch up with the local language, and he is excelling in math and English classes. We have discussed moving Lee to a smaller classroom where he might get more academic support than in the large classroom, but we're still unsure about whether or not that will happen.

As for Ike... well, that's currently where the biggest problems are. He is in fifth grade in his fourth year in his current school and I love it. It's a self contained autism school, that does mainstreaming with another school next door a few times a week. His teachers are amazing. The principal is amazing. What they offer in terms of therapies and social skills classes is amazing. They are also DIR/Floortime based, and I see just how much Ike has thrived in his school.

But he doesn't want to be there anymore. Though they have specific subjects that are each taught according to the level that the kid is at, such as math, many subjects are not, and he's bored, because he feels the classes aren't at his level. He really wants to excel academically and feel his school is holding him back.

I spoke with his therapist, and she agrees with him that he should switch schools, but I told her that I don't have a problem with him switching schools, but I need to find one that is suitable for him. She agrees that he still should be in a self contained autism class, but integrated as suitable for him, into mainstream classes for specific subjects. Only, I haven't found a single suitable school for him that fits that criteria.

One school that was recommended doesn't actually have any autism class. Another school only goes until second grade. Another school the kids are mainstreamed the entire day and just have an afterschool autism program. All are not suitable for him. There is one last school that does have the criteria that I'm looking for, but it is a co-ed school and not someplace I feel comfortable sending. I have tried to look further but have struck out and not found any other options for next year. I have found an option for seventh grade that may be suitable, the public school where Lee is now, but that is only starting in seventh grade and isn't an answer for next year.

So now I need to try to figure out what to do with Ike for now and next year. I have a meeting with his therapist next week to try and figure it out.

This has given me much angst because maybe I should just send him to the co-ed school, but after much thought and deliberation I have decided that that isn't something I am comfortable doing, and it isn't a suitable option for him or our family. So we'll see.

And there you have it, an update on my kids' schools. Nothing simple with our family, but at least 3/4 of the kids are happy and settled where they are. And hopefully we'll figure out what to do about the 4th's education soon.

4 comments:

  1. I am interested why wouldn't you send your kid to co-ed school. Actually, I wonder why anybody wouldn't - why promote sex segregation, why not socialize kids to the socializing with both genders, showing them we are all equal? I understand it is probably too personal of a question, otherwise maybe you would have mentioned it, but I really wanted to ask.

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  2. I admire you for all your hard work in getting your kids the educations they need! Good job! I also have a kiddo who was bored with school when he was younger but we stuck with his school for a couple of reasons. 1) It is the best education for our money in the area and we don't want to leave--they are like family to us! 2) They are educating the whole person including working on values (that mirror our own), character development and social skills, on top of the fact that our son is now enjoying a very challenging high school curriculum! You will find what works for you. Just be patient, and remind Ike that there is more to school than academics.

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  3. It sounds like you have done some great work at getting your children settled where they are. I so admire parents who work hard to find the best fit for each child. Until I met a local friend who did that (with 7 kids and 6 different schools!), it would never have occurred to me that could be an option. Good job, Mom! Our children attend the same school (co-ed, religious private through 8th grade, now public charter 9-12 - we're in the US) but it was nice to be aware that different schools could be an option.

    Would an extracurricular academic class meet Ike's needs for challenge next year? Not sure if that's even an option but thought I'd put it out there.

    Blessings on your decision making for the next school year,
    Lea

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