WARNING: This entry is quite long. Then again, that should be expected, since it’s an entry about one of my children.
Today, Jak’s father and I went to see Boy’s teacher for a conference on her goals for him. We are still having problems at home trying to get him used to the idea of going to see his new teacher (hereinafter referred to as Miss T.) because he is too old to see his old teacher (hereinafter referred to as Miss C.). He even remembers the names of his old bus drivers.
I’m pretty impressed with Miss T. Perhaps as impressed as I was with Miss C, if not more. She really seems to care about his progress. The speech therapist for the program has him working on yes and no questions, picture recognition and emotion recognition. We plan to work with these concepts at home, as well, just to see if it makes a difference to his progress and the fact that he gets used to the way things are set up now.
They are also working on following one-step directions and on recognizing the anatomy of a book (front cover, back cover, title). Also, she said he was doing particularly well these last couple of days. Any time he responds correctly, he gets to listen to his music. I’m starting to think that this could be useful at home, as well, since there is a CD he often asks me to play for him.
Miss T noted that Boy seems to thrive on outdoor play. With this in mind she suggested that plenty of this might be helpful for Boy’s motor development. She even suggested building him a kind of back yard obstacle course. Things she suggested including were swings, teeter-totters, large sturdy boxes he could jump on and off of and balance beams. She also suggested a football and/or a soccer ball that he could kick around and learn to throw and catch. Thankfully, my father-in-law was in attendance at this meeting, so I think that the back yard playground/obstacle course may become more of a reality as time goes by. Given our financial situation, it was really something more of a fantasy before. Jak’s father and I are also considering purchasing a reclining lawn chair so that Jak and/or I can sometimes be outside directing Boy’s play and can sit down and rest our aching bones from time to time as necessary.
Since this is kindergarten, the state also requires that Miss T forward goals in the reading, writing and math categories. So, along with everything else, Miss T. is working on Boy’s letter recognition and sorting, writing his first and last name, and his general understanding of the value of numbers (ie. being able to count to 31, knowing when to stop counting, and representing a number in several different ways).
Personally, I was particularly pleased with how things went, even given the frustrating start we had this morning. Boy saw me at school when I came to visit with his teacher and he looked at me and smiled, but did not come running up to hug me, he said good-bye and left with the adult who had charge of him without a fuss. When I peeked in after my meeting was over, he was sitting quietly in a chair by himself without an adult having to stand behind him (which Miss T said had been necessary until just recently). In this instance, he, again, saw me, smiled and, rather than coming running to Mom, stayed in his seat and returned his attention to his teacher.
Miss T. tells me that the current class has nine students. She thinks Boy will probably not move to full-day school until next year. I know this will be frustrating for Jak, who was looking forward to having more free time with me and easier scheduling of appointments this year. However, we all agree that we have to think of what’s best for Boy first.
Miss T also said she still has to do Boy’s functional assessment to determine other important factors having to do with Boy’s educational needs. Once she has it done, she promised us there would be another big meeting to go over the results. Boy shows some signs of ADD, in addition to everything else. Miss T says this is fairly common in children with autism. She pointed out that she feels he will make more progress in learning as soon as we can overcome his difficulties in communication and focus. From there, we want to work on his social skills, which mainly involve learning that other people are just as real and just as easily hurt as he is. For now, though, we are primarily working on Boy’s level of focus and his ability to communicate and follow directions.
Last, but not least, Miss T seemed particularly pleased that Jak and I and, by extension, Jak’s father, are willing to work on these same goals with Boy at home. When I mentioned trying Boy out with a gluten-free snack, she said that, in order for the experiment to really work, I’d have to have him on a completely gluten-free diet for about three months, just to ensure that any gluten currently in his system would be cleared out. However, she offered no assurance that a change in Boy’s diet would affect his behavior or his ability to focus and communicate. I’m uncertain if I’ll be able to convince Jak that such an experiment would be worthwhile. We’ll have to see.