Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Monday, August 30, 2010

School Worries

The supplies are bought.  The uniforms ready.  I've even had a few words with the teacher about preparing for the sensory challenges of an echoing lunch room.  The start of school is two days away.  There are so many things for which one can't prepare.

My son will have the same teacher that he did last year.  There many good sides of this fact.  There is a mostly positive relationship already established.  This man is wonderfully responsive to most concerns and communicates with me regularly.  He is within the warm-to-stern zone that works for my son.  If someone is too strict, my son writes them off and will gleefully push every button he can to get them irritated.  If someone is too wishy washy, he'll gladly step all over them.  I especially like that this teacher will look for ways to prevent my son's sensory and social challenges from interfering with his learning.  On the other hand, there's the issue of punishment vs. natural consequences.  I haven't been successful in gaining understanding of this concern.  As a fellow mom blogger wrote:

"...Punishments do discourage unwanted actions. Rewards (the positive flip-side of punishment) do encourage desirable actions. But both are ways of controlling the child as opposed to helping the child learn to control himself in a rational way. In fact, punishments and rewards encourage ... the child to look to others for an indication of whether he has done right or wrong. He learns to expect consequences (positive or negative) to come from others--not reality. And he doesn't learn why right and wrong actions are right and wrong--only that others say so."

So, that's my first concern.  My son responds to things like his name on the board, losing play time, and other punishments in an angry, tearful manner.  He quickly moves to hating the punishing adult when there isn't a reality based vs. punishment based link between the action and result.  I don't want him to see his teacher as a bad guy.  It was dicey sometimes last year, but we managed to avoid that conclusion.

My second concern is all the new transitions which tend to bring out sensory challenges.  The loud hallways led to overload a lot at the beginning of last year and he would cope (poorly) with hitting.  This isn't a big concern because I've identified it and can give him squeezy toys and other tools for getting positive sensory input.  The biggest issue will likely be recess again where he seems to constantly misinterpret body language and think someone is trying to hurt him (responds with what comes across as aggression).  We're working on it and he's become much better at looking at other options or interpretations.

Finally, the concern of being bored.  There are many social areas where my son needs work and he's only mildly "advanced" in math, but he is vastly beyond grade level in reading and so many things in the classroom revolve around enhancing that function.   From the time allowed for reading directions to the joint classroom activities, reading much easier for my kiddo.  When he's focused on understanding the classroom and how other kids work, it's actually good that he has the extra time.  That doesn't last more than a month though and then it's very tricky to find the right challenge.  HIs usual response is that any option is either too easy or too difficult.  I haven't found any regular math/ writing / reading activity which he doesn't respond to with an "I don't want to" fairly rapidly.  

I didn't expect public school to work for us this long, but I wonder if homeschooling would actually be better.  For example, in math over this summer, he loved: the Montessori materials for a week, doing math problems for a few days, playing Parcheesi with adding for a few days, completing DreamBox lessons for a week, doing a few pages of a workbook for a day, using the abacus for a few days, and so on.  He rarely is interested in returning to a method.  In school, they work through a workbook from beginning to end.  He enjoys the routine, at school, and that he's good at it.  He'll tell me that things are too easy occasionally, but any options of trying something more challenging he doesn't use.  When I ask him about it, he usually comes back to wanting to stay with the class materials.  So... we'll see what the school year holds.  I know they won't take tickle breaks like we do at home, but hopefully there will be enough positives to capture his joy in learning.


  1. I am the mom of a nearly 17 year-old with ASD-specifically, Asperger Syndrome. I can tell you that decisions about schooling vs. homeschooling are not easy. We did homeschool and now he goes to school--at his own request. Each option requires different accommodations on my part, and different problems to solve. And each year he's in school, I also have to do the "how much to interfere" dance. This week, for example, I did decide to call a conference among my son's teachers to get some information out to them and to get consensus on how to treat transitions--the little ones he manages, but big ones like schedule changes are still difficult--and how to deal with his IEP accommodations.

    I think the homeschooling piece was very good for my son's education, and for us. I still miss those days. And when I went to high school in school, I thought I'd have much more time to myself-but I still need to step in and help him manage.

    Good luck to you! Our kids do mature, they do learn, and they do grow up. Just differently, I guess.

  2. Rachel, I enjoyed this post very much (and not just because you quoted me!). Your son has a wonderful advocate in you, and no matter which choice you make, you'll be looking out for him and helping him.

  3. Elisheva: Thank you so much for your comments. I often wonder about the pros and cons. I want my son to keep that joy of learning and that's what I see most threatened by the school's discipline practice and slow pace. It's hard for me to imagine, a curriculum now that he'd be thrilled about the whole time though. At home, I could change more frequently and move more frequently, but I wonder if I could build a solid, hierarchy with such a disjointed approach. I'll watch and support and keep evaluating :)
    It's wonderful to hear about your experiences of progress and success and similar efforts.

  4. Jenn: Thanks :) I loved reading your recent post about setting up for this year's learning goals. Your kids have a super mom!