Sunday, January 19, 2014

School Update

So where did I leave off?

Nikko turned seven in July. Wow. He's not a little toddler anymore. He's getting a little taller, more solid, more curious. He's also putting his hands down the front of his pants a lot. Someone told me to look out for early signs of puberty and I think I put my fingers in my ears and said, "Lalalalalalalalalalala!" I cannot fathom that next phase, so I'm going to shelve it for now.

He had summer school at the same place he'll be at for 2nd-5th grade, as well as the same teacher. She is pretty awesome. She is knowledgeable about autism and isn't scared or perplexed at Nikko's behaviors. Instead of asking me what they should do about them, she offers suggestions and seems proactive. We have had good correspondence via email thus far and I am so grateful. Nikko is in the SOAR (Structured Opportunities for Academics and Responsibilities) program. There are only five students in his classroom. One would call it an inclusion class. All I know is that it is the best environment thus far for Nikko to thrive. They take as many sensory breaks as he needs to help him come down from his meltdowns. They have a big sensory room with a Wii. They listen to Enya.

I'm also grateful for the two wonderful aides in his class. I've talked to them and they have the biggest hearts. For example, Nikko's been pretty picky with his lunches at school. He's not a cold food kind of kid. I looked high and low for a thermos that would sufficiently hold mac and cheese, not leak, and yet be hot. I thought I had success, but his refusal to eat it because it was "warm" became apparent. One day he told the aide, "Oven, please!" He wanted his food to be hot, so they did it. I started sending in a paper bowl with mac cheese and he's been mostly happy with that.

Upon exploring other heat-up food options, one of his aides said to me, "Don't worry, send anything in. We'll heat it up, it's absolutely no trouble."

"Ok, but I don't want to break the rules, like heat up food if you're not supposed to for other kids."

She shrugged her shoulders and said, "Our little guys don't need to follow the rules."

I loved her for that. They would do whatever they could to make the environment happy for those kids. Of course there is learning as well as discrete trials, and Nikko has had more green days than yellow days. But there are still yellow days, and he is a mystery at times. We've been working with each other to figure out things that trigger Nikko into meltdowns, but on some days I am resigned to admit that I just can't predict what Nikko is going to do anymore. Still, we'll keep trying and observing and hope he will get whatever is irking him out of his system more quickly each time.

His annual IEP meeting is next month and I am curious to hear what they are going to propose for his new goals. This year has been different in that Nikko never brought home any homework. I wasn't used to this, since last year he had spelling tests and a math worksheet that I'd battle with him to complete. His teacher is of the strong belief that the kids in her room work so hard every single day, focusing on the tasks at school, that they are most likely tired at the end of the day and should rest. I still pressed for something tangible and she helped make sure that Nikko had a math and a reading app on his iPad. Nikko isn't really thrilled to do any of the math, but we do it anyway. It's eye opening to work with him and feel helpless because he won't focus with me like he does at school. I'm fortunate that I can directly ask his teacher for pointers on how to go over a lesson. I'd like to mirror what they do at school to what should be done at home.

Learning how to work with Nikko's new team has not been a struggle. They are fantastic people. Learning how to adjust my expectations has been the biggest adjustment of all.