On Wednesday afternoon and evening of this week, the Krejcha family attended Part 1 and Part 2 of Justin's Shahala Middle School Orientation.
These are their stories.
(insert ominous boomp boomp here...)
12:40 p.m. -- Panic ensues at the Krejcha family home. The orientation is at 1 pm. We just got home from Ryan's Autism Communication study appointment in Beaverton, OR and we need to make a quick food run, bathroom run and then we've gotta go, folks! Emphasis is on hurrying! (Ha ha ha.... oh, that's a good one!)
What happened to Ryan's doggy backpack? Do we have his chewelry? Yes, yes, I've got the checkbook, notebook, camera and water bottle. Don't we need more than one water bottle? It's HOT! We'll share? Umm.... it's really really hot. We need more than one. Fine... I'll carry all of them.
Panic temporarily stops. Justin comes down the stairs with a printout that shows the first part of the orientation (1 - 4 p.m.) is self-guided and is an opportunity for us to pay school fees (oh boy!) and check out the campus. The evening portion from 5 - 7 p.m. is where there is some sort of organized presentation in the gym and then a chance to meet the teachers in their respective classrooms. We're not going to be late. (Fist pump!)
Okay... breathe everyone, all is copasetic. It's 95 degrees outside. (Umm... not so cool.) Ryan seems a little extra animated than usual. Note to self to watch out for that... It's way too hot for his weighted vest.
Justin is nervous and excited. Makes sense. He's going to do fine. We've been prepping him for weeks and feel very positive. John is trying to herd the cattle into the vehicle.
This brings to mind this picture...
MOOving right along folks.... nothing to see here... don't have a cow about it!
12:56 p.m. -- We arrive at Shahala and are surprised right away at how few cars there are in the parking lot. With about 350 new 6th graders entering into the school (6th, 7th & 8th), we were sure that it would be full. Now, of course many people have to work during the day but in the area we live in, there are a lot of stay-at-home moms and I totally expected it to be SUV central.
Since we work from our home, our schedule has some flexibility. Ahhh... and lots of creativity.... It is never uncommon to see me online in the late evening working and if you happen to be around between 11:30 p.m. and midnight, chances are good that I am typing a blog for my special Aspierations zoo crew! :-)
1:12 p.m. -- We are extremely excited to find out that Justin could pick up his schedule early and the lines weren't long at all to get it. Interestingly enough, we get to the front of the line, say "Krejcha" when prompted for our name and the school counselor looks up before he's even rifled through the paperwork, smiles and says, "Oh! Justin Krejcha" (He even pronounces the name perfectly. Major brownie points for this man!) Justin smiles! The unidentified counselor (although I'm pretty positive who it is and know he has an awesome reputation) smiles back. We're off to a fine start!
It turns out that earlier that morning Justin's counselor had personally worked on Justin's schedule, knowing that Justin had an IEP, would be new to the SCIP program and would need some special accommodations with class scheduling. (If you're new to our blog, our oldest son (now 10) was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in summer of 2008 just a short time after our youngest son, Ryan (now 4) was diagnosed with Autism / Autism Spectrum Disorder.)
SCIP (Social Communication Integration Program) in our school district is an educational program that I'll go into more depth about later but we are very excited about Justin taking part. It is a program that your child can only get into if he /she has an IEP, a diagnosis of Asperger's or high functioning autism and parents with the tenacity and fortitude to jump through all the hoops necessary to make sure things happen! It also is key to have created and partnered with an IEP team (teachers, counselors, case manager, parents, other school staff, advocates) that is on your kiddo's side and wants the best for him or her too.
I didn't mean to get off on a tangent there. I will be talking more in-depth about SCIP in future blogs but if you are in the Evergreen School District, have or suspect you have a child on the autism spectrum and you are not familiar with SCIP, please feel free to drop me a line and I'll do my best to help.
1:20 p.m. -- I'm in line to ante up some money for Justin's school lunch fund. John takes Ryan to go potty. (In the past few months, everytime we've gone out in public anywhere with Ryan, he has had the need, the calling and the intense desire to try out any potty he could find. Ahhh, the stories we could tell... and will!)
We're not yet sure if Justin will be having the school lunches as he generally brought his own in elementary school, however rumors of Shahala's Subway Sandwich franchise (yes, they have a Subway franchise in their school cafeteria) being pretty awesome has aroused Justin's interest and so we're willing to fork up the dough for him to try something new. At the very least, he can always get a breadwich, a bag of chips and a chocolate chip cookie the first day if nothing else appeals to his palate.
While in line, we see a boy that will be in the SCIP program with Justin as well as his parents. His mom is a teacher at the elementary school both boys attended and both boys were in a bowling league together a couple summers ago. They've also been to each other's birthday parties a couple times. (Tangent time again! It felt so good to watch, see and work on teaching Justin to bowl! I hope to be able to get back into this again one day in the future.) Anyway, we said hi to the other family and compared schedules. The boys will have their SCIP class together but their other classes will be different. I think we were both thankful and looking forward to having our sons know someone in SCIP. It turns out that a 3rd boy that Justin was in 3rd and 5th grade with will be in their SCIP class and his core classes as well. Even though Justin will not really know anyone else in his core classes (Math, English / Social Studies & Science), I'm sure the fact that he will know the one boy will help him acclimate just a little better.
1:32 p.m. -- We head into the cafeteria area and have a choice of standing in a large line to pay more fees (ASB, supplies, yearbook, P.E. stuff, etc.) or to join up with a Shahala student who will give us a tour of the school. Let's see.... lines where our sons will get antsy or a tour where Ryan can get into mischief. Tour wins!
As it turns out, the boy leading the tour was named Justin also. He was an incredibly nice guy. By his height and maturity, John and I assumed he was entering in 8th grade but it turns out he was going into 7th. He had some really good insight for our Justin and the angels above must have been helping guide along because it turns out that Justin the tour guide had the same core block teachers as our Justin did AND he had those same teachers at the same time of day that our Justin did. I could see the anxiety and shyness from our son start to melt away. Of course it helped too that both boys liked computers, technology and math.
So Justin gave us the campus tour and insider information. The tour took about 20 - 25 minutes as he walked us all around the inside of the school, all around the outside and then back to the portables where Justin will be having the majority of his classes.
2:02 or thereabouts -- After the tour was over, the line to pay ASB and miscellaneous fees was shorter than it had been so I stood in line, paid for everything except the P.E. uniform (Justin doesn't have P.E. this trimester and we weren't sure on sizing) and then headed off to the small gym to get Justin's P.E. lock.
2:15 p.m. -- It was then time to head back, visit the 6th grade wing, try Justin's locker and then go check out his specific classrooms to see if we could get a peek in and talk to any teachers if they were around early.
The LOCKER Hall! OMG! Rows and rows of lockers double-stacked. Our son is on the shorter side so of course he was assigned a top locker (tippy toe to reach the combination). Meanwhile I see kids that are about 5'9" on their knees on the ground trying to figure out how to open theirs.
The most tension I felt all day (notice I said day... the evening portion of our story is still coming up boys and girls and it is a doozy) was the locker hall. I watched parents, students, brothers and sisters trying to figure out how to get those dastardly combination lockers open. Justin has challenges with his dexterity (ex. tying shoes, buttoning buttons) so the poor kiddo was having no luck at all. Of course the school just gave all the kids the combo on their schedule. Nothing said how many turns to the right, how many to the left and how many to the right again so it was pure pandemonium as people were trying to peek at others to figure out how to work the combo, which in turn meant people were worried someone was going to steal their locker combination which meant.... YIKES!
Finally, I see a girl the same size as Justin (also with a TOP locker) with a piece of paper that indicated the magic formula for how many times to turn the combo wheel. How did we miss this? Turns out that since we got to the school so early, that when we were in the office to pick up Justin's schedule, the locker combination instruction sheets hadn't been put out yet. FOILED again!
Well, it was back to the front office, then back to the locker and about 22 tries later, I got the locker open. (By this time, John and Ryan had left the hall to play on John's iPad) Not only do you have to have the numbers right BUT you also have to use just the right timing of right hand on number and left hand trying to pull up on the weirdly latched door to get the thing open. Justin is a lefty and I just didn't see this happening very easily. Frustration was diffused because we saw dozens and dozens of other kids also not being able to open their lockers either and with so many crammed side by side and up and down and supposedly 2 people were to be sharing a locker each... we decided to cut our losses for the moment and exit the locker hall to go check out classrooms. We were assured that it would get easier.... Hmm..... Creative solution coming shortly!
** NOT DONE YET! Sorry, something came up! Please check back on Saturday for Part 2! :-) Thanks! **
As California's exiting governator would say,
I'LL BE BACK!
I invite you to come back too!