Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Beginnings...

If you read my blog regularly, (and let's face it, who doesn't?) then you know that Limefreckle Jr. has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS, which is along the autism spectrum. He's one of the most engaging, sweet, funny 7 year olds I've ever had the pleasure to know....he's a firecracker, he has loads of personality -- AND he's a handful! School has not been easy for him. Preschool was difficult, he didn't fit in, the teachers couldn't agree with the aides that worked with him, as far as how to discipline and best teach him to follow the rules. I would always hear from the teachers at this particular school, that it wasn't fair to the other children, when he disrupted things. Kindergarten wasn't much better, he still didn't fit in (yet it's amazing how he continues to make friends....some kids are just drawn to him, and don't seem to even notice that he doesn't behave like everyone else). In Grade 1 we got lucky, and I thought we had turned a corner, and we were going to make it. All the stars aligned, and for the most part, we had a pretty good year.

Alas, Grade 2 has been a nightmare. Staff shortages were announced at the beginning of the year ---- aides were forced to group children together, not based on what was best for the children that required assistance, but what could be done with the limited staff available. I've been called to the school several times to come pick him up, as he was not following the rules, and would not behave. Picking him up was reinforcing the bad behaviour, but clearly the school staff was often at the end of their rope, and there didn't seem to be any alternatives. A special education class was suggested to me, at another school --- I wasn't allowed to view it with any children in it mind you, had to go after hours -- and it just didn't feel right, and if I've learned NOTHING over the past 7 years, I've learned to go with my gut feelings!

So, we struggled along this year, but it became pretty clear to us that if he was to ever succeed in school we were going to need to find a place that understood him, that wanted him, and that could effectively educate him. We found that school, a private school, and yesterday was Limefreckle Jr's first day there. What an atmosphere! We knew when we first went to visit, that this was the place for him. The number ONE thing that I think is going to make the difference, is we feel so WELCOME! My experience in public education so far has pretty much made us feel that if he can't fit in and behave like all the other children, then he is not welcome. I always felt that we had to explain ourselves to the other families....to the families of the typical children, who, after all, were the children that public school was designed for. Our tipping point at our previous school came when it was suggested that perhaps we should write a letter to the parents of the other children in Limefreckle Jr's class, to explain his condition and his behaviours--- when that suggestion was made to me (and believe me, I do think it was made with the best of intentions) I realized that the school we were attending didn't really believe in true inclusion.

So here we are, driving quite a distance every day in order to attend, (of all the private schools we looked at, NONE of them were in our area!) but so happy that we have finally found somewhere that he is understood, and wanted. We have given up on worrying about inclusion at this point (this school is strictly for children on the spectrum) He attends so many out of school activities, gym classes, swimming lessons, basketball lessons, that I am sure we can still focus on inclusion in these settings. We have made many friends that we will keep in touch with. Down the road, who knows, the public system might be right for him -- we will take it a year at a time. I'm feeling so relaxed all ready, I'm sure we have made the right decision!


Tanielle said...

I hope the school is just what you were looking for. Good luck, what great parents you are. Sometimes I think we'd pay any amount or drive any distance for our children. They are just so precious!

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