So what I didn’t tell you about the times Pudding got rejected here and here, is that they were supposed to be our Plan B. Our safety schools. Our not-quite-ideal-but-we’ll-fall-back-on-it schools. That is why it was even more ridiculous that she was refused, or that these places didn’t even want to consider accommodations or supports.
Let me tell you, if Plan B doesn’t work out, you really start to despair about Plan A. So what is Plan A? Well, let me first explain about where Pudding currently goes to school. Pudding is in a preschool/early intervention centre for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and a few other special needs kids who weren’t welcome anywhere else.
This school is intimate, supportive, and caring, but it isn’t currently equipped to educate children through kindergarten and beyond. It offers speech, occupational and physical therapies on site, so Pudding’s curriculum builds on what she is working on during her individual sessions, and as a bonus- I don’t have to trail around to get Pudding the intensive therapy she needs. She has a good relationship with her teachers and therapists, and they genuinely care about Pudding and her future. A future as bright as she is.
What her current program doesn’t offer, however, is time spent in a mainstream classroom with other typically developing children. For a socially-motivated child like Pudding, it is even more difficult to begin to learn and understand social interaction from other children who hold the same challenges.
We’ve found a school which previously rejected us (on paper) but with new admissions staff, and a leadership promoting a more inclusive community, we were asked to come back. Pudding went along for an informal school-readiness assessment, which went well. A team then went out to her current school to observe her in the classroom and talk further with her current teacher and therapists.
Yesterday we returned to create what is probably the most individualized education plan to never be called an IEP. Pudding will spend her mornings in the new kindergarten class, then return in the afternoons to her current school to continue with the therapies and extra support that she needs.
We’ll gradually introduce Pudding to her new school and classmates with a series of outings to the new school, together with photographic social stories to prepare her for the coming changes. We’ve discussed a couple of times we can meet to adjust or tweak the program to ensure all Pudding’s needs are met.
The new teacher already has experience with children on the spectrum, but requested any books or materials I thought might help her to better understand and support Pudding. The school has also asked if we would meet with the other parents before the start of term to answer any questions they might have about Pudding and her learning differences. They even suggested I write an article for the school newsletter explaining some of the ways we support Pudding’s strengths and weaknesses, and the ways in which an inclusive classroom is beneficial for all children.
In short, they are doing everything they can to help this to work. They are doing everything I expected to see- but didn’t- in the Plan B schools (remedial schools that are supposed to support learners with additional needs).
As with trying anything new, we won’t know for sure if it will work out for us. But I feel strongly that this is what Pudding needs come the start of the school year. In the meantime, we’ll be working on Plan C. There is, after all, a whole alphabet to go through.