This middle school thing is tough!
First off - I expected
middle school to be tough. I knew
it wasn't going to be a walk in the park. I knew
there were going to be bumps in the road. But do the peaks and valleys need to be so
Let me start off by saying.... he LOVES
middle school. He had been begging since June 18th (yes, the day after the last day of school.... lol)
to go to "WB Middle School". I mean literally, every day, multiple
times a day even! I thought it meant he was entirely ready for the new challenges, increased expectations and responsibilities and would adjust fairly well.
Yes, he's autistic - but still. We've been lucky in that a major change (school, teachers, class/mates, bus, etc) has never really thrown Ashton off track, or at the least, not for long. Shoot, we even did a total change MID-YEAR
once (and his timing of school and everything changed, too!) and he adjusted pretty well considering. Granted, there was the fateful move 7 years ago, from Northern VA to the Hampton Roads area where we currently live that nearly sent him (and us) over the edge; but he's overcome that and became a better kid for that.
To bring us to the present....
like I said, he's been excited about going to middle school and "meeting my new teachers and making new friends" for quite
some time now. I knew there would be at least a couple of kids in his class that he would know from before (or, from camp!) and he's always enjoyed making new friends.
First day of school arrives and this boy is E.X.C.I.T.E.D!
See, he even has his "books" ready to go! ;)
So, he gets ready, gets on the bus (with a look back as if to say "and just WHY are you standing there, watching me?".... :) Independent booger! But, he is an old hat at the bus routine; he has been doing it for eight years now! (whoa..... and he was in school before then!)
I waited in anticipation all day to see how his first day went. I knew he wouldn't get home until around 4pm (middle school starts at 8:50am). He gets off the bus and he was sooooo excited and saying "I'm so glad to see you, Mommy!". His teacher calls a short while later and tells me that his first day was okay. He had some troubles in the hallway and a hard time with transitioning from one subject to another. I kind of paused and was like "and...... ?". I mean, this is an autistic child in a self-contained ASD class, isn't that sort of stuff expected, on the first day and especially from a child who is just entering sixth grade?
She said "we'll work on the behaviors tomorrow. I'm sure things will improve." So, we go through the first two weeks of school and then, last Friday the 17th, I get a phone call at 2:00pm from the school. "Oh no" was the first thing I said when I saw the read-out on the phone. I answered the phone and I'm told in a polite, firm, no-nonsense voice that I am to come pick Ashton up, as he's being "too difficult" and can't be at school any longer. What the heck?! Are you seriously telling me that my child is the only one who is having this hard of a time in class that he needs to be SENT HOME?! Honestly?
Yes, indeedy... I had to go pick him up and he was absolutely heart-broken that he had to leave. "I want to go back to art class please Mommy?".... I felt so bad for him and have wondered what set him off.
So while the past two days at school haven't been uneventful like I would hope, I haven't been called in to come pick him up either. Oh, and in the last 5 school days...... they've forgotten his BRIGHT RED homework folder, not once, but TWICE! I also found out that he was either never given his art homework from the second day of school so he received an "E" for that assignment.
Let me piece together what I think is going on.........
1. they're expecting way too much out of him, too quickly. This is, after all, his first year of middle school.
2. they're giving him a minimum amount of support, rather the maximum, which is all fine and dandy. but he needs more than what they're giving him right now, at least, for the time being.
3. lack of communication..... I mistakenly told one of the TA's that I'm not one of "those" parents who has to know every nuance of every behavior and such. A nice write-up in his communication notebook suffices, but that I DO want to know about any problems. Well, in the last 3 days I've sent Ashton's lead teacher at least three emails, ALL of them are unanswered as of right now. UGH
4. setting him up for failure.... with too high of expectations, not enough support and lack of communication, yes, it's a great set-up for failure. But, what they do not know is, I'm a Momma Bear and I will fight tooth and nail to get my sweet guy exactly what he needs and deserves to thrive.
By the way, why is it that this school does not have ADAPTIVE electives for special needs students? Or, they do and they're holding out on me! I can't honestly believe that my son is the only one who has ever had problems with going to a mainstreamed class and had to be removed because of being disruptive. It's the SAME class causing problems most days (Art). He's a sensory defensive kid with poor fine motor skills. Not to mention he hates detests anything to do with a pencil, pen, crayon, etc. Art has never been something that Ashton has enjoyed, and likely never will be. Plus, for a child who has zero interest in it, what purpose is it serving him to force him to attend a class that he's not benefiting from and he's causing a big enough disruption to the other students that he's removed and I'm asked to come pick him up? NONE!! I'm sure "their" life lesson in all of this is that "you sometimes have to do, things you don't want to do" but .... an Art elective class that is geared towards the general-ed mainstreamed populace is not a place to learn that lesson in.
Anyways - here's to hoping with a possible med adjustment, a little more time and a more supportive environment, that Ashton will continue to not only enjoy middle school, but flourish and learn!
Have a good one!
Funny enough, just after I posted this entry today, (I started it yesterday) I got a phone call from Ashton's teacher.
For now, we're dropping the art elective. I did forget to ask what we're going to do for him during that time frame but this is what I wanted (art dropped) so I'm happy with this situation. Maybe we can set up some extra work for him to do during this time or MAYBE (if no one else is in the classroom at that time) he can have a SNACK at that time?! He's actually signed up for art twice this year because I don't want him taking the foreign language elective; for one very obvious reason... he's hard enough to understand, if he starts speaking French we'll have some serious communication issues! lol I told the teacher that in some ways this is good (we can try art at a time when he's better adjusted to middle school, etc....) but that I think he'd really benefit more from the teen living skills class. Much more suited to what he needs to learn anyways and it would be beneficial. Probably more interesting to him as well. We'll see.... I've got some time to figure this out.
She said today, while he was refusing to do some of his work, that he wasn't being disruptive, so that's at least a step in the right direction. They can't physically force him to the table to do group work, but they can encourage him to do the work on his own and he was somewhat doing that. I told her that I would/could email his former teacher(s) and see if we can get some more ideas of what we can do to encourage him to do group work and participate more in class.
As far as the homework folder fiasco goes..... she jokingly said that "he must be taking the folder out of his bag!". I think that's her way of telling me they don't check his bag to make sure all of his stuff is in there. She said they'll be more diligent and make sure it gets put in there (if not, I'm just not going to make him do the homework that he missed due to their mistake).
We also talked about CBI (community based instruction). She asked me if I'd attend the first couple of day trips they take, just so they have an extra set of hands/eyes for Ashton and to assist them/him on his ordering the proper food and money handling, etc. I have no problems with this for a few trips (as long as I'm available) but I hope they don't end up trying to use me as a crutch. We'll see. I am really excited about this as it should help him be a bit more independent out and about in the community which is entirely the purpose of these trips. This kind of stuff is why I want him to be successful in middle school; this stuff is important for him to learn and understand so he can navigate out in the real world.
So, things are looking up.... at least, for the time being. Yes, there will be good and bad days...... and I'm just hoping for more good than bad. Thanks for letting me ramble, on and on and on and on and on..........
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