Monday, April 22, 2013

Testing The Fates: It Was A Good Year

I know, I know - year is not over yet. But it kinda is for us - we are taking kids out of school for the month of May for a Family Adventure, so feel comfortable evaluating the school year. The 4th Grade has been good to us. Partially because we had a great support team at Alameda, but also because of Isaac. He is almost completely in GenEd, some days not venturing back at all to the CB classroom, and doing almost all of the same work as his GenEd classmates, with just a few modifications regarding handwriting. So what changed? I've been pondering this, knowing that any success is carefully crafted like a house of cards, and just as easily falls apart. So what changed? How far should I get caught up on speculation? Maturity: And I'm not talking about 10yo behavior. More like 8-9yo behavior. But this still means greater understanding, perspective, and self control. Oh, and the onset of puberty. It's started, and heaven help us. Boredom: I've said this before, but its worth repeating. A behaviorist came in to observe him at the end of 3rd grade when he was exclusively in the CB classroom. While it is labeled a CB Academic classroom, a huge amount of academic time is sacrificed to managing behavior problems. And to be honest, Isaac was one of those problems last year. So not sure if the boredom was causing the issues or he was just incapable of handling educational demands, we were not sure what to do. When things are crappy, it can make taking a chance a bit easier. So we took a chance on insisting on starting GenEd at least 50% of the day from day the first week of 4th grade. And it worked. But why? Was it he using the genEd students own behavior as role-modals? Was he just happy to step up to the challenge? Could this be repeated in 5th grade? Expectations: As parents, we started changing our own language. We verbally laid out our expectations for him. He participated in setting goals for himself. HS impassioned love of the U of Oregon Ducks and wanting to go their for college was a really good one (I'm a Beaver, but what can you do?). College is about independence study, reading, writing, and testing. And boom. He went from resisting to working on all. Peer pressure: It apparently has its uses. For years we have been trying to get him interested in reading books and athletics. Within a month of hanging with NT peers, he's reading books independently and asking to join a basketball team. And the more time spent with NT peers, the more he requests to not go back to the CB classroom. Sad and surprising all at the same time. Tomorrow is a meeting regarding Isaac's re-evaluation for SPED. He still qualifies, still solidly ASD. But how he moves forward in this adventure through PPS has to be discussed. We know all too well that it's always two steps forwards, one step back.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Good Times in 4th Grade

I know it's been forever. Sorry. I was distracted by...well..stuff. Ok. I will admit it. I think I've been holding my breath since the start of the school year. My motto has has been to hope for the best, but expect the worst. But experience has taught me to basically hold on to my ass, this roller coaster has just started the ascent. So this school year has thrown me completely off, and I just can't relax and enjoy the ride. It has been my DS's best and most rewarding, and it has me more nervous as hell. This is the year we decided to try the big push into GenEd. Considering what a disaster the end of 3rd grade was for us (multiple suspensions, an FBA), we did know that we needed to try something different. The Oregon Virtual Academy was one viable option, but we decided to request Isaac start GenEd first. Last year he had almost zero time out of the CB classroom, so we did not have high hopes. But he started, first day, in a 4th grade classroom. And it's been great so far. Can I say that aloud? Will I jinx it? In the beginning, he was spending only 50% of his time in GenEd. Now, 90%. He only returns to The CB classroom for social skills, speech, and occasional handwriting support. The only pieces he is not doing in GenEd is cursive and spelling, but I have requested that we add that to his curriculum as well, even if it is just for practice. He is starting to make friends there, although this has been a slower process. But he feels liked and supported. And that is pretty darn good. Now the question of why. Why now? What changed? This has been bopping around my head for the last few months and I have come up with a few theories. Not all very great individually, but together there might be an answer. 1. He was bored in the CB classroom. Although Alameda's CB room is supposed to be an 'academic' one, with most kids just managing behavioral problems but academically near or at grade level, that really isn't the case right now. Love the teacher, love the support team, they've been awesome. But many kids struggle with the most basic academics, and the behavior issues are often so overwhelmingly that academics are just getting pushed to the side. Isaac was spending a lot of time waiting and not doing. 2. Role modeling. When melt downs are common in your classroom, you think that is an acceptable way to communicate your problems. It's the old 'monkey-see monkey-do' effect. 3. He's older. He's 10yo now, and I can tell in many ways he is maturing and handling things better. He seems more self-aware, and seems more in control. 4. His GenEd teacher is amazing, and his entire classroom is a celebration of the slightly geeky - even rocking a Star Trek theme! And many of the kids in his class seem to be slightly shy and bookish, a good combo for him. 5. Zoloft. So who knows. Time will tell.