We had Mike’s CSE Meeting yesterday. It is always an anxious time for Karen and me, regardless of how well Mike has done in the past year. This is probably due to ‘battle scars’ of having to deal with our school district’s Special Ed dept. Well specifically the Chair of the Special Education dept.
A little history here; ever since Mike entered Special Ed in district, it was always our contention that the class was designed in a haphazard way. We were familiar with ABA methodology at Mike’s pre-school; our district taught using the TEACCH method. Many of Mike’s teachers did little to inspire confidence in how they handled him and how he responded to them. Getting the district to consider other methodologies was a constant struggle; it always seemed like they were making things up on the fly. It took until Mike was in third grade for the district to acknowledge they know nothing about Autistic children, and finally hired an Autism consultant/psychologist. It was this psychologist who realized that the key to unlocking Mike’s potential was to eliminate issues that triggered his outbursts and behaviors. It took another year to convince the Chair and Autism Consultant that data needed to be collected, and behaviors needed to be monitored and modified in order for Mike to succeed academically. What that finally meant was the district setting was not the right setting; he needed to attend a school that truly understood how to manage behaviors first and foremost, and make learning fun and meaningful again to Mike. The consultant eventually recommended to the Chair to place Mike in a program outside our district, which had students of different physical and intellectual impairments. It was not an ‘Autism school’ per se, but had extensive experience with Autistic kids. So three years ago Mike started at Nassau BOCES’ Rosemary Kennedy School (RKS) and has made unbelievable progress there under the guidance of some truly wonderful teachers, aides and support staff. I have written before about their even-keeled approach to nurturing and encouraging young children, which to us was a godsend.
Mike’s teacher told us over the winter that he was strongly being considered for an inclusion class at a nearby (but still out of district) middle school. We were thrilled, but hadn’t heard anything further until last week, when Mike and one of his classmates went for a tour and screening. This class would be a 9:1:2 configuration; a step up from his current 6:1:2, and would include push-ins/pull-outs for Speech and OT/PT. He would mainstream into gym, art, music and lunch periods. We were relieved to learn that many of the typical kids at this school often spend time, form bonds and friendships with the inclusion class students. He will get to go on field trips and participate in plays and concerts along with his developmentally disabled and typical peers, and have the support and guidance of the RKS staff; essentially the (beginning of the) best of both worlds. Mike loved the school and is excited to “graduate from RKS”
We sat in the principal’s office, making use of his conference table and telephone conference capabilities, and I look up at the wall: one of Mike’s dinosaur drawings is framed and hanging on the wall along with other students’ works. The meeting starts and progresses smoothly; the district accepts all of RKS’ recommendations, including the inclusion placement. As we exhale, we are 95% excited, 5% apprehensive: we realize that Mike will be entering a new phase in his life. Make no mistake: this is a good step; we just realize that he will be leaving the environment that has helped him grow, mature and flourish. A place that has accepted him and brought him to the edge of this new potential.
Just like the Winter Worlock in “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, we will “put one step in front of the other” and take one giant step forward.
Onward and upward!