Monday, April 8, 2013

Our Journey with Asperger Syndrome: 1st Grade Stumbling Blocks

I have covered that the special education resource teacher, Rose Barton, would prove to be a godsend to Mancub's life. The actual diagnosis for Asperger Syndrome wasn't instantaneous. It took great research and testing. Developing a proper IEP was hit upon swiftly as accommodations were necessary for Mancub to set upon a successful path.

However ...

There was a teacher who, in spite of a specific IEP (Individualized Education Program), wanted to challenge or continue to teach every student within her comfort zone rather than that of the student. I'm not saying this is not a difficult task for the teacher to make accommodations.

The following is shared as an example of how challenging first grade was for us. Accommodations were met with argument and frustration:

Mancub's first grade teacher was the most resistent to his IEP. This would be the inaugural stepping stones for executing it. The day before school started parents are invited to visit the classroom with their child. Upon viewing Mancub's desk, books, supplies, I observed they had misspelled his name. Mancub recognized it was incorrect. I requested that new name tags be made as this may upset him.

Accompanying him to the classroom on the first day, I checked to see if the changes had been made. They were not. The teacher assured me she would fix it.

Another day passed and I received word from the school that he'd had a minor meltdown. The name correction had been made, but not with a new tag. She'd simply crossed out the wrong letter and just below it wrote the correct letter.


It nearly took an act of congress to insist she completely replace his name badge on his desk. Her comment to me was that him being so wildly upset over something so simple was a sign he was just spoiled. She quoted something from the Bible and it took all I had in me to not go primeval on her. Rather than lose my cool entirely, I turned to Mrs. Barton and she went over the IEP with the reluctant teacher. That wasn't the end to the trials and tribulations and blatant disregard for accommodations. This  teacher believed that if you insisted upon a child the classroom rules he would eventually succumb and fall in line. My threats to take it to the school board during a parent teacher conference ruffled her feathers. In due time, and after a consultation with her principal, she became more flexible.

This experience was, fortunately, the worst of it in all of Mancub's years in school. The upsets far outweighed the successes, sadly. Something as simple as the classroom being rearranged without forewarning could create a horrendous day for my son. To him, it was as if a tornado ripped through and destroyed everything he had come to understand and expect. He just couldn't process it.

To explain or attempt to make someone understand how an Aspie processes can be a daunting task. Think of a time you were frazzled or confused. Now, magnify it by 100 while being in a massive crowd of people speaking a language you don't understand; crank up the volume to 11. Then, try to calm down and sooth yourself. Dare to find a happy place in all that din. You can't. That is how every day, often countless times an hour, can be for a person with autism spectrum disorders. Every moment they have to try to soothe themselves.

From a parental perspective it is caused me such frustration to not be able to comfort him and make it better. I wanted to be with him every second of the day to protect him from situations that may be upsetting. Yet, to do that he would never learn coping skills. The people around him would never learn to accept him and also learn how to soothe him. The compassion exhibited was not only from professionals at the school. His classmates recognized the signs Mancub was becoming agitated and they helped ease his discomfort. They asked questions of why he got special treatment.  Once explained, they took it in stride rather than fussing about it.

First grade was undoubtedly cause for daily stress on my behalf because notes and calls were almost daily, but I reminded myself that my parental angst was nothing in comparison to what my little boy faced. The exhaustive efforts would lead to great reward when second grade finally rolled around.

.... Coming soon! Second grade: The teacher who worked tirelessly to blaze a path for success

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