Autism: C'hele's Story

May 20, 2008

Autism: Elementary School to High School Transitions and Problems

Filed under: Aspberger Syndrome, Autism, Special Needs — C'hele @ 15:59
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Last week was a very interesting week. Michaela’s elementary school is preparing for her transition into high school. Michaela is both elated and freaked. The municipality where we live has incurred massive funding cuts to special needs programs by the Ministry of Education. I have heard that approximately 66 Educational Assistants will be laid off in our district. The Special Programs Coordinator here in our municipality, has had the incredibly challenging task of placing many special needs kids into the remaining, few programs.

The program Michaela will soon attend, looks good save for a few things. I met the teacher twice last week and I am impressed with both her and her willingness to do what it takes to make Michaela’s transition and her high school experiences as successful as possible. We are fortunate. If I had a negative feeling about the program itself, I would have had both my hands and arm’s tied as it would be difficult to place Michaela into another program due to all the funding cuts.

In the world of special needs, a parent finds out very quickly that the louder that you holler, the more results you see. The negative drawback is that you quickly become labelled as a “problem parent.”

Whatever.

I have learned the hard way to not give a fig to what others think of me anymore. My child comes first.

So in September, I may have to do a bit of hollering. Maybe. I’ve already started voicing my concerns.

Michaela will soon be undergoing a huge transformation. All of her school life she has been bussed to school and has been in a resource room with an E.A who supports her. Due to all the funding cuts, Michaela will no longer be bussed or have an E.A to support her.

I freaked when I discovered this and lost sleep that night. How will she cope with all of these sudden changes? Anyone with an autistic child knows, that transitions are hell for these guys. Even though the high school is a few blocks away from our house, Michaela would have to cross two very busy intersections.

This is a huge problem. Michaela is unable to do this due to impulsivity issues. Her whole youth, my family and myself have worked with her regarding street safety but she is still unable to master this skill.

Michaela’s core subjects will be taught in her new resource room with her teacher but her elective subjects will be an issue. Michaela will have to attend them alone with no E.A. support. I have a problem with this as this means that Michaela will have to operate a sewing machine, an iron, and the oven for her cooking/sewing classes. Due to her neurological challenges, these are other safety concerns.

When I asked the teacher what the labels of the other students that will be sharing her resource room were, I found that they were mostly very high functioning Asperger’s students. This means that they are able to do the academic work but their challenges lie mostly in the social/communication realm. Michaela has both AS and other developmental impairments due to anoxia damage. This means that she will be the lowest functioning student in her resource room. I also found out that she will be alone. She is the only grade seven student from her current resource room that will be moving on to high school.

Dear Lord. Michaela has also been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and this is going to sky-rocket big time. Thank God, she has made some friends with a few typical grade seven peers. I can only hope that they will be supportive for her during these transitions. I mentioned to the teacher that one of my biggest concerns was that due to Michaela’s social impairments, “she could” become an easy victim to any of her typical peers.

As I signed all the necessary forms to admit Michaela into the program, I found myself thinking out loud to the teacher. As much as I hated the thought of Michaela having to incur all of these changes and the hell that she will soon experience, “I have to see how it all unfolds. Fostering Michaela’s independence is vital.” With a regretful look upon her face, the teacher assured me that she will do everything in her power to make Michaela’s experiences in high school a positive one. She also agreed that I need to take that step back and allow Michaela the opportunity to do this on her own.

If there is any consolation, at least we’ll know by the end of September if the program is suited for her or not. At least we’ll have the paperwork to back us up should we need to transfer her into another program that has more support. I shudder when I think of all the mental hell she will soon be going through.

Both Michaela’s current teacher and her new teacher, are at least working on making an application so she will be driven to and from school on a bus. It’s the lesser of two evil’s I suppose since she will not be having an E.A.

So, I have my work cut out for me this summer. I will not be able to work part-time as I had hoped as I will be busy preparing Michaela for high school.

Our goals are as follows:

a. We will be walking to and from her new school everyday in the event that she does not qualify for the bus.

b. We have already started learning how to utilize an iron safely.

c. I have sewing projects already lined up for her and we will be going over how to operate a sewing machine and the foot pedal safely.

d. We will be learning how to cook and use a stove/oven.

In case anyone wonders “why” we haven’t already learned how to do these things, Michaela simply wasn’t ready. It’s funny how nature takes it’s course: now that my daughter is soon to be thirteen years old, she now considers it “time” to grow up. She is so aware of her challenges that she is now willing and determined to do things and behave “like everyone else.”

This change in my daughter is in itself, a God-send. And I, will be sitting in the background, quietly shaping and supporting my daughters self-esteem.

Worse-case-scenario? I am willing to allow my daughter some space to try things on her own at her new school but I am not willing to allow her to walk to and from school just yet. I may have to quit work so I can escort her back and forth. In the event of this possibility, I have decided that I will continue on with my plans to go back to college part-time and at the same time, utilize my past education/training as an Early Childhood Educator and daycare at home part-time for some kind of income.

We’ll see what happens.

*Sigh.* There’s one thing for certain: there’s never a dull moment in my life.

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5 Comments »

  1. Wow, this is a lot to think about.

    I feel the same way you do about birthdays. I don’t really notice getting older, but the day itself is a depressing reminder of the fact that I’m still stuck here.

    I think you’re being very wise to be so proactive about helping Caela’s transition,and coming up with plans to support her during this change. It also does sound like she’s feeling more ready to branch out, so perhaps these changes are coming at the right time for her. Nevertheless, I know your readership will be anxious to know how you and she are doing as this major transition occurs.

    Comment by David — May 21, 2008 @ 08:46

  2. Happy belated birthday, C’hele. I actually keep forgetting how old I am. When someone asks me, I really have to think about it now. I feel like I’m in my 80’s lately, but that’s because of this shot I got at the Doctor’s office. It has AGED ME!

    Bookstores always make me feel like a kid in a candy store! I love the smell of new books! 🙂

    I hope Caela adjusts well to high school and all her new challenges. Let’s face it though, high school is a challenge for everyone! She will do her best, I’m sure of it!

    Comment by vroni1208 — May 21, 2008 @ 17:24

  3. I love going to book stores too. I could hang out in them for hours.

    Happy, happy birthday C’hele! I hope it was a good one.

    I’m sure Caela will do just fine with her transitions…after all, she is her mother’s daughter.

    Comment by missholley — May 31, 2008 @ 21:27

  4. Hello from a American mother living in UK with a 22 year old son with Asperger Syndrome. I sure hear you loud and clear about your fears/concerns about your daughter as she approaches the transition to a new school. For us this was quite a year that it all came clearer that we needed to have the appropriate diagnosis with recommendations that for us came from the Centre for Social and Communication Disorders in Bromley Kent (now Lorna Wing Centre).

    In my experience it doesn’t get easier but the rewards are great. My son just graduated with a very high degree from University, and now he will go on to do his Masters, but organising the support he still needs–realising the support he will always need perhaps can take it toll on me as Mom. The nights, the days I’ve tried to do the best. …where the doctors, psychiatrists, social workers (some), teachers (most), and now administrators in the public sector will not have a clue.

    I, too, still worry about him crossing the street, being around traffic as he will follow someone else who is crossing the street, not looking or judging the traffic. And, who understands that although he looks like everyone else, it’s a bit like him being blind. And how I come across as the proverbial over-anxious, over-protective (American)mom here in England. But you’re right about not giving a fig; we have to do that in order to survive.

    I am so glad I’ve found your blog. It is brilliant.

    Take care,

    LaVerne

    Comment by L. Anderson — August 2, 2008 @ 01:49

  5. LaVerne- THANK YOU so much for commenting. I have so much to say and to add to your comment(s). Unfortunately, I am in the midst of moving! Things are crazy as you can well imagine :). Michaela has not taken the change easily despite the “prepping.” I will get back to you with this- please check back. It may be up to two weeks as my internet will be cut off from my old residence to my new one.

    Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to comment.

    Cheers!

    Comment by cheles — August 2, 2008 @ 09:04


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