Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Answer to the Question Everyone Wants to Know. Is She In School?

It has been three weeks now since school started.  Micah has attended everyday!  She gets picked up and dropped off in a minivan supplied by the board.  There are three boys who also take it.  I like that the elementary school listened to our request for a minivan.  The small school buses were too noisy and overwhelming for Micah.  She isn't thrilled with the loud volume of music from the morning driver but the kids all use their iPods and try to drown it out.  She can tolerate it for now.

My autism consultant worked on getting Micah's timetable fixed before school started.  The school hadn't given her the computer course she wanted but had given her drama and something else instead.  She needed courses that would make her want to go to school, not avoid it!  We were told that she would be hand timetabled so it was a shock to not get what we were expecting.  Things were worked out and we received her timetable.  Learning Strategies, Locally Developed Math and Drama first semester and then ASD Literacy (whatever that is), Computer Technology (or something like that) and Vocal second semester.

We had asked for Applied English but got Drama.  That did not go over well.  In addition to the course problem, we also had another shock on registration day.  We had told the school in the spring that Micah needed an end locker not one in the middle.  We went to check out her locker and where was it?  That's right!  Stuck in the middle of a bunch of other ones.  I started panicking inside.  Course and locker problems for a kid who hasn't been in school for months.  Not good.  I was going to contact my consultant as soon as we left to straighten out the course and locker problem but my husband was there and said we should go to the office about the locker right away.  We did and they happened to have a new block of lockers which were still empty.  We were taken up and Micah got to choose which end of the block she wanted.  Things were good on the locker front.  Good thing my husband was there, because if I would have waited, it could have been more complicated to change her.  A few days before school started, Drama was switched to Applied Science so things were good on the course front also.

The first day of school was only for grade 9's.  Parents were to attend in the morning to go to an assembly and a quick rotation through the classes that their child would be taking.  The kids would attend some sort of activities and then do shortened classes in the afternoon.

My autism consultant was kind enough to keep the morning open for me, just in case.   Micah ended up being fine.  I know she had anxiety but there was no refusal at all.  My anxiety was terrible.  Having to go to a huge school knowing nobody, yet having to act like it was nothing so I didn't make Micah's anxiety worse was hard.  My consultant asked if I wanted her there.  Of course I did!  I didn't know what to expect and the school wasn't exactly forthcoming with too many details for us.  She met us there and we all went to the assembly together.

The kids then went to their activities and my consultant confirmed that there would be someone to make sure Micah was comfortable and could leave if needed.  The two of us then went to class.  We had made up information packages for each staff member who would have contact with Micah and brought them to hand out because we were not allowed to meet the teachers before school started.  Some strange high school union rule.  We had met the teachers Micah would have, the week before school started ever since Kindergarten.

No one but an EA was at the first class, Learning Strategies in the ASD class.  She got an information package and I learned nothing about the class!

Next up was Locally Developed Math (for kids more than a couple of years behind in math).  I looked at the workbook they would be using and told my consultant that Micah would find it too easy.  I thought she would feel good at least knowing the stuff though.  The teacher was very kind and a great fit for Micah.  She also did not send homework home.  Good thing since if they can't get it at school, it's certainly not going to magically happen at home (unless it was just due to bad teaching at school but not likely the case in this class).

Science was next up.  Another perfect teacher for Micah.  Although he was male, he did not have greying hair like the one who caused her PTSD.  He is young and also a special education teacher so a bonus for us.  

Finally we went back to the ASD class for last period, which we told them, in the spring, we wanted used for homework, if there was any.  They have said that it is for social skills, executive function skills etc.  It is a non credit class.

For the most part things have gone well.  As expected, Micah found the Math too easy and wanted out of the class.  She ended up getting Applied English, which she is enjoying.  She is really liking the science class also.  They were allowed to see their marks this week and she has 99.3% so far!  She could probably be doing Academic Science but she wants to stay where she is.

We have had a few glitches but so far we have gotten Micah through them by telling her that we will take care of things.  One thing is that the teacher in the ASD class said there would be a few minutes for homework and then they would go on to other things like social skills and executive functioning activities.  Micah came home in a panic about that.  I emailed our consultant, who emailed the teacher to clarify.  She mentioned the same thing to Micah the next day that the homework time was mainly for questions and they would go on to the other things that were planned.  Micah is upset about it because we told her that her homework would be completed there (other than projects and studying for tests of course).  I told her I would speak with our consultant at my next appointment and we would see how things go.  So far there hasn't really been any homework come home but it is early in the year.  I also want to know what they are teaching for social skills.  I don't want Micah being told that her autism needs to be fixed, which is usually what is done in social skills classes.  The whole eye contact thing and stuff like that.  For me, homework is the priority in last period and executive functioning skills like organization and planning.

It would appear that in high school, there is no communication book, so Micah has to remember to tell me things if she gets told.  I don't know how you find out what is going on at school as there are no letters home except for field trips.  There was nothing about picture retake day.  I think these may be some of the unwritten rules that we are supposed to magically know about.  Like the picture taken on on registration day for their student card turned out to be the picture for the yearbook and the package to purchase.  Micah had hers done with her usual frizzy hair and it wasn't a great picture.  She had come from working at the barn in the morning!  We know for next year now at least.  I think stuff like this should be clearly spelled out for parents especially, since some of us are on the spectrum also.

Another worry I have is that they didn't have agendas to write homework down, so I got Micah a notebook.  She knew she had a science test coming up but didn't know when and didn't bring her notes home.  I would think in an ASD class, the teachers would be reminding the students to write down their homework and tests and reminding them at the end of the day to take the things they need to do their work or studying at home.  That is part of teaching the executive functioning.

Another day, the teacher told the kids that there is no ASD program in grade 11 and no EA's. They would be on their own (magically able to have perfect executive functioning and be able to deal with everything themselves, including noisy classes and cafeteria).  It would appear that in grade 11, you are no longer autistic.  This of course upset Micah.  I told her things can be put in place and there are ASD classes in other schools past grade 10 and that we would take care of it.

Micah's latest news today is that the teacher is encouraging (pressuring) the kids to eat their lunch out in the overwhelming cafeteria or outside with the wasps.  This is happening everyday.  None of the kids want to do this.  They are more comfortable in their classroom of five kids.  It turns out it is not the teacher who is wanting this.  She is just the messenger.

It would seem that Micah has some sort of misunderstanding of the teacher's tone of voice because there have been various misunderstandings but we have probably worked it out now. 

Micah's anxiety seems to have risen a bit but so far it is not overwhelming her.  She is still going to weekly therapy and doing well.  She seems to be talking to the therapist more, not only the horses.

Overall, I would say that so far the school year has been a great success.  I just have to keep my anxiety down too!