Saturday, 21 July 2012

Decision Time

We weren’t going to get a doctor’s note for home instruction from our family doctor and it was going to be several weeks before we could see the pediatrician. We had to make a decision on what to do about school. 
Micah was still not able to attend school, although they were working on things to help her.  They finally made her a schedule that should have been done in September not February.

We continued to ask for her homework to be sent home.  Still, the school wasn’t providing much work for her other than having her write a book report.  This was a bad idea, because the book frightened her! I bought some Grade 6 curriculum materials and our autism consultant recommended writing down what we did each day, including library visits and any instances of Micah’s refusal to do school work.  She also recommended breaking up her work, especially projects and lessons she did not understand, into small, manageable chunks, and making sure she understood each part before moving onto the next. 
I had her do a project on horses (her favourite topic!), and Micah decided to write about mustangs.  Each day, I gave her a different part to write such as what they look like, or where mustangs live.  It worked well.

Meanwhile, our makeshift ‘home schooling’ was moving along, it was not ideal: Micah needed to be around other children, and I did not want to be her teacher for a great length of time.  There is the daily potential for parent/child conflict over the lessons and assignments, and too many tears.  We needed to find a more permanent solution.
We did not want Micah to go to her home public school because the kids on our street who bully her attended that school.  She didn’t need more problems to add to her anxiety.  
Meanwhile, our autism consultant tried to contact the Special Education Consultant for the public board in our area to find out about ASD classes.  She also talked to the Special Education Secretary, who said Micah must first enroll in her home school, and warned that she was unlikely to get a special placement right away.  She assured us that Micah did not actually have to attend the school-just sign up-and that would effectively register her in the public board. 

We decided to do it.
February 6 was the day that we officially withdrew Micah from the Catholic board to homeschool her as we waited for an appropriate placement in the public board. 

Our autism consultant contacted the Special Education Consultant to share our predicament and also told her, at our request, that Micah had friends in a school across town.  This school has a good reputation for its ASD classes.  The whole school has a reputation for being ‘Autism Aware’, so we really wanted Micah in that school.  To my husband and me, it seemed perfect: an autism-friendly environment and she had a couple of friends. People with Autism struggle socially and having friends was a big thing.  It would help her want to go back to school.

The Special Education Consultant was looking into our situation and what was available.  In the interim, she said we could put in for a transfer from the home school to the school across town and see if they had room.

We got into a routine of school work and that went smoothly for the most part but it was hard having Micah home all day every day.   It threw off my usual routine and I didn’t get much done.  I also couldn’t go to workshops that I signed up for.  On the bright side, I had someone to do errands and grocery shopping with!

Micah was still very anxious and her phobias were still bad.  I would have thought that with her being out of school things would be getting better.  She was still afraid that we would make her go back. 

Our autism consultant maintained contact with the Special Education Consultant regularly so they knew we really wanted the class.  Micah was sure that she would not go to school unless she could be in an autism class at the school her friends attended.

The reason our autism consultant was doing much of the contact with the Special Education Consultant, is my anxiety.  One component of Asperger’s is the communication piece.   I struggle to communicate, especially face-to-face and on the phone.  I also have trouble with email and knowing what to say.  If I have to talk I can’t get the words out properly even if I have practiced and have a script written.  I regularly give her permission to speak on my behalf, but we spent lots of time in consultation so she would understand what our family wanted.

At the end of February, our home school prepared the transfer request for us and told us we would hear in the next few days.

At this time, Micah had her appointment to undergo a psycho-educational assessment at The Redpath Centre in Toronto.  We wanted to know if she had learning disabilities which could be causing the problems with her school work.   She did well with her assessment but she refused to talk to the psychologist about school.  Our consultant also spoke over the phone with the psychologist about the school issues.  The psychologist said she would write a letter for Micah to get home instruction from the school board and include it when we received her completed report.

Micah was still very anxious about school even though she had officially been out since the beginning of February.  It was now March.  On another front, we were waiting for an appointment with the local clinical psychologist for help with the school anxiety.

The longer Micah was out of school, though, the less anxiety we saw. Oh, it was still there, but she was gradually settling back into being just Micah.  I had thought the school anxiety would be all gone by the spring, but no.  It was a very slow process.

…..and administratively, things were moving very sluggishly.  We had to wait for schools, psychologists, and reports.

In the middle of March, our whole family and our autism consultant met with the psychologist from The Redpath Centre to get Micah’s results.  There were no learning disabilities.  School work needs to be broken down so she can understand it.  Micah was happy to learn that she has a high average IQ and decided she wants to be a horse vet.  The psychologist provided the letter to give to the school to start home instruction.  It was a good idea to get that private assessment done, even at a cost of $2500.

It was now after March break and our autism consultant was again contacting the Special Education Consultant and the home school principal because we still had not heard about the transfer request.  They had assured us we would hear before the break. 

We were declined the transfer but told we would be put on the waitlist. Very disappointing.

We took Micah’s assessment to the home school along with the professional request for home instruction.  Yet again we were stalled!  We had to get a doctor’s signature on the paperwork!   We were still waiting to see the pediatrician.  Meanwhile….

Micah started seeing the local psychologist about the school anxiety.  It seemed that it could help.

We were still going to the library and homeschooling with a Grade 6 curriculum I pulled together from different resources.  We did some fun science experiments too!

At last our pediatrician appointment date arrived.

I explained all that had happened since we saw him last in the fall.  He gladly signed the forms for home instruction.  For the end date, he wrote that the home instruction was to continue until she received a placement in the school across town.  It was perfect!  We hadn’t asked him to write that so we were very pleased.  I guess everyone knows that this school has an excellent reputation.

I was sure that Micah would now have a spot in the ASD class across town for the fall! 
Or would she?