Yesterday, I met with Peter’s teacher, the autism teacher for the school he will attend for kindergarten, a kindergarten teacher for the school he is currently in, his school speech therapist and the county special education coordinator. The meeting was to determine where Peter will attend kindergarten and under what conditions.
Peter was with us and very politely sat at the table drinking water with the adults while his brother played with the toys in the classroom. Everyone was so impressed and I think this swayed the county special education coordinator to recommend that he be mainstreamed. I really didn’t have a reasonable objection other than I am nervous about how he will do.
Of course, Peter’s behavior at the meeting wasn’t the sole basis for her decision. She asked me dozens of questions and she asked questions of Michelle (his teacher) and Aline (Peter’s speech therapist through the school) about his behavior in school, how he handles classroom activities, transitions, noise, following directions, etc. She asked about his academic progress and we all explained how much and how well he knew things. We also noted that he is starting to read but that phonics may not help him much. He’s too literal and seems to be learning to read by sight.
His speech is continuing to improve. He is starting to ask questions in first person instead of third when he wants something. For example, instead of saying, “Do you want more milk?” when he wants milk, he’s beginning to say, “I want more milk, please.” It’s not consistent but I’ve noticed that with Peter, once he starts to progress in an area, the new skill picks up speed over a few weeks or months until it’s fully incorporated.
I’m happy that they feel Peter is capable of attending kindergarten but nervous about it all the same. He will have a helper with him for all of the academic work (about 4 hours a day) so he can have one-on-one attention which seems to be the best way to get him to concentrate on learning. His teacher will direct his playing, lunch and other unstructured activities thereafter.
The teacher sets the tone and I haven’t met her so I’m worried about how accepting she will be. Rachel, the autism teacher from what will be Peter’s school, assured me that since her hiring in January, she has visited many of the classrooms to explain to students what autism is. She assured me that she has seen a tremendous difference in how both the teachers and students in the general education classes respond to students with autism. They are much more accepting.
As she mentioned, education is the key to understanding.