Jack has been in Summer School for almost two weeks now.
This year his Summer School is a little different than the past two... He's going for "academics". He was at a "social skills" Summer School previously. So, I need to start this post with some information about Jack's 1st Grade experience. Jack is in a General Ed classroom at our neighborhood public school. He has an aide with him. Jack will be going to 2nd grade next year, General Ed, full-inclusion. Jack has an IEP, but there are no academic restrictions or goals, so he is "judged" (graded) as is every other pupil in his class. If you've followed this blog, you know that what we call "The Great Regression" lasted until about mid-November. Jack literally missed almost the entire three months of instruction being removed from the class due to behaviors... and had a lot of catching up to do.
We ended the year close, on the fence of whether he should repeat or not.
At our annual IEP we sat in a room of involved, wonderful professionals that all wholeheartedly agreed that Jack should move on to 2nd grade, but attend Summer School to catch up, or at least maintain skills.
So we attend the "Special Day Class" Summer School for the entire district. Good news is that it is at our school, so there's no transition to a new campus to worry about. Bad news, it's at our home school, so Jack can't take the bus (like 95% of the kiddos there). We'll live with it.
So, Jack is in a classroom of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders (he's the youngest). There are 25 students (although on any given day there's only 15-20 there, attendance seems "optional" in Summer School), 8 aides (including Jack's) and a teacher.
Okay, all that's done. Here's what I want to write about. He's doing amazingly well.
As advocates, "least restrictive environment" and "all inclusion, all the time", are our rallying cries.
But... Jack is finally happy in school. He is a "big fish" in this pond. I asked him why he was doing so well in Summer School and I got the most interesting (yet vague) answer.
"Johnny gets time away more than me"
I assume he means that there are finally peers that are a bigger behavior problem than he is.
We are an ABA family, so we spend a LOT of time analyzing the purpose of behaviors in our boy. Usually "attention seeking" is number one. Maybe "task difficulty" or "task avoidance" deserved more attention.
Inclusion is a touchy subject... touchy meaning it's complicated. Jack has never had a classmate or peer that was mean to him. He even has several that go out of their way to "include" or "be nice" to him.
But he struggles.
But in this environment... He IS the peer model. Inclusion is empowered to him. There are other students that want to emulate Jack... let me say that again... there are other students that want to emulate Jack.
And that breeds a skill we haven't seen in our house recently.
Jack gets to be who he is (within reason, of course), and others like it! And the academics are improving!
So, after another great day at Summer School, I snapped this picture over my shoulder while driving home.
I see Jack every day at school. And, like most of the children on the spectrum that attend there, he's walking around looking lost, frustrated, or pissed off.
And here, without any prompting or advance warning, he's smiling.
I hope that we can parlay these Summer School skills to the 2nd grade class.
I want you to keep being you, "nobody can tell you there's only one song worth singing. Make your own kind of music, sing your own special song, even if nobody else sings along"
I'm proud of you, Boyo.