Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Is This School The Right Fit?

Terry and I have mixed feelings about Ethan’s school. On one hand, the staff is wonderful—they are committed to accommodating Ethan’s academic needs. On the other, Ethan tells me on an almost daily basis that he doesn’t like school.
Because of his autism, Ethan has a difficult time making friends. During recess, he only wants to play “dinosaurs,” and gets frustrated when kids want to play other games. He has no give or take—when another child wants to be the “lead” dinosaur, he gets upset. He can’t negotiate through these situations, and ends up feeling isolated.
Unfortunately, this issue isn’t a priority for the school. It only offers social skills groups to kids whom don’t even attempt to talk to their peers or are aggressive. In its mind, Ethan is doing great because he says “hello” and “goodbye” to his peers, and he hasn’t become a big behavioral problem in the classroom.
But, as Ethan’s psychologist says, if his deficits aren’t addressed now, the the social gap between him and his peers will only widen. No matter how smart you are, if you can’t get along with people, how will you succeed in life?
Terry and I felt resigned to making the best of Ethan’s school until we heard about a new charter school in the area. The school, which if approved, would start in the fall of 2009. It would accommodate the needs of “divergent gifted learners.” By that term, it means taking kids whom are underachieving or unsuccessful, and “provide these students with an educational environment that will equip them with valuable academic, emotional and social skills that will enable them to become successful students and individuals.” To do that, the school would limit enrollment to 150 students for grades kindergarten to eighth grade. It would also staff the school with special education teachers, whom are trained in accommodating special needs kids.
A school that takes social skills as seriously as academic skills—this prospect is extremely appealing. But how, exactly, would the school do that? These are questions that need to be answered before Terry and I pursue this option further. At any rate, the possibility of sending Ethan to a school that he really enjoys would make our hearts sing.


Laurie said...

Hi Cathy. Ethan is so lucky to have you and Terry, who will never look away. I would suggest that you include social skills in his IEP, if they aren't in there already. In my daughter's case, she receives practice with social give and take as part of her speech/language therapy. It's not that she's antisocial, she just needs to be taught how games work, how some phrases lubricate her interactions. During speech, sometimes they "play school." The new school sounds promising, but of course it has no history, no one to consult about their experiences. Maybe while you wait to do your research, you can get an addendum to the IEP?

StatMama said...

Personally, if that's all the school would do for my child, I'd look at other options. At minimum, I'd try and involve him in extracirricular activities that would encourage social development.

I was that kid, like Ethan. I can tell you from experience that by 4th grade I hated school so much I was physically ill at the thought of going, and spent the rest of my school years that way. There is more to that story, but I am sort of appalled at the school's lack of interest in social development. It's so critical to a child's happiness and wellbeing, autistic or not.

MaryAnn Ashley said...

How exciting to have some other options on the horizon for Ethan.

You are a smart caring cookie. He's lucky to have you advocate for him.

Mama Zen said...

You are absolutely right. If the deficit is not addressed, the gap will just widen. I hope that they can add social skills to the IEP.

jennie said...

I was a little annoyed with the school when we started looking at the speech issue. the boy was in the 12th% and they said he had to be at the 7% to receive services. I am pretty sure he was just having a good day with the 12% which is why we are at Children's. I still don't think we will even get an IEP at this point. He's not going there for Kindergarten but will for 1st. Oy...the public school system. Where is this charter school?

EatPlayLove said...

OOh sounds wonderful. On the flip side, starting up new schools right now is a huge undertaking (financial burden) that many districts won't embrace.

Fingers crossed for your family!

Cookie said...

That is great that something new is coming. Social situations are tough for my son and he's not even autistic. I don't know how you manage all that time!

Tiffany said...

I would try to get him into the charter school since the other students will be on his wave length.

Anonymous said...

If you have the option of a better fit for Ethan, run to it. Social skills are as crucial, if not more so, than the education.
That said, drop me an email and share info on this school. We're in the next district over and probably can't OE (love our school, but there are some issues), but I'd still like to investigate it.

sara l said...

I'll keep my fingers crossed that the school is still a go with the state's financial issues.

My guess on how would be integrating the social skills into the daily schedule and regular academics.