Back to School

So last night was the back to school night for the Monster.

I have to admit that I wasn’t ready for this quite yet – I’d figured that we had at least a year, maybe two, before we’d be doing this… but there we were, sitting in the gym of an elementary/middle school listening to the principal and whatnot.  And it felt about as weird as we expected.

(Okay, that sets aside the fact that said EMS has a gospel choir and they chose to sing something very distinctly Christian, which makes us feel awkward anyway.  We’re probably the only Jewish family at this school, and while I do constantly point out that there is no ‘separation of church and state’ in the Constitution, I still don’t think that a public school is a place for obvious religion.  Still, I’m not going to raise a stink unless it starts getting to be a problem.)

So the goals for last night were fairly simple:

  • Meet the principal, since we’d had that whole to-do with her the first week of school regarding the bussing
  • Meet the Monster’s teacher, since I haven’t done so yet.

The first went very well – the principal was actually looking for us, since we’d gone out of our way to make ourselves known to her.  She seems very pleasant and very much engaged with what’s going on, and she’s definitely gone out of her way to make sure she knows what’s going on with the Monster.  We did remind her that she’s always welcome to ask us questions about the Monster in specific or Autism in general, given that the program the Monster’s in is entirely new to the school.

The second… went reasonably well.  I met his “general education” teacher – a special educator with dual certifications in early childhood and special education -, who the wife had met the week before school started.  I didn’t get to meet either of his specialists though, which disappoints me greatly.  I can and will make appointments to meet them in person before the conferences in a month.  His teacher seems very much in tune with what the goals of the class are, and is excited about the manner in which they are supposed to be running the program.  It seems there’s a bit of a disconnect between the goals/methods of the program (now called “Together We Grow”) and how the school wants it to run…

Basically, the class is supposed to be equal numbers of children on an IEP and typically developing peers, following the regular pre-K curriculum, as a way to help the IEP-based kids have someone to model on.  At the moment, there are three IEP students and two “typically developing” children, though the teacher’s concerned that one of the two might well be borderline ASD as well.  She mentioned that there’s also two additional kids who have been in the classroom in the afternoons, both of whom might also be borderline… which makes the class increasingly a segregated special-ed environment.  This is not what the wife and I agreed to in our IEP, and if it does turn into that, I’ve already let the teacher know that I would protest to the highest levels of the school board (and then file a federal complaint if necessary).  The teacher seemed to like/approve of that.

What was a bonus last night was that we met another set of parents in this class.

When the Monster was in PIES, we met all of the parents (parents were required to stay), but we really had nothing in common with any of them aside from having children on the spectrum.  (And as you know, “if you know one child with autism, you know one child with autism.”)  The PIES kids had a very diverse range of function and symptoms, and the parents were from very different backgrounds.  The nature of “Together We Grow” is that the children on IEP in this program are all higher functioning, so that’s already one commonality.  Another is that the parents we met are, like us, very engaged with their child and his development.  They’re both professionals (one is actually employed by the school system, but not in this school) and they share a lot of the same concerns we have about the program and how things are going.  It’s very refreshing, actually, and definitely upped our enthusiasm about the Monster heading across town daily.

All in all… it was a decent back to school night.  Let’s hope that it bodes well for the year.

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