Friday, May 13, 2011

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back--or--Schoolhouse Blues

So, all in all, I have been pretty happy with Sky's school. Despite the fact the public school administration has been wholly unsupportive, the teachers and principal have seemed to work tirelessly to try different approaches to handling issues that arise with him in class. But recently, some things have been bugging me. It turns out that this is a school full of letter-writing parents. Apparently, when something happens at school that a parent is not happy with, they write a letter. Then, once the school gets the letter, they have no choice but to make a big deal out of whatever the letter says.

I know about this because twice in the last two weeks, Sky has been implicated in this kind of letter. In the first case, Sky had knocked down another child and caused her to skin her knees. I can understand a parent being upset by this. I can understand a parent talking to the teacher about this. But a formal letter of complaint? And, why didn't I hear about the incident until two days later--after the letter was sent to school? Worse, the incident happened in recess line, a time when Sky is particularly apt to get into trouble due to the chaos and lack of structure. A time when he was supposed to be closely supervised and directed lest he become out-of-sync and engage in proprioceptive-seeking behavior (i.e. pushing, crashing, pulling, etc. his classmates), which, by the way, is exactly what happened, though no parent is going to care why his/her child got pushed down, just that she did.

So anyway, two days after Sky knocks this girl down, I hear about it. I also hear about the big brouhaha that followed full of discussions about keeping hands to oneself and not bullying. Yeah, right, because Sky has complete control over these impulses, and he is totally tracking when you discipline him two days later. Needless to say, I had a few things to discuss with the school re. this process and felt we'd come to an understanding on how to handle "situations" in the future.

Then, a week later, I got called into another meeting with Sky's teachers. This time, it seems that a group of kids was using inappropriate language regarding certain parts of the body (Gasp! Kindergarten boys were talking about poopy and penises?). This situation turned out to be more ridiculous than the first. First of all, Sky didn't know any of that language until quite recently, and aside from Pink P's poopy talk, there is no way he would have picked it up at home. "Cha-chas"? I mean, really, do you suppose a Japanese-speaking father would adopt that term and use it in front of his kids? And, c'mon folks, my kid is autistic and socially delayed (to put it mildly). Anyway, Sky and I get called in to talk with the teachers and it becomes apparent that he is so peripheral to the "problem" that the conversation goes nowhere. Later, I learn that the parental letter that prompted this particular intervention was referring to things that happened months ago. Months ago!

The whole process seems ridiculous to me. I'm all for making sure kids are safe and respected at school. I am also for working to help kids understand when their behavior is inappropriate and even for punishing them when necessary. But, I'm not a big fan of delayed reactions based on parental complaints, as if the whole enterprise is purely economic and consumer driven (even if it is).

The result of these two "incidents" and how they were handled was to make Sky extremely anxious about school and worried that he would do something else to get into trouble. He doesn't misbehave intentionally or willfully, and it's his inability to control or predict his own behavior that is hardest for him.

After the second letter-induced conference, I decide to speak to the principal. Fortunately, she seems to get that it's a bad idea to revisit something that happened months before (particularly since her teachers have already discussed it endlessly with the kids and their parents). But then she lets slip a couple of bombs. First, they might not have enough kids next year for two classes. This means that all of them (80% boys, mind you) will be in one big class. Then she suggests that the reason some of the kids are leaving are because "the parents aren't happy with how things have gone in kindergarten this year." This piques my interest. I prod her, and she says, "There's also a boy who is manipulative, and one who doesn't handle his emotions well..." In other words, she is basically telling me that Sky is the reason they are losing families. The conversation goes downhill from there. It becomes increasingly clear that, despite the hours I have spent talking to them and educating them about Sky's condition, none of them have any idea what autism is and why they should be working with Sky in vastly different ways. Further, due to the lack of tuition-generated income, they can't afford any additional support for a kid like Sky.

Fortunately, just recently I seem to be making progress toward getting an IEP and professional support in a school setting (or at least, I am figuring out who to pressure in what ways to make sure that the community school administrators do their jobs), but nothing can be implemented until next year.

Unfortunately, now I need to decide if this is the school where Sky should be. And so, with two and a half weeks left in the school year, it's essentially back to square one.

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