Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘mainstream

10 Things

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!0 ThingsPudding is about to start first grade in her mainstream school.  She is returning after completing kindergarten, so many things will remain the same, but there are new challenges for her to face.  Most importantly, a new teacher.  She asked me to tell her about Pudding, so here I will try…

1. She is always trying her best

Always.  It may not seem like it.  Especially at 3 am, it can be hard to see it, but she is aways trying her best.  She isn’t lazy, or naughty, or clumsy.  She makes every effort.  Praise her efforts.  Rejoice in her successes.  Never punish her if the results don’t match her peers.  She is trying her best.  Always.

2. Make her comfortable

Sometimes you can’t tell she is trying her best, because she is trying to get comfortable.  Getting comfortable for her could be a lot different for her than it is for you and I.  Comfort needs to be on her terms, and you might have to try a few things out before you both figure that out.  Does she need to be away from the bright light coming in from the windows?  Does she need to be seated close so it is easier for her to hear you amongst the classroom noise?  Is somebody doing garden work with loud equipment?  Does she need to get up and move?  Perhaps a stint in the sensory room.  Try and make sure her every sense is satisfied, and you’ll have a much more comfortable learner.  You’ll even find she tolerates more if you allow her to be in control.

3. Ease her anxiety

This one is easier said than done, I know.  Let her be your guide.  We’ve read the social story all through the break, and she is familiar with the school, but there will be changes to her routine that take her out of her comfort zone.  She knows when she has had enough.  Respect that, and know that if she trusts you, that is already half the battle won.  When she gains confidence, she is bold and resilient.  If she is pushed into doing something, she is scared and stubborn.  Let her be your guide, and she will push herself harder than you could imagine.

4. Speak her language

There are no shortcuts here, I can’t really give you a phrasebook in Pudding.  Communication will be a struggle until you figure out the idiosyncrasies of her language.  You’ll get to know her quirks.  She may reply ‘no’ if you ask if she is okay, and ‘yes’ if you ask if she is fine.  If she is struggling to process something verbally, try a different way.  Always respect her no.

5. Listen to your own language

What you say in the heat of the moment will echo in her heart.  I’m working right now on assuring her that her writing isn’t ‘ugly’ and that she isn’t ‘clumsy.’  Thoughtless expressions like this resonate with her.  She’ll repeat them to me, but worse than that, she’ll repeat them to herself for even longer.  Let your lasting testimony be words that build her up, rather than knock her down.

6. Give her time

I mean this both literally and figuratively.  Remember that she is taking in a lot of other information at the same time as your words, and these need to be decoded before she can respond.  Give her a few extra seconds to process a question or verbal command.  Better still, provide visual cues to assist her interpretation.  If she doesn’t seem to pick something up, try another approach until you get the right one.  You will.

7. Presume competence

Believe in her, and she’ll show you how right you are.  Do otherwise, and you’re both doomed to failure.

8. Help her to belong

She is an amazing, fascinating, beautiful, kind, brave, multi-faceted little girl.  She wants nothing more than to belong in her classroom.  Help other classmates to understand her value, and interact with her in a positive way.  Not just for Pudding’s sake, but for their own too.  Sooner or later, all of us will feel that we don’t belong.  Teach them that everybody does.

9. Embrace the special interests

Yes, you’re going to have to learn to love Hello Kitty.  Special interests can be a weapon or a tool, depending on your approach.  See Hello Kitty as a way of cutting through other distractions and helping her to focus.  You can count the Hello Kitties, write stories about them, paint pictures…the list goes on and on.

10. We’re here

We aren’t going to tell you how to teach, but we can tell you how to help her learn.  The most important thing is that the two of you develop your own relationship, and you learn from each other.  Trust me, I’m still learning from my girl, and I’m constantly amazed at all she has to teach us.

Happy learning!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 15, 2013 at 8:38 am

Starting School

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Pudding has started at her new school.  You’re probably wondering how it is going.  I could have written that things were going well after the first day, but I didn’t.  Nor at the end of the first week (half-week, really).  Only now dare I actually say it.

Things are going well.  I daren’t jinx it.  I want it to keep going well.  I want that more than anything.

I want her to continue to have the same enthusiasm for school that she does right now.  Where she is mad at the weekend, because she just wants to go to school that much.

Her whole team has been pleasantly surprised with the ease of the transition.  Last week, she started going until 12.30, which means she is now dealing with leaving her homeroom and attending art and music classes.  All this she is taking in her stride.  Our girl is blossoming, just like we knew she would, if she was planted in the right soil.

Just in case you think we’ve swapped Pudding, she still proves herself to be just as she always was.  Her teacher has been kind enough to send home photographs so we can see for ourselves how she is doing in class.  One photograph was of all the class: children and teachers.  I asked Pudding to name everybody in the photo for me, and she dutifully obliged.  And when I asked who her favourite kid was, she responded with “Pudding.”  She is who she is, and we love her for it!

But don’t just take my word for it, this is what her teacher emailed to me today:

Hello (I want to add the word Kitty!)

 

Pudding* had such a wonderful day at school today.  I wanted to share her Journal writing with you.  On previous mornings she has drawn for me and been done…. But today she wrote more than most of the kids in the class.  Her phonemic knowledge is very good and I use her to help find letters when we are working on a whole class writing piece.   

I am also getting her to use computers more and she is very good at navigating her way through to programs that she likes.  Pudding has also found where I keep my ipad and enjoys some of the alphabet apps on it. 

I just want you to both know that Pudding has wormed her way into my heart and I am really enjoying learning with her and about her.

 

Best email ever.  She had me at the first line.  Seeing the picture almost had Spectrummy Daddy and myself in tears.  I’m going to save that for tomorrow.  It won’t be a Wordless Wednesday, because there is a whole sentence in it!

So there you go- this is almost a straight up, unqualified, things are going great kind of post.  Almost.  Because in less than two weeks we’ll be pulling her out of school for R&R, and she might really not want to miss school for that long.

But I’m not about to start complaining about a child who wants to go to school, nor a school that wants to have my child there!  I’m just going to enjoy Pudding starting school.  I’m the luckiest of all spectrummy mummies to get to do that.

 

*Nope, she doesn’t call her that, in case you were wondering.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 20, 2012 at 8:36 pm

A Father’s Anger (guest post by Spectrummy Daddy)

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I haven’t written about this, because I’ve been too hurt, too indignant, but most of all just too weary.  Spectrummy Daddy, however, has settled on angry, and he’ll tell you why.  Please note that LLG (lovely little girl) is another pseudonym for Pudding….

Recently, we’ve tried to find a school that will take Lovely Little Girl.  It can be difficult, but there are numerous remedial schools that have fine reputations here in Johannesburg who aim to mainstream their students.  That’s what we’re looking for, a place that will take her, and help move her to a normal school.  It’s one of the problems we have: Schools won’t take her because she’s only been involved in Autism centered programs, but she can’t get in to a school to give her the chance.  It’s a vicious cycle.

So when we got an appointment with one of these remedial schools and they said they’d take her on a trial for 3 days, I was excited but also a little scared.  3 days isn’t long for someone who isn’t on the spectrum to get acquainted with new surroundings.  Heck, I take at least a week, and I’m purportedly neurotypical.  Still, it was a chance to get going and maybe have her ready for a new school next year.  We didn’t prepare her as well as we should have, but sometimes it is better to have her at her worst to make sure the school knows what they’re getting.  Usually, though, in a new environment LLG is a bit timid at the beginning.  I was hoping she would steal the hearts of the teachers and they would say how excited they were to have her coming the next year.

It wasn’t to be.  They had her for 3 days (actually 2 1/2) and called afterwards to tell us that they couldn’t provide for her, and we should try an autism only school.  Never mind that everyone that has ever had my lovely daughter in a class or therapy tells us that she is a prime example of a child that would blossom with mainstream schooling.  Never mind that you really can’t tell anything from 2 1/2 days of school observation.  Never mind that they used words that showed they were fixated on her being on the autism spectrum.  No, they couldn’t help her.

You know what?  If they truly didn’t have the ability to help my daughter, then I would be ok with that.  I’m not going to force them to take her when it wouldn’t be beneficial to do so.  I have her needs to look out for as well.  What really steams me is that it appears that they didn’t even try.  2 1/2 days doesn’t tell you anything about my lovely daughter.  They said she went on “elopement” during her first day to go and jump on the trampoline.  That’s a particularly “autistic” phrase.  My question is: Did you tell her it wasn’t time to jump on the trampoline, or did you leave her out there to continue jumping?  Did you lay out the rules for jumping on the trampoline?  How many kindergarten children, seeing a trampoline at school, would not go and try to jump on it?  But, because my daughter has autism you assume that she just does her own thing and can’t be told to come join the circle?  REALLY?!?!?

Also, the fact that it was only 2 1/2 days.  That’s all they gave her.  She doesn’t come out of her shell until at least day 3, and even then it’s only a little bit.  New school environment, new teachers, what little kid wouldn’t be a little off.  Heck, I remember crying for my mother when I went to Kindergarten, and she worked in the same school!  (I was a bit of a wuss.)

The worst part is, my daughter loved it there.  She talked about her new school, and cried when we took her back to the school we have her in.  That’s what upsets me the most.  That my wife and I had to tell her that she couldn’t go back to the new school, because it wasn’t to be.  I’ve promised myself that no one will ever tell Lovely Little Girl that she can’t do something because of her autism.  If she wants to be a writer, painter, philosopher, activist or even a mother, no one can tell her no.  She will do what she wants to do, all they need to do is give her a chance.  This school effectively said she couldn’t handle the work they do there, and that we need to lower our expectations.

My response is that my daughter probably would have gotten bored at their school because she is probably smarter than the teachers, and we need to find a place to help stimulate her mind to reach its full potential.  While she needs work on some things (like not poking someone in the chest who wears a Hello Kitty shirt as a way of greeting) in others she’s fine.  Heck, I can’t do lenticular puzzles, but she does them in less than 10 minutes.  She’s already figured out how to use skeleton keys and how to get things from locked rooms without getting caught.  My trouble is making sure she uses her powers for good and not evil.

We’ll find a school to take care of her.  I know we will.  But this lack of trying by a school whose job it is to help those who need help the most still bothers me.  Hopefully I’ll get over it, and one day maybe LLG will use this as the starting point from her speech she gives when she graduates from University at the top of her class.  Even if she never reaches that point, I’ll still always believe she can.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

March 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm