After a two week Christmas break, school started up again this week. I am never sure whether or not Buddy likes it. When I asked him, “Are you looking forward to going to school and seeing your teacher?” He just repeated her name.
But he seemed eager to go. I was starting to rethink the homeschool idea, with one exception. These week long or longer break wrecks havoc with his schedule, and the school year has a lot of breaks. One benefit from homeschooling would be being able to start a year round schedule to give him the consistency he craves.
Yet even with the long breaks that public school has I wondered if it could work. He’s making good progress. He’s identifying his letters, drawing shapes, he’s not been counting as much as he used to but I think that’s because he’s trying to get his letters down. I’m also starting to have more little conversations with him. We were doing a puzzle that had stop lights on it and he said the green one was blue. I corrected him, and he looked at it and said “I see blue.” Usually when I pick him up from school and ask how his day was he just repeats “day” or says nothing, but on Tuesday when I asked he said, “I read books and played with blocks.” Yes, this is something most five year olds do, but six months ago he wasn’t even talking every day. I was dancing on the moon because I was finally having these little conversations with him! One day his teacher said he was talking a lot at school and they were real excited about the things he’s started doing.
So it was a slap in the face yesterday when I got his report card showing no progress and saying he zones out in class a lot.
I started crying so much while driving him home that I had to pull over. I’ve been seeing him really bloom these last few months and the school didn’t acknowledge any of it and said that he’s having more difficultly. Once again, he’s not where most five year olds are, but he is not on the same timeline for most five year olds! And it’s not fair to compare him to that!
I’m wondering why there’s such a disconnect, and I’m wondering if he feels discouraged there, because I know I’m feeling discouraged.
Some little things are making me mad. For instance, there’s a color code system at his school for behavior and orange is perfect behavior. Every day he has come home with an orange dot on his daily sheet. I don’t know why anyone at this school can’t mention this to me as a positive. Especially considering most kids with autism have behavior problems. Or why the talking he was doing didn’t make it on his report card.
Things I was taught as a counselor include that it is more important to notice and feed what a person is doing right than to focus on what they are doing wrong or not doing. I don’t know where in our society we got the insane idea that if we focus on everything a person is doing badly they’ll change, because it’s not what happens. People get discouraged and live down to those expectations. I feel like he is being set up for failure in pre-k!
I also know from experience just how painful and discouraging this is. I really struggled in elementary school, thought I was an idiot and shouldn’t even bother with college, and hated school. Things didn’t click for me until junior high, when I literally went from special ed to advanced placement and honors classes in two years. This leads me to believe that Buddy is developing on his own timeline like I was. Thing is, those elementary school years nearly broke me, and if I’d not had a supportive family it may well have.
All kids need to be set up and the goals placed upon them realistic for success, but for a child with special needs this is even more important!
Once again, I’m wondering if his teacher has a good knowledge base of what is normal for a kid with autism (since as she is a special ed teacher she should, but having been through the public school system in Texas, I can say that doesn’t mean much). Once again I’m frustrated that the school does not seem like a good place for him to be and that the better option would be to find a therapy group that specializes in autism and homeschool him, because that’s going to cost me both in money and time.
At any rate, when we got home I burnt the report card. Once I got Sissy down for a nap and Buddy happy in front of “Wreck It Ralph” I called Andy and told him what happened and we both agreed to celebrate Buddy that night. When Andy got home we told Buddy that we were proud because he always got orange dots for his behavior and that he was talking to us so much more and we were going to celebrate all of the amazing things he was doing. Then I asked him is he wanted pizza or fries, and he said pizza. Him just telling us he wants pizza is new and progress. Usually if we give him a choice he doesn’t answer us and we have to guess. But last night he wanted pizza.
When we got to the restaurant he jumped out of the car, grinned and hugged me. He’s always on his best behavior when I take him out and he was last night. Then we went for ice cream.
When I went to get him ready for bed he jabbered, and while I could only pick up every few words, he was talking in sentences. When Andy came in to sit with him Buddy told me, “Love you, night.”
Andy and I can’t help what the school does but we sure as hell can make sure Buddy knows his abilities are acknowledged and appreciated.