Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Big Changes on the Horizon

It's official. Next year, Blink will be attending a new school. We're moving out of the charter school system and into the public schools. He will attend our newly-designated neighborhood school with his little sister, who is entering kindergarten. As the fates would have it, this school has an autism program.

Big changes. Blink will move from a school of 75-80 kids, my guesstimate is 90% of whom receive special education services, to a school of 300+, including the ~16 or so children in the autism program.

Although technically Blink is currently in a "mainstream" classroom for part of the day, it doesn't feel that way to me, given the population his current school serves.  The truth is, he's not doing so well in this setting, behaviorally speaking. Academically, he's doing fantastic — which is all the more impressive given the limited extent to which he's been "present" for learning lately.

It's been a rough school year, rife with bullying and challenging social conflicts, boredom, and a classroom full of volatile personalities. Blink is stressed out and anxious and stuck in a rut. I think the lack of positive role models for behavior is a real problem for him. He has trouble participating in a lot of group activities -- he'll get angry and run out of the room, for instance.

At his new school, Blink will have the opportunity to mainstream in a classroom of 25-odd typically developing peers with support from the autism team.  He'll be integrated into the mainstream classroom to the extent that he's able to be successful.

Conventional wisdom would say that if the kid can't hang in the uber-staffed special education classroom, he's never going to cut it in a mainstream room.

I hope that's wrong.  I think it is wrong, in Blink's case.

Here's our thinking:

1. Blink is bored.  He needs to be challenged and stimulated academically. I've been beating this drum for years, suggesting that if his mind is occupied, his behaviors will improve. Sadly, it remains untested. The new school seems like it has a lot more academic rigor, tons of enrichment opportunities, etc.

2.  Blink needs positive role models. When he's around high functioning kids, he models more of their behavior. He is getting more and more awareness of other kids' perceptions of his behavior and he understands that the standards will be different (much higher!) at the new school.

The potential is huge. Now, to do whatever I can to get him ready....

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