Thursday, August 21, 2008
Reinventing The Wheel...Again
Connor started school this week. For most parents this means getting school supplies, buying a backpack, etc. For me this meant researching Wrights Law, and finding new programs to try. Connor had not had the best summer school experience. The school district and I have two very different ideas of what "training" and "support" mean. I wasn't about to have this year be another disappointing year for Connor.
I have often wondered if inclusion is right for Connor. Is he a round peg we are trying to put in a square hole? I bought a book that I highly recommend for anyone trying inclusion with an autistic child. It talks about the benefits of inclusion along with detailed programs to help teachers implement social skills in the classroom and throughout school.
I have voiced my concern for Connor during lunch and recess. He has a hard time with social skills and those are the main times during the day that he interacts with his peers in a non-structured way. I had been hearing about different programs like "Lunch Bunch" and other buddy programs. Connor has a desire to socialize but doesn't quite know the rules. He might do something inappropriate or say something about a topic that isn't interesting to other kids and they won't be interested in him anymore. He doesn't have the ability right now to catch on to their disinterest. "Lunch Bunch" is a way to work on social skills in a structured way with a couple of interested peers and a facilitator.
Another program we are going to try is a class wide peer training. Last year I was a bit skeptical when I was first introduced to this concept. I didn't want to draw extra attention to the fact that Connor is different. This of course, I have come to realize, is silly. The kids already know that Connor is different. We need them to know how he is the same. We need to teach the kids why it is that Connor doesn't always say the appropriate thing. We need to teach why Connor doesn't every whisper or play with them on the playground. They need to know why he has behavior issues sometimes. I don't want the kids thinking he is just weird. I want them to see past the parts of him that are different so they can see the cool fun parts of him. Connor is very funny. He is witty actually. Many of his teachers have commented on this fact. They say that when he opens up and is comfortable, he is actually quite humorous. I want the kids to see all that he has to offer by explaining that even though he is different, it's OK to be his friend.
We are setting up a reward chart for him also. We are still working through the specifics, but it is a chart that he gets stickers for every time he completes a specific task appropriately. At the end of the chart, when all the spaces have stickers, he gets a reward. This is basic ABA. It is simple, but it works. Remember to always keep the reward something that is truly, a reward. Also, in the beginning you will want the child to be successful everyday so set up the chart to make it possible to get the reward at the end of everyday. After a couple of weeks the reward could be obtained after two full days or so.
The school seems to be willing to try all of the things I have "suggested". They want Connor to be successful, but they also know I won't take no for an answer. Much of my job is trying not to step on too many toes, but still getting my point across clearly. Sometimes you have to shake up the "establishment" to get results. Change doesn't generally happen on its own.