Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thoughts about Back To School -- Helping our Kids Shine

Hi Aspierations Blog Friends and Visitors,

Well it is about 1 week before school starts for Justin and Ryan.  Yikes!  Justin will be starting middle school (6th, 7th, 8th) and Ryan will be in his second year of preschool.  This will be the first time that Justin has had to ride a school bus since 2nd grade and he's a bit apprehensive.  (We are as well for reasons I will get into some other time.)  Ryan's bus will continue to pick him up directly in front of our home and he is extremely excited about this.

The bus was a huge deal for Ryan last year.  Bus # 54 was not just a bus, it was a transportation experience.  For most of the year, our little guy was the first one picked up and the last one dropped off so he had lots of quality bus riding time.  The #54 became his absolutely FAVORITE number of all time and any time in our house that the 54th minute of the hour hits and a family member is aware, we gleefully shout out the time because it makes him so happy.  You can imagine what it might have been like on our car ride to and from California earlier this month.

On Monday evening, our family will be attending a special meeting being put on by the Autism Society of Washington's Southwest Chapter.  It's a 2 hour round table discussion and the topic is "Getting Ready For School".  There are so many extras that we have to do in the daily routines to make them run smoothly.  Just one break in routine (like a 30 minute hunt to find the right pair of matching socks) can spell a school day disaster so we are preparing ourselves in advance to try and make this the best school year ever for both boys.

Both boys will be making transitions.  Ryan was in a morning class last year Monday - Thursday and all the kids in his class either had an autism spectrum diagnosis or another special need.  Many kids had more than one with ASD being the primary.  This school year Ryan will be in an afternoon class Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and he will mix with a few neuro-typical / NT kids.  This should be very good for him and we are thrilled that he will have the same teacher and I assume teaching assistant staff.

Justin will be one of the youngest kids in his middle school.  In Washington, children start Kindergarten a year later than they do in California.  Whereas most kids in 6th grade here are 11 turning 12 or already 12, Justin is still 10 and won't be 11 until October.  Justin is a bit on the short side for his age, although I suspect he will eventually sprout up.  What I am concerned about most is his age socially and to a degree his physical coordination and food preferences.  Just as he is eager to fit in and not be embarrassed, I want him to be successful socially as well.  I am sure that parents of most kids entering middle school worry about their son or daughter's transition.

On Wednesday, there is a 6th grade orientation at the middle school from 1 - 4 and 5 - 7.  Seems pretty long to me... I'm not sure how that will all work out especially since we'll have Ryan too.  Ryan will actually be participating in an autism and communications research study in Beaverton, Oregon in the morning that day.  Wednesday will be a busy one for the Krejcha family!

Justin's middle school is quite large and there are I believe around 350 incoming 6th graders.  I believe around 6 - 8 will be boys that will be entering into the SCIP program. (This is a program for children with an Asperger's Syndrome or ASD diagnosis that meets for one half period each day to focus on social skills, study skills, organizational skills and being able to make appropriate integrations. For the other three and a half periods of the day, Justin is mainstreamed into regular classes.)  I am hopefully optimistic and John and I look to partner immediately with the teachers involved.  In Justin's elementary school the SCIP program was "full" (long story...ugh) and we creatively worked around / with the system to customize a learning support program in his IEP (Individualized Education Plan).

The schools that both boys go to are public schools.  The Evergreen School District in Washington is one of the best in the state and one of the most progressive in terms of supporting children with special needs.  That being said, there are so many kids being diagnosed each year with many more in the pipeline that sometimes there just isn't enough support staff for all the kids that truly need it.

This will be a very important year for both boys and both John and I want to be involved.  We want to share our experiences with our school district with our Aspierations friends.  I know from having been to the Autism Society of America conference in 2009 and from participating in various autism related forums online that there are huge differences in the quality of education that spectrum children receive from country to country, state to state, city to city, even school to school within the same school district.

I hope to have time to check back in tomorrow evening and let you know how the "Getting Ready For School" meeting went.  I am going to take copious notes (as usual) and hopefully I will have some tips that I can share with you guys and gals in the future.

I want to thank again all the people who participated in my first Aspierations poll and who left comments and emails for me regarding how to make Aspierations a better place for everyone.  I will continue to write about a wide variety of topics.  I will share more about my past.  I will include anecdotes from daily living.  I will try and keep an upbeat and encouraging attitude but I will still stay real and let you guys know if I have dark days as well.

For those of you who are parents (whether or not your children have special needs), let's all work this year on helping our children let their lights shine.  Let's encourage them and love them for who they are, where they are, no matter what their challenges, successes, abilities or fears.  Lift them up!  Be a great example for them!

Here is to a great week ahead, Aspierations Friends!
Your comments and suggestions are welcome and you are DEFINITELY welcome back!  

Smiles for miles,

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