This was intended to be one of my shorter blog postings but as is often typical, once I get the brain to keyboard connection, it's hard to stop typing.
I had a rather hard day today on a lot of different levels but I am dedicated toward keeping my commitment to promoting Autism Awareness by blogging at Aspierations.blogspot.com each day in April.
Tonight John and I had the opportunity to attend Parent Orientation Night at Justin's future middle school. Holy cow, there are going to be a lot of children going there! The school serves three grades (6th, 7th and 8th) and their attendance estimate for the 2010-2011 school year is 1104 students. That's 368 per grade.
I thought Justin's elementary school was big. His 5th grade has 5 separate classrooms with about 25 students apiece. (Incidentally, at least 5 kids in his grade are diagnosed on the spectrum. 1 in 25 is 4%... way above the 1 in 110 national average. That's a subject for another blog posting!)
So as I was saying, Justin's middle school 6th grade class is going to have almost triple the kids that his elementary school did. Now granted, it's a really amazing school with high marks and an excellent reputation. They even are one of a few schools in the country that have a licensed Subway franchise on their campus (the $5 foot long jingle comes to mind) but 1104 kids?? The student to teacher ratio is going to be about 30 : 1. Yikes!
I would be speaking amiss if I didn't wonder if my son is going to flourish in such an environment when he has some very real social challenges now that impact his learning. Our son is currently mainstreamed in a regular 5th grade classroom. He does get a social skills support pull-out and does have his own IEP, however his IEP primarily addresses academic learning and testing supports at a grade school level. It takes into consideration the opportunity for recess, sensory breaks and the opportunity to go into a different setting to problem solve if there are challenges. That being said, his IEP in practice is not always his IEP on paper since not everyone he comes into contact with (either staff or students) are going to have a way of knowing about his supports.
Switching to middle school is a big change in routine for any kiddo. I have spoken with Justin and he is nervous but excited. Fortunately he trusts me and John and has faith we have his back. In fact just as recently as this week, he has seen us go to bat for him in an assertive way at his school.
Something was said tonight by the principal. Parents are often much more nervous than the children are with middle school transitioning. (I wanted to blurt out that this was because we'd been through middle school before but realized that was socially inappropriate!! Still, if you've been a child that was bullied, you very likely remember it and of course you're going to be nervous!)
The thing is that as much as I want to protect my kids and be a good Mom, I have to let them experience many of life's challenges along the way so they can build up immunity and get problem-solving and resolving experience. No good parent wants to see their son or daughter hurting but just as a toddler learns to walk by falling, so does a child have to move into adolescence with some bumps and bruises too. Thank goodness I have stock in Neosporin!!!
I think as the parents of a child with learning differences, there is probably heightened concern but other parents and other kids out there worry too. It does seem oftentimes that kids tend to adapt, acclimate and go with the flow but for the ones who are flowing in a different direction, we need to be there for them. I really do hope my son is one who can make the transition as successfully and painlessly as possible but if he doesn't or if there are challenges along the way, I am proud to know that he knows John and I are his advocates.
Here are a couple of interesting articles I read tonight that I'd like to share:
Smoothing your Child's Transition to Middle School
Understanding Bullying and Its Impact on Kids with Learning Disabilities or AD/HD
I also wanted to share the school's mission statement. I really like it.
Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe,
dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible. ~ Mac Anderson (founder of Simple Truths & Successories)
Here is to promoting excellence within ourselves, within our parenting, within our marriage or relationships, within our community. Here is to promoting excellence within the Autism Community and making others aware and empowered!