Wednesday, February 9, 2011

ACB, You and Me

Tara's momma (note link to her blog to the right under 'Things We Know About') emailed me some damned good questions last night, and I wanted to share those answers with everyone.

Here are the questions (almost)in full:

"Could you tell me about the ACB classroom at Alameda? Do they teach the STAR Curriculum? How is the classroom set up? How functional are the kids? What do you think about the teachers and aides? How many kids? How many girls? Do they have supported play times? Do you like it? Does Isaac like it? Is this the potential setting for Olivia next year?"

So for those of you who don't know, an ACB classroom is an Academic Communication and Behavior classroom. What that means is academically, the children are able to perform at grade level, but they need additional supports to function on a social and behavior level. Alameda has two such classes (although at Alameda they are referred to as SLC classes). One for the K-2 set, one for the 3-5 set (Alameda is only a K-5 school). Isaac is in the latter, although only in the second grade. Academically and size wise, they decided he was a better fit for the older class.

There are currently 5 aides and one teacher. And 13 kids (two were recently added). There are only two girls in this class. About half of the kids spend time outside of the classroom with their typical peers. A few actually spend MOST of their time with their typical peers, coming back only for supported lessons. One of the aides goes with them to those classes, and brings them back when needed. The other half do not attend classes outside of the SLC room. They have their own recess time when there are no other classes are out, so that it is a calmer environment for them. They eat lunch with the rest of the student body, at their own table. There is an adapted PE (APE) class twice a week.

Am gonna admit I am not so sure about the Star curriculum, and am embarrassed to say so. Finding out from Mr. Kroswek ASAP.

The class has a high level of structure. Each child has their own desk, facing the front and with an individual calendar on it, and a general schedule for the class on the main board. In the back is a "Calm corner", a little space to have down time if needed. There is a lesson area for group lessons, a small class library and a lot of games for social skills times. There are 5 macs for kids to either earn play time on, and for a variety of lessons (I don't know about your kids, but mine always learn better in a multi-media form. I don't mind a little AHA math time at school). There is free time every day to allow kids to interact more, and if a kid has a "hard day", it can be limited by the teacher.

There is a lot of structure. The rules are very clear, expectations are set out very clearly. It is not exactly warm and fuzzy sounding, but these are 3rd-5th graders and structure is important. One of the problems Isaac had at Roseway was a lack of structure and unclear expectations, and it cause a lot of anxiety. He knows that when he comes in, he needs to sit down, and start with his daily assignment (waiting in his folder on his desk). He knows that if he wants to earn his stars, he needs to behave nicely, do his school work with little prompting, and follow the general rules of the classroom. Stars mean rewards at the end of the week, and my kid digs that. The teacher and aides are eternally helpful and supportive, which was not my first impression when I met them. They have proven to be great advocates for Isaac. He likes his teacher, likes his classmates, and loves the aides.

Isaac has limited typical peer time, partially my request. I was concerned when we transferred from Pioneer, and wanted to slow down mainstreaming to make sure he was comfortable and ready. He does have Music and PE once a week with his typical peers, which he has enjoyed and been successful at. In March, we are adding math and reading, two topics that he is able to handle easily at grade level. I have requested that he receive a homework packet from the typical 2nd grade class for us to work on at home so he doesn't fall behind his peers. It also allows me to know where our weaknesses are. He is ahead of his peers in math and geometry. He needs to work on his creative writing and spelling. It is important to get a sense of the "playing field" in order to compete.

The functionality of his classmates fluctuates. It is considered an academic program, and they try to instruct at grade level, but obviously there are a variety of issues. Now, I get this info from Isaac, so how accurate it is might be subjective. Isaac tells me who he is "better" than in subjects, and how it surprises him because that classmate is older than him. Most of the kids are ASD (hey, it is a party), but there is also a mixture of other issues; Downs, oppositional disorder, etc. There are kids in his class who would not be able to be mainstreamed. Period. And then there are a couple of kids who have been fully mainstreamed, and are no longer in the SLC class.

Olivia will not be in Isaac's class, obviously. And I have not gone next door yet to talk with the K-2 teacher, since we are still not sure about Olivia's placement. I have some quick impressions of this class though:

It is less structured, softer, gentler. The kids seem happy and attached to their teacher and aides. The teacher has taught this class for years and has a great reputation. In fact, Alameda has a well regarded SLC program. Isaac's teacher, Mr. Kroswek, is new this year, but has experience both as a teacher and as an ASD specialist. He is still finding his feet in the classroom, but things have gotten smoother as the year has progressed. Overall, we are happy with him.

It is interesting to note that the K-2 class has far more girls then the 3-5 class. Are they easier to mainstream? Will have to ask that.

Will Olivia be there? We are assuming so. Our home school is Sabin, and I received a call from Sabin about having a meeting about Olivia's placement there. I emailed the specials coordinator back (he also works at Alameda, and I have met him before), to let him know we had concerns that she would be able to be mainstreamed (as Isaac was back in Kindie) at Sabin since there are few supports for her. Alameda has the nearest SLC class in our cluster. The assumption is that she will start in the SLC K-2 when the time comes, next door to where her brother is. Will find out for sure shortly.

Sorry folks. That went on far too long and I am sure there are more questions, but I have to make dinner and my mother is in town and already annoying the sh*t out of me. It is her job, just as someday it will be my job with Olivia. Circle of life.

1 comment:

  1. K - This is SO SO helpful. Thank you. I don't know how the program near us measures comparatively. It does not have the reputation that Alameda does. I will get to visit next month. -M