Archive for September, 2010
Spongebob Squarepants, a creature I had hoped never made it into our house. C has gone through several fascinations with cartoon characters from Dora to Thomas to Wubzy. Fortunately, he skipped Barney and the Wiggles. I thought C would skip Spongebob too, but he is all the rage at our house right now.
Actually, I find the little yellow guy fairly funny. There are moments of hilarity in that stupid show that go far beyond kid humor. And the fact that I seem to be able to imitate several of the charaters’ voices spot-on seems to be not only a useless talent I didn’t know I had, but also a source of endless enjoyment for C.
All silliness aside, I now love that little yellow guy like no other cartoon character that has ever graced our television screen. For you see, Spongebob Squarepants has done what years of feeding therapy could not get C to do. Spongebob singlehandedly convinced C to eat something he’s never really eaten – the dreaded multi-ingredient dish.
You see, C is a single-ingredient kind of kid. Plain chicken, with nothing on it. Plain rice with nothing in it. Plain hamburger – just the patty – with nothing else. No bun, no lettuce, no tomato, no nothing. We don’t do casseroles at our house. No soups, no salsas, no dips, salads or anything that requires a recipe, because that would have too many ingredients.
But tonight, after listening to C go on and on about wanting a “Krabby Patty,” I finally decided the heck with it – I’ll risk the wasted food. I confirmed numerous times that he actually wanted a turkey patty ON a bun WITH ketchup on it PLUS avocado AND tomato. All. At. Once.
And C proceeded to eat the whole thing. Thanks, Spongebob. You’ll always have a place at our table.
The new school, that is. We like. It seems we have found a place, and a teacher, who fit C. He’s had great teachers all along, and they’ve all adored him (and he them), but this one goes above and beyond special. I don’t know what it is, exactly – but she seems to have found a way to encourage C’s quirkiness while at the same time pushing his boundaries. From appreciating his “stream of facts” book report to offering him the chance to count the money at the school economics fair, this teacher has got him pegged.
The class size alone (18 as opposed to 33 in his old school) makes much of what is in C’s IEP almost unnecessary, as his teacher is more able to address some of the issues he faces in the classroom. Her gentle approach to reading and her willingness to forge him ahead in math make him feel both relaxed and challenged at the same time.
At least that’s what I think he feels. Perhaps I’m projecting, but the seeming absolute lack of stress about school are my clues.
No more stomachaches, no more clinging to my leg in the morning, no more fear about walking into the building. There are still challenges: C still isn’t really bonding with anyone and has managed to find one kid who seems to go out of his way to bother him. After all, autism still lives here. But C is safe, he is nurtured, and he is appreciated, and with those things, much is possible.
I never knew looking for a new school for C would be such an adventure. We saw it all. Having realized that the giant public school model is no longer a fit for C, off we went to explore some pretty interesting places about as far from the neighborhood school as one could get.
First it was the excellent charter school in a yuck part of town in an even more yuck facility. We almost left before we walked in the door. But the class C would have been in had ten kids from 4th-6th grade, and is taught by a teacher with a special education background. Very cool for the 4th grader who has some awesome math skills. The place would have been a no-brainer if it weren’t for, well, just about everything else. No specials to speak of, and the playground was beyond dismal.
Lesson learned: first impressions sometimes are everything.
Then came the interesting private Christian school that I have wanted to visit for two years. With less than twenty kids in the whole school, I figured C would get all kinds of individual attention. But looking at it online and visiting are two different things: it is run by a large-hearted, barefooted, grubby guy who looks and speaks like he did a few too many hits of acid in the 60s. The old house-made-church-made-school was piled with I’m not sure what, and the layer of filth worthy of a few bottles of clorox did not please my allergy-sensitive nose. It was an interesting place with interesting kids, but it wasn’t the place for my interesting kid.
Lesson learned: apparently there is such a thing as bohemian Christianity - two words I never expected to see that close together.
We then visited the more traditional Christian private school, with properly coiffed little ones behaving perfectly and scoring well on their achievement tests. Everything was fine until I dared mention “Asperger’s,” which sent the principal into a tizzy of, “Well, we’ll have to test him thoroughly with our resource teacher to see if he can handle the rigor before we could even consider admitting a child like him…” back-pedaling. I’m pretty sure he equates special education with stupidity, and I was non-plussed, given that C could probably out-math any kid in that school. No amount of my bringing up C’s AIMS scores, grades, or abilities got the principal back onto the “We have a wonderful school here” track. And when the principal himself pointed out how small C is right in front of him, well, that was the end of that.
Lesson learned: good Christians do not necessarily good people make.
Finally, there came the school we almost skipped visiting because it’s further away than we’d like. But the principal answered the questions I wanted to ask - in the way that I wanted him to answer them – before I asked them. “We have the classroom teachers go out with the kids at recess because they know our kids far better than an aide would, and they’ll know right away if there are problems,” he said just before I asked about recess. “Ms. J is a nurturing, kind teacher who has a very gentle spirit with the kids,” he said about the 4th grade teacher right before I was planning to ask about her.
It was a done deal before we walked out the door: this was the school. We still visited four more schools after this one, but none measured up. I find myself wondering why we didn’t switch years ago, and when I read the Principal’s welcome letter to parents, it only served to reinforce our decision. At C’s new school, “children don’t have to fit the system…[teachers] appreciate individual strengths and reinforce them with frequent praise…[children are] given the opportunities to express ideas in different ways.”
Lesson learned: Find the place that encourages C to be the kid he is, without trying to make him be like all the other kids.