Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Once Upon A Time There Were 2 Back To School Nights

Back to School Night Number One: Pink

Pink's school is a public elementary school, K through 3. The parents of all 21 students packed into the brightly colored room full of books and materials. Rainbow colors, ABCs and Weather Charts adorned the walls. There was a blackboard. A desk. A teacher impeccably dressed and sweet as pie. We read Pink's "All About Me" book she made, left for us at her desk. We watched a video. We were presented with meticulously put together packets of information and told about our children's curriculum. They will be working on writing their names, numbers, pre-reading skills, math, and science. The caterpillars in the tank have already spun their chrysalis's (which I never knew was the proper name for a cocoon).

Back To School Night Number Two: CB

CB's school is an entirely self-contained school for kids with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Only 4 out of the 8 parents attended. The teacher and 6 aides were there. The room was large and spacious and well-organized with bins and cubbies, but very white to minimize distraction. The walls displayed schedules for the kids. The room was wheel chair accessible for a few of the kids, and adaptive equipment was positioned around the 2 large work tables in the room. There were no individual desks... 4 kids at one large station, 4 kids at another.

The nurse stopped by. The O.T. stopped by. The P.T. stopped by. The Speech Therapist and Adaptive Physical Education Teacher popped in for a quick "Hi." All singing the praises of each child. We ate soft pretzels and at one point the meeting turned into a support group/motivational-spirit lifting session. The teacher, who has taught our daughter for 2 years, discussed the therapies and sensory diets and community outings. She talked about the crappy A.P.A. (the special ed. version of the stupid state-wide standardized testing) and we all cracked jokes about our child's tests. J. has algebra this year and his mother laughed saying "Well, if you can get the calculator out of his mouth and wipe off the drool....". Then there was S. who has biology and the teacher informed his mother that she will be doing Ecosystems. His Mom cracked up too. CB has nothing this year. That's good because maybe the state wants to see how she's doing in French Literature but I'd like her crap in the toilet.

CB is in the equivalent of the 9th grade. She is working on sorting similar objects into bins. She's working on using a stamp to "sign" her name, though I'm not sure what the heck she'll ever need to formally sign. She's working on using her PECS cards to communicate. She just started with a "sentence strip" last year. She can use it with about about 80% accuracy by placing a picture card on a velcro tab on a strip that reads "I Want ______." Pretty much she always wants water, beads, or food. But she often gets her cards mixed up because she's in la la land. CB's still working on toilet training, brushing her hair and teeth and getting dressed. These have been her goals for at least 10 years. I guess she's working at her own pace.

It's funny. These 2 Back To School Nights were very different in many ways. One night represented the hope for the future... a typical Kindergartener learning to read and write. The expectation that she will grow and mature and develop. The other night highlighted some fears and the realities of having a 9th grader unable to speak or tie her shoes.

But, you know what? As contrasting as these nights were, there was something they had in common.

Both nights we left with smiles on our faces.
Both nights, we left with hearts full of pride.


Claire said...

Absolutely beautiful post.

michelle said...

I love Back to School Night. I'm a nerd (SO not cool, just ask my kids ha ha). I also love report card day and open house, and winter concerts. I don't get how some parents just can't be bothered. It's sad.

They all work at their own pace, and they're all awesome

Anonymous said...

Came here from Elizabeth's blog. Every year we have to come up with goals for our 17 year old daughter, which always makes me laugh as well. Katie's goal this year, stop beating up her mother.

Corrie Howe said...

Thanks for comparing and contrasting. It was a nice touch and insight into your life. I can relate on both levels.

Elizabeth said...

So beautiful. I needed to read this -- I'm dreading the search for a new class for Sophie. She is going into ninth grade next year, and the idea of "high school" is just hideous. Is the class that your daughter is in part of a regular high school, or is it an all special needs school?

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cristie Ritz King said...

Your kids are very lucky-to have you and to have what sounds like amazing schools. They are covered in all areas and they have you as their advocate to thank.
To steal a cheesy movie line-you make me want to be a better mom.
Thank you.

Queenbuv3 said...

I feel the same way about my two kids. They are both very different and have different levels of skills but I love them both equally and am proud of any progress they make.

I have never been to an open house for my son. Never. Not when he was at my daughter's school and not since he has been out of district. I think I should bring that up to his teacher!

erika said...

I'm so glad I've visited your blog. It's a wonderful place. And what a beautiful, uplifting post.

You had me at "the state wants to see how she's doing in French Literature but I'd like her crap in the toilet"

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

I love your take on this. The working at one's own pace is so important to remember.

Beth L. Gainer said...

Another poignant post about your kids. This was simply beautiful. You handle writing about your kids with grace and fluidity.

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