Class is in Session? Not so fast…
About a week after the new year rang in it occurred to me. My little boy is supposed to start kindergarten in the fall. Somehow this had stayed off of my radar for the past few months. I suppose this is a good thing, since even the mere thought of finding an appropriate environment to learn in with people that I could trust practically paralyzed me with anxiety. After talking to my husband, I took to Facebook. I’m friends with several educators and people who are involved in the special education and special needs world, either by profession or proxy. I asked what direction we should look in for our little guy. The list of options seemed daunting: schools specifically for autism (public), public special education classrooms, mainstream classrooms with a paraprofessional either in a public, charter or private school. Where to start?
The answers that I got online were pretty similar. It seemed that most people felt that the public school system was the best fit for a special needs child because they offer the most services. Hmm… I wasn’t very comfortable with that answer. Here’s why: We had briefly put Noah in a special education pre-school class just prior to his diagnosis. To avoid complaining for pages and pages, let’s just say that it wasn’t a good fit. We entered our pre-verbal three year old in the classroom primarily because we were concerned with his lack of language. The school’s answer? Twenty minutes of group speech therapy three times per week. Yeah. Imagine how long it takes to walk a group of special needs three year olds down the hallway. That’s right. About twenty minutes. Needless to say, we saw no progress. Even though we were doing what the school was telling us to do, it wasn’t helping. I remember feeling very helpless and even worse, hopeless.
Flash forward 18 months to today. Noah has been enrolled in ABA full time since July 2010. He’s a completely different kid in a million ways, not the least of which is the improvement in his language. Although Noah is not conversational, he is able to request things that he wants and needs and even asks us to play with him, requesting piggyback rides and for us to run with him. How could we possibly give up something that works so well for him in exchange for something that doesn’t?
The answer is that we won’t. Of course, the time is going to come that Noah will enter school. However, we’ve decided to wait a year and allow him to have the one on one ABA therapy that is helping him progress so well. This decision was made with careful consideration, a lot of research and a lot of discussion with our family and Noah’s team at the Autism Center. When Noah does enter school, we expect to enter him into a charter or private school with a an aide from the Autism Center that will be with him in the classroom full time (God willing). This way, they can help him with his work, behavior and social skills while he reaps the educational and social benefits of being in a mainstream classroom with typical peers. For us, public school special education is not an option at this point. They do offer “services,” such as minimal speech, occupational and physical therapy. However, these are not the services that Noah needs, ABA is. It’s the only researched based treatment for autism and it works for our little man. The changes that we’ve seen are proof of that.
So, we won’t be in the droves of parents that will be posting adorable pictures of their little one’s first day of kindergarten come fall. I have to say that is a little disappointing to me. It’s bittersweet though. As much as I wish things were easier for Noah, that he could just glide into a kindergarten classroom with his peers and that we didn’t have to make these difficult choices, I’m thankful that we have such a great team and resources to make the right choices for Noah.