Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Round Peg In A Square Hole

"The Golden Brain"  

I continue with my list for those dealing with Autism.
9.) Find a program that matches the child vs. trying to make the child match the program.

There are many programs today for kids with Autism. With 1 in 89 boys, or 1 in 150 kids education has been trying to catch up.  When my son was young, there was nothing in our state. We had a choice of full "inclusion," or a "warehouse" program that I think was called "Multi Categorical."   "Inclusion" was just the opposite of what the word means.  Regular Ed teachers really did not want special needs kids in their classes.  In their defense, if they wanted to teach Special Ed they would be Special Ed teachers.  The warehouse programs held the kids all day, and taught nothing.  Puzzles, water play, shape sorting were about the only activity.  Neither of these classes were appropriate for my son.  We chose inclusion with a 1:1 aide.

In first grade my son went through several aides.  I was so thrilled we had won the battle to get an aide written into his IEP (individualized educational program-mandated paperwork).  When I asked Dr Lavigne if there were "trained" aides.  She actually laughed.  :-(   Truth be told, most of them worked at Walmart as their last job.  Which doesn't provide training in autism.  Occasionally there is a person who is a retired teacher, or getting their degree in education and those were the best.   In my son's elementary school (which shall not be named) they felt the best aide would be one who could sit on him when he was having a tantrum.  And she did.  

Eventually I got wise and realized inclusion was not for him at the moment.  They hired a 1:1 teacher and he went to her house, or she came to ours.  And so went 4-6th grades.  The stress in all our lives decreased once he was out of the public grade school.  His program was designed by me for socialization, and then the 1:1 teachers for his academics. Rock climbing, working on a tv repair shop, running bingo at a nursing home were some of the activities he did every week for 4th grade.  Each one of these teachers were incredible human beings in their own right.  They taught him things I could never even have thought of academically and socially.  I refer to them as his Angels.  I am so grateful for their spirits and hearts. 

Sadly, he had not learned to read higher than the 1st grade level by the time Jr. High/Middle School arrived.  I knew this district would never teach him to read. We moved to a district with a magnet school.  He learned a lot at that school.  He had a 1:1 aide to scribe and dictate.  However, they were not addressing the reading or writing issue.  I began to search for a private school that taught dyslexic kids.   I found 3 in the USA that used Orton Gillingham, or Wilson methods with normal to above normal intelligence kids.  I chose the one in Albuquerque because it was the most affordable living, and I had been to New Mexico many times with him.

So I packed everything I HAD to take, sold lots of stuff, and left everyone I knew and loved in Chicago to head West.  DLD Sycamore School  was a gamble.  But if he didn't learn to read and write, he'd be left standing on the curb.  I spent my last $$ on private tuition for 18 months.  The gamble paid off.  Those women worked with him, and he was not a willing student.  He didn't really want to read or write.  But he did, and they did.  I owe them a huge debt for all their diligence.  Today he reads and writes well enough to run an vacuum shop.  He texts constantly!  Imagine. I don't know if he will ever be a book guy.  But he certainly reads web pages, magazines, and types quite well.

High school was in Santa Fe.  That is another blog in itself.  Not everyone would cross the country alone as I did.  When I look back at it, I am amazed I did it.  Of course that was almost 10 years ago.  The time has flown by.  I am married to a man now who has become a father to my son. Something even his own biological father could not be. I get all "verclempt" when I think of how much my son loves Bob, and Bob him.  Our lives today are something I could not foresee when I left Illinois.  All because I was looking for a round hole for a round peg kid.

Thanks for reading.
Each day is a gift. Open now.

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