My little man started first grade a couple of weeks ago. Now, if you have been reading this blog for any real length of time, you know that the little man is severely disabled, mostly nonverbal, and largely wheelchair bound. This makes school a very different experience for him than a typical kid. For starters, his classroom time is split between traditional lessons and life skills. His kindergarten curriculum included things like going to the grocery store and buying Christmas gifts for his family.
Classrooms like this are called different things – in our last district it was Community Based Instruction (CBI for short), here it is Special Day Classes – but either way it means 100%-ish in a special education environment. [I say “ish” because placement in these classes doesn’t prevent a kid from joining the mainstream classes occasionally.] This may be somewhat different than what you remember from being in school where there was sort of one special ed class and anyone with “an issue” went to the same place. Now schools do better with dividing kids up based on their level of disability – maybe they need to be in the full class like the little man, or maybe they only need to spend part of a day with a special class, or maybe they only need extra help from an aid throughout the day, etc.
Transferring the little man’s services has been nerve-wracking. It is a lot to do in a very short window of time. Difficult in the best of times, for sure. And still a work in progress! The school district office was closed and I wasn’t able to register the kids until mid-July, only a month before classes started. I was pre-stressed about the amount of appointments and evaluations we were going to have to go through in just a couple of weeks to get a placement for him. And about the vacation time I didn’t have to do that. And then. . it didn’t happen. The district did this amazing thing where they based his placement on his most recent IEP (completed in May in Arkansas). This may all seem very obvious to you, but I had no clue it was even an option.
The placement he started school with is a thirty-day temporary placement. We will come together soon to discuss how it is going – this gives the teachers/aids/therapists time to learn all of those things about the little man you can’t get from a handful of papers. Love this! True, I’d hate for his initial placement to fail, but it would be far worse to be locked in to something long term based on information received before they even met the kid. Or even worse, missing important school time after going an entire summer without his important therapies.
Okay, let’s talk about that placement. It looks like the school district here is going to be just a lovely and helpful as the last one (that isn’t sarcasm, they were great), but that still doesn’t mean it has been all puppies and roses. Let me replay a portion of the conversation I had with the school:
School District: We have him a place at [redacted] Elementary with [teacher]. That is a special day class that has 2nd to 8th graders.
Me: I’m sorry. Did you say 2nd to 8th?
School District: Yes. I know that is quite a range.
Me: ::thinking:: What the hell!?
To learn that my first grader was going to be the youngest kid in a classroom with middle school kids (disabled or not!) was a bit shocking. For some perspective, his class in Arkansas was K-2. They had another classroom for 3-5. Turns out the district puts kids who need medical attention – like the little man’s g-tube – in this classroom. I don’t know why there are middle school kids on-site at an elementary, medical issues or not.
I remained calm and we are giving it a try. I’ve always taken the little man’s medical providers at face value when they suggest something and know they wouldn’t do anything to intentionally put him at risk. Due to my work schedule, I haven’t even seen the classroom or met the teacher yet, but the husband had a good first impression. And the little man seems to be enjoying himself.
One week in and his teacher told my husband that she really wants to keep him in her class. And that she will work to make sure he has everything he needs geared to his age group. I’m not surprised by this reaction. The little man is sneaky and can get people tied around his little finger in a matter of minutes. Just ask his Arkansas teacher and therapists. Or his grandparents.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to having that first meeting with “the team” and getting some first-hand opinions about how he is doing in the classroom and handling the move. And he has his first appointment with his new pediatrician at the Stanford children’s hospital today. Getting that side of the services going will make me feel more at ease, I’m sure.
To sum it all up: I’m nervous. The little man is smiley, as usual.