We have what might be one of the most important IEP meetings of Little Miss’s life coming up the first week of March: transition into junior high school. She’ll be moving from the school with the autism support center in it to a larger school combining four elementary schools.
Our district has a good number of autistic children who attend, on all sides of the spectrum. As I’ve said before, they are a victim of their own success–people move here on purpose to take advantage of the thoughtful program. We haven’t had a worry with Little Miss since her first day of kindergarten. The school has always been willing to provide whatever supports she could use, whatever we suggested. The last two years, she’s been in the self0contained autism support class about 40 percent of the time, for reading/spelling and math, core skills. She has all the specials with her peers, along with social studies and science, which she has been interested in and over the time period she’s even gotten brave enough to raise her hand to answer questions in class. The AS class has several aides, and Little Miss has a mutual admiration society with all of them, as well as the teacher she’s been with since second grade.
Over the last six months, her love of school has started to fade. If she has work she can bring home and think out, she does very well; if she has a test where she must process the language quickly, and ESPECIALLY if she has to theorize or analyze something, forget it. Questions like: Explain why the aftermath of the Civil War contributed to the growth of industry in the States, blah blah blah are just beyond her. Give her a map and ask her to find a place? Done. Ask her to look up words in the glossary? Done. Ask her why or how something happens? No way.
So here we are at junior high. I’m remembering from my other children that the slope continues upward, what is expected of the kids. Analysis and intuition are very important. Math goes beyond what someone needs for everyday living into equations and problem-solving in the higher ranges. Simple book reports change over to in-depth essays about literary themes in our world. If she hasn’t acquired that skill, then every day in a class like that could be hell. Why would I put her through that?
On the other hand, I could stipulate that she spends her academic subject time in the self-contained class. We could try to design a practical curriculum based on an ‘everyday needs’ thought. Do most of us need higher math functions in life? Even with a graduate degree, my math needs aren’t much beyond simple multiplication and division . Granted, algebra probably helps my problem-solving ability, but complex polynomials really don’t matter much.
For Little Miss, who’ll likely work through vocational school in horticulture or child care (which she’s very good at), I’m sure they can provide her with a meaningful solid base of information. She can still take cooking, art, even wood shop–she’s amazing at figuring out how things work. Without words.
Will the shock of moving to a school where you change classes every periods and the incipient noise (horrid for a sensory-overload child) be too much? Better to stay one place for many periods of the day? In the self-contained class, she’ll avoid some of the worst of the junior high school bullying, I think. She’ll be surrounded all day by people looking out for her. She’s also made friends with many children at the previous school who would help look out for her too.
But at the same time, I regret the things she’ll miss. Should we push her into the social studies and science, just for the opportunity of absorbing what she can auditorily, and hoping we can adapt the work into something she can do without rejecting it altogether?
Too many questions, not enough answers. We’ll be able, of course, to change the program as the year progresses and we see how it develops. But for all of you who’ve been through this, any suggestions you have would be invaluable. Thanks so much!