Kindergarten has been in session for a month and on Thursday night I went to the Roc’s Kindergarten open house. I was a little apprehensive, like I always am to go to the school, but excited to see if I would get a chance to talk to the special ed teacher and see how he was really doing. Lately it seems that he has been oscillating between having good days and bad because I would get a note in his communication book when he went to time-out for hitting as well as notes that said “GREAT day today!” I’ve been worried because he has been reluctant to get on the bus in the mornings, which has led me to wonder what kind of shape he is in when he gets to school. I also know that the day is long (6 hours) so he cannot possibly be in a bad mood the whole day even if he arrives in one. So I was really looking forward to finding out more about his day.
Listening to the two teachers talk about the curriculum and how they teach it reminded me of why I was so happy this summer when I found out he was placed with them. They were poised and confident, but more than that they were fun, upbeat, and passionate about teaching these children. The most impressive part for me was when the special ed teacher explained the inclusion room and how it benefits everyone in the classroom and what she hopes they all take away from this experience – the children, teachers, and parents alike. I sat back and looked around at all the parents with typical children hoping that they really understood the impact and how lucky their kids are, because I really do believe they are lucky. Not only because they have this amazing duo of teachers but also because they have these special children in their lives to teach them about respect, acceptance, and sensitivity. I know that the Roc is lucky that inclusion exists because he definitely models off these children and has learned many skills by watching and imitating them, and he wants to be with them.
The teachers stated during their presentation that they did not want to answer questions about individual children that night, but the special ed teacher pulled me aside as soon as they were done presenting to show me some of the tools they are using with the Roc. She pulled out a little sheet that had a red frowny face and a green smiley face and told me that she uses that to reinforce his behavior and as a reminder. All she has to do is show him this slip ask him if he wants her to circle the red frowny face and he says “no!” and snaps back in line. She even gave it to the reading specialist to hold over his head while she is working with him individually. Another tool she has ready are some “I need a break” pictures that he can use if he gets overwhelmed. He hasn’t had to use them yet.
By this time most of the parents had left the room and the general ed teacher and the para came over to join our conversation about the Roc.
We talked about his behavior and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the hitting isn’t hitting, he’s tapping them and saying he is going to hit. More often than not he is verbally warning them. “I’m angry. I want to smash the table” but doesn’t actually DO anything. He isn’t having outbursts of yelling and screaming, in fact, he isn’t overly loud at all. When another child bonked him on the head accidentally while they were playing he didn’t yell like they thought he would. Instead he went to the teacher and said “That wasn’t nice. I’m angry and I want to smash him” which sounds bad but the fact that he went to the teacher and verbalized how he felt and didn’t scream or try to retaliate speaks volumes. He is transitioning from the bus into school well – he comes right in and does the six step morning routine with minimal help! He had a lot of issues with this in preschool. Something else he had a big problem with in preschool was walking in line, he has a lot of anxiety about people being behind him and they had lots of trouble keeping him in line last year. He is walking in line just fine in kindergarten! Also, he is sitting in the crowded cafeteria and eating with his classmates! I worried about him actually eating because of how overstimulating the cafeteria would be. The para even said that she stopped hanging around the table as much because he is doing so well. He still needs a little help but is surprising her in that situation.
And there’s the BIG one: He.Is.Talking.To.His.Classmates…I was over the moon excited to hear about this. I witnessed this with his friends and cousins last week and am so thrilled to find out it’s happening in the classroom too! In fact, I think all those typical kids in the classroom has been the catalyst for this growth in conversational skills. The teachers told me that he loves to play with blocks with the boys in the class and that is one of his preferred activities. He is also finally using the playground and likes for the girls to chase him! The special ed teacher even took a little video of him on the playground and showed it to me because she captured him being chased by a little girl and loving it, and then he let her go up the stairs first and said “these are my friends” when she went by. So cute!
I was so thankful that they took the time to talk to me about the Roc. The were so genuine when they told me they are really enjoying having him in the class, he makes them laugh everyday, they love hearing the new stuff that comes out of his mouth, and of course he has one of the best smiles around!
I left the building feeling so relieved. Back in February/March I was so worried about whether I should send him on to kindergarten or have him repeat preschool again. I had insomnia for weeks while I visited the two different types of kindergarten inclusion in our district and then thought and thought about it. I talked to all of his doctors about preschool vs. kindergarten and no one could tell me what would be best – no one knew. I had to decide. Then we had the Delaware Autism Program evaluation in April/May and I was slightly relieved when they said he was too high functioning for their program. They made that decision for me, but I was also worried that they made a mistake and that he might really need to be in that program, (and also really ticked that now he does not have the educational label of autism). My mind was forever pinging back and forth between all the different possibilities and it was driving me nuts. I have been really worried these last few weeks that the Roc was in the wrong place, that kindergarten was too much for him, too many kids, too much change, too long, etc. Worried that I made the wrong decision.
I am not anymore. He is doing well. He is learning. He is growing. He is gaining independence. His social skills are blossoming. He is happy (most of the day!).
I made the right decision. All those months I felt so sick with worry, all the gray hairs I sprouted, and I made the right decision.
For once I don’t feel guilty.
What an amazing feeling.