Week 1 into Matthew being integrated in the Amancer preschool program. So, flash back a year and a half.
Matthew meet Amancer preschool program, Amancer preschool program meet Matthew. 15 children, 4 "typically developing peers" and the rest with some form of delay (many with simple speech articulation issues), 1 teacher, 1 aide.
(School Officials) He'll do fine Mr. and Mrs. Hirning
(Mr. & Mrs. Hirning) Are you sure?? His sensory needs can make him very overwhelmed, this is a big classroom. You know, you have a lot of "stuff" out, he may make a lot of messes......
(School Officials) Mr. & Mrs. Hirning, he'll do fine.
3 months later.......
(School Officials) Ah, Mr. & Mrs. Hirning, this may not be the right environment for your son. He dumps all the toys, screams when overwhelmed, we just don't have the manpower to assign him a one on one aide for this classroom. We'd like to have him evaluated for Autism.
(Mr. & Mrs. Hirning) We told you.......
2 months later.......
(New teacher) Welcome to the SPICE program, this is a self contained class for children who have more severe disabilities. There are no florescent lights, we use visual schedules, there is a sensory area for sensory input daily and as needed, and we use PECS for requesting snack.
(Mr. & Mrs. Hirning) PECS???? We don't want him using PECS, he has some words, we want to encourage his verbal ability.
(New teacher) Don't worry, he'll do fine
And he did. His language exploded, probably because they used PECS with him. He got right into the routine and really made progress. The only thing was.....he was one of the highest functioning kids in the class. Which of course part of me was saying "yeah" and another part was saying "who will he learn from???". But, we finished out the year.
Summer was a bust, they put the dregs on the summer program, let me tell you. I had "issues" with an aide questioning me about why I wouldn't put him on the bus after it broke down with him on it and he freaked (picture 110 degree day, bus overheats, have to turn off the A/C, he knows his route and sees he is NOT home and the bus is super loud which is magnified by his superhuman hearing, can you say recipe for meltdown?). He developed severe anxiety towards the bus and frankly it was not worth it. Maybe when you staff the summer program, you should get aides that know something about Autism and have worked with children with Autism before. Yes, I am still honked at being questioned about this issue. I may not know a lot in life but I know my children. Don't you dare blow off an issue and say "he'll get over it" when you see my child 2 hours a day and I have him the rest of the time. 2 hours of a screaming meltdown is NOT OK to deal with because of the bus. Autism is usually comorbid with OCD and anxiety issues. Anyways......deep breath....
So, here we are for another year. We get moved to a closer school (hooray since bussing is still out, see above) and from what I hear this is the best school in the district for the Autism program. Anyways, all is well, jumps right back in. Thanksgiving comes and the teacher says she wants to integrate him into the Amancer class. They pick a time and send him down. He gets sensory overload and meltsdown, then becomes very anxious of the class, the teacher, etc. So, we begin doing social stories about the class, etc. We back off and realize that he does still have 1 more year of preschool because he misses the cut off. Out of the blue last week he decides he wants to do to the integrated class. Hallelujah!! I celebrated the crap out of that. I guess he stayed for 10 minutes and then said "peace out". But hey, 10 minutes is 10 minutes. It all started when the day before we walked to the parking lot with another child in the integrated class. Her mom picks up each day too (they live across the street from the school so they just walk over). She has a little one a little older than Emma so we chat and the little ones kind of play together from their strollers. Anyways, we got the older kids and walked a bit together. Matthew was peeking in the windows of her class. I said "Hey, that's Mrs. Page's class, I bet they have COOL toys in there, and Rachel is in that class!! Maybe one day you can visit and play together". Well the next day is the day he does!! So, I get the scoop, stayed 10 minutes but wouldn't sit for circle time. So in the car we go through the spiel.
(me) Mommy had to sit for circle time, so did daddy.
(him) And Torrey had to sit for circle time
(me) Yes, Torrey did too
(him) **rattles of all the kids in Mrs. Page's class** have to sit for circle time
(me) Yes Matthew and I want you to sit too!
So, from that moment, whamo, he's been in the integrated class. It stunned me the first time he came out with the class to go home. My jaw was on the ground. I was so incredibly proud of him, I thought I would burst. Meanwhile Emma is screaming "HEY BROTHER" from her stroller, he has his own cheering squad.
So, in the past week, no more daily notes from his other teacher as is customary with the self contained class, we got the newsletter from the Amancer preschool class, even the scoop on Valentines. WE'RE BACK BABY ~ This time better than ever!!! Watch out integration, here we come!!!