Thursday, 12 January 2017

Functional schooling

When my daughter was first diagnosed, it wasn't much of a surprise. She was 4, not talking, not playing with peers or adults, not toilet trained, repetitive actions and behaviours, PICA, elopement... Still, it hurt to know that both of our children were going to have similar struggles, require similar time, effort and (oh ye gods) more flippin' paperwork.

We dealt with it, moved on, got her the placement in an early intervention preschool program. Her January birthday meant we could wait an extra year to start kindergarten, and we arranged for her to stay in her preschool setting for her "kindergarten" year. Her publicly funded therapies have been a bit of a bust, but we continue to try.

My son has made leaps and bound of progress, even starting to overcome the speech impediment that has made language acquisition so much harder. He has learned to read, mastered more fine motor skills, and has some friends at school.

I have hopes for Kitten. She has time to learn.

Fast forward to 2017. Kitten turns 6 in less than a week. At this age, Monkey was talking and mostly toilet trained. We took a bit of a chance putting him in an integrated classroom, and for the most part, he flourished. This year he is in a new school and is thriving with his new teacher and aide.

Kitten talks a little more, but very little of it is functional. Plays with adults, if still not other children. She is still not toilet trained, but she is SO close to being ready. Her stims are more pronounced, but not generally obtrusive. Her PICA is worse, but we are better at keeping preferred non-food items out of her way. Her self-harm and aggressive behaviours come and go. Her elopements have become fewer, though perhaps not by her own desires, but our efforts to keep her safer.

Now we are starting to work on Grade 1 placement for Kitten.

Her evaluations are not a surprise. Her receptive language is estimated to be at age level. Her responsive/expressive language is 18 months. Self care is 2.5 years. Socially, 2 years. She is suspected of having ADHD as well, but can't really be formally evaluated as yet. Her IQ is probably average, but it is very hard to evaluate, as she has very low functional communication.

She is not a candidate for an integrated classroom. This is fair. She needs more time and therapies than a regular class can provide, and I don't want her to be left behind or neglected.

My husband teaches a classroom full of kids who are severely affected by ASD, low cognitive, and high incidence of co-morbid conditions, like Fragile X, CP, ADHD, learning disabilities, and other disorders.

This week at the placement meetings, Kitten's name was on the list. They are trying to decide if she should be placed in the same program at the local school where her dad teaches. He wouldn't be her teacher, but would be in the other classroom in this program. The other option is a class for "higher functioning" autistics, but with her low communication (a few words, a few PECS, a few signs) it seems that there would be a similar issue as with an integrated classroom.

I should be okay with this, her going into the "lower functioning" special needs classroom. It isn't as though I don't see all the reasons. My husband knows and highly recommends her prospective teacher and aides. She will get the help, therapies, and attention she needs.

But somehow, this is hard. Harder than expected.

There is nothing wrong with getting Kitten what she needs to thrive. There is nothing wrong with needing different kinds of help than most. There is nothing wrong with being different.

So why am I so sad about this?

1 comment:

  1. I can empathize. My son is in a program where he is in a typical class with aide support. My moment that was harder for me to deal with was Special Olympics. He is so sporty, but would not do well in a typical setting, so we enrolled him in a pre-sport program at Special Olympics, and that as really, unexpectedly, hard for me. Love the organization and plan to be more involved as he gets older, but it was really hard to acknowledge his differences in this situation.