Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Update on new school

So, the boys have been going to their new school for a while now. I literally hold my breath every day when I go to pick them up. They have a knack for tag teaming who is going to have a bad week. I started out joking that when one is having a good week, the other has to struggle. It isn't so funny anymore. Connor took to his new school smoothly. His para is strict with him, and keeps him on task. He wasn't having any meltdowns, and was even making friends, real friends. So...Fisher was struggling. He was getting into trouble with his teacher EVERY DAY. He couldn't focus or concentrate on her direction and was constantly saying he "didn't want to do it". Seriously?! When did I make the mistake of allowing Fisher to think he had a choice? Anyway, every day was tough when I picked up Fisher. He had to stay after school every day to make up for the work he wasn't doing during the school day. Every night was like pulling teeth to get him to do homework. Then one day...tag.

I hadn't noticed the shift at first. Fisher stopped having to stay after school. He wasn't fighting me with his homework as much. His teacher would just smile and wave when I picked him up from school. I thought, yay, Fisher is getting it!! Then, I started to notice that Connor was having some small fits at school. His notes home from the Para were getting longer and longer every day. His teachers had the look of exhaustion when I picked him up. They were definitely at their wits end with the fits getting progressively worse. I tried to explain the concept of "the honeymoon" phase. Sometimes when Connor starts a new supplement or a new therapy, he goes through a fantastic stage followed by a horrible one. It is complicated and has many layers of explanation, but the bottom line is this is typical for him. I think the beginning of the year gave the staff a false sense of security with Connor. He didn't have many issues and the days were smooth. Now that he is demonstrating more "autistic" characteristics, they are shocked. I went in last week to do a para training. I watched her for a few hours to see how she interacted with him naturally. I watched to see how she handled his behavior, without interrupting her initially. I wanted to get a good idea how she handled things and also how Connor reacted to her.

Connor's para is a strong woman. She doesn't let Connor get away with anything. She holds him accountable for his behaviors. I always say that when getting a para, go with personality. You can always train someone, but you can't train their spirit. Connor's para is definitely new to autism. She has not had formal training, but she is a mom, and a strict mom. Sometimes ABA (applied behavior analysis) is counter intuitive for a mom. Mom's are giving and helping and often times does for the child instead of allowing the child to do for themselves. It is hard to just stand back and not constantly say, "Get out your pencil", "Open your book". Instead, we allow Connor (as a high functioning autistic) to try and do these tasks with just the classroom teacher's direction and then do subtle reminders. We tap on his book when it isn't open yet. We point to the pencil in his desk if he hasn't gotten it out yet. We don't do these things right away though, give the child a few extra seconds or minutes to allow their brain to catch up. Connor is probably thinking and dealing with more stimuli than we can imagine. He was sitting next to the electric pencil sharpener when I came in. Kids were getting up to sharpen pencils every few minutes right next to him, all day. Even without verbally acknowledging this action, I know he was having to process it as extra, unwanted stimuli.

The day I went in to observe and then train was a successful day for Connor. I have gone to Connor's class many times in the past to train or help, but this was the first time he asked me to come back. He actually liked me being there. I will be back again tomorrow to train Connor's specials teachers, art, music and PE. I will also watch his para using the ABA techniques I showed her to see what else we can do to help Connor at school without being too much. He needs help, but he is what i call "crazy smart". He is a Thomas Edison kinda smart. I don't want to quash his individuality and I don't want to put him in a box. But I do want him to have real relationships and fit in. Sometimes by stepping back a little at school, we allow him to spread his wings. He can take two minutes to get out his math book instead of only one minute.

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