Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Guess Who Rocked Summer School?

When first approached by Jack's case worker at school about sending him to ESY (special education Extended School Year, if you don't know), I was thrilled because Jack does really well with routine and structure, and I thought it would be good for him.

Our ESY is half-day school that runs for four weeks in July. As the school year drew to a close and Jack became more and more excited about not having to go to school, I started to wonder how he was going to react to having to turn right around in two weeks and go back to school. Especially when his brothers didn't have to.

But we talked up how he got to go to summer school and was going to have all kinds of fun and he seemed to get in the spirit of it all.

Then, just before ESY started, I began to worry. It seemed disorganized and I was concerned about just throwing him into an unfamiliar school with unfamiliar people and a new teacher for four weeks. I posted about that and then became even more worried as comments started to roll in about bad experiences people had with ESY.

But I am thrilled to report that Jack finished his last day of ESY last Friday and that it was a completely wonderful experience for him. He took to it immediately, partly because so many of the kids in his class were from his kindergarten and partly because his teacher was amazing.

Whereas during the school year I was constantly getting phone calls about his (mis)behavior and his communication notebook was full of his teachers' concerns, this summer's communication was almost all positive.

Yes, there was that bad week when he threw up on the bus more than once and we had one note from the teacher about his hitting another child, but that was an anomaly. His teacher told me during an end-of-ESY phone conference, "With the structure and support, he's doing really well."

She also told me, "He says his mom is his best friend, but that 'T' is his best school friend," which brought me all kinds of happy for all kinds of reasons.

Speaking of T, Jack has finally created a friendship with another boy. They are both on the spectrum and seem to enjoy each other a lot. T's mother and I have gotten them together several times this summer. I imagine that Jack likes getting dropped off for his own playdates after seeing Sam dash off to playdate after playdate ever since he was in preschool. And I like that T's mom knows what to do with Jack and isn't nervous about taking him. She gets it.

It has been wonderful to see Jack happily run off to the bus at pick up every day instead of crying and trying to refuse to get out of the car, as he would sometimes do when I dropped him off for regular school.

It's been fabulous to ask him at the end of the day how school was and to get a thumbs up or "It was faaaantastic!" or "We did X, Y, and Z." This isn't what I heard last year after school.

Plus, I'm happy to report that the bus drivers came around once I started sending Jack out to the bus with an ice pack and once he stopped barfing on the bus. They were really kind to him and made enough of an impression that he wrote a letter to give to them on the last day of school. ("Dear Bus Driver, It is the last day of school. We are having a pizza party...")

I don't know if it was the half-day schedule or that it was an all special education environment or if his teacher just really got him. I'm sure it helped that they came up with fun ways to do assignments (M&Ms math, for example), but he still did a lot of work. And instead of coming home with a check ("I didn't do my best work.") or a smiley face ("I made some mistakes."), his work would come home with smiley face, star, check plus "WOW!"

I can only imagine how good for his self esteem these four weeks were.

I'm still drop-dead terrified of first grade, but it has been amazing to watch Jack have such a positive experience at school.

20 comments:

  1. Go Jack! That rocks. A school is only as good as the teacher in front of you- and it is a nice breath to get an excellent one.

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  2. Great news. What can you do to see that his new buddy is in his class next year? Having a pal close at hand makes a world of difference in a school year.

    Go Jack!

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  3. Great news. What can you do to see that his new buddy is in his class next year? Having a pal close at hand makes a world of difference in a school year.

    Go Jack!

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  4. Grinning like an idiot as I read that post! Yeah, Jack rocked summer school. But Team Stimey (well, the senior members) ROCKED advocacy which got him exactly what he needed to succeed.

    You both get a smiley face, star, check and "Wow!" from me! :-)

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  5. That is so fabulously wonderful! I hope his teacher in 1st grade is close to being as awesome.

    And wow, there is a lot of puke going down in your family.

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  6. That is fantastic! What a relief to you that he had a fun time. Does T go to his school? Will he be in Jack's class next year? Way to go making a buddy!

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  7. Wouldn't it be great for you and Jack if that "summer school" was year-round?

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  8. So you didn't die? ;-) -Monica

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  9. I'm glad that Jack did so great in summer school! It sounds like he did a lot of growing up this summer! I hope first grade will start out well for him, too!

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  10. I just got a warm fuzzy feeling! Yay for Jack and for you...I'm so happy that it was a great experience!

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  11. Yay, Jack!

    DuckyBoy has done great with summer school too. Similar -- he wasn't happy to find out he had to go, but has really enjoyed it. MY fingers are crossed that the teachers who worked the summer program will be his 2nd grade teachers... hope, hope, pray! because they DO get him and "his kind." As in, they kept their minds stimulated with a new topic each week.

    The initial transition to first grade was hard for us last year (less playtime, a little more structured learning) but DB did great, I'm sure Jack will too.

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  12. Yay! I am thrilled for him and for you. I know how it is to wait anxiously for the report every day.

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  13. That's terrific! I know you're nervous about first grade, but it sounds like Jack is really doing great. Hope you're having a fun va-cay and that your bite/boob/rash has cleared up today :)

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  14. That is fantastic! I think we'll probably do ESY for Oliver next year. This year I still wasn't ready to chance it (all of that upheaval and change for just a few weeks), but now I'm thinking I shouldn't have worried.

    And finding a friend other than siblings is HUGE. I die a little inside when I see my boy watching other kids so effortlessly talking and interacting - when he is so far behind in his communication skills. Or when I see him try to play with them by being rough and pushing... Hearing that Jack has a friend makes me feel much better about the future. But then Jack stories always make me feel happy.

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  15. i got chills reading this. i know how it feels to know that your child knows s/he has succeeded at something. even though our stories are different, i worried and worried over my daughter's past school year. i think she was matched with a teacher who really seemed to get her and her different way of thinking. it was so great to see her flourish and bloom in an environment that was right for her.

    now, like you, i worry about what the next year holds. i'm hoping for the best for both of us!

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  16. Yahoo for Jack! Not so much for the barfing on the bus but yahoo for Jack!

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  17. I'm so glad that worked out for Jack. What is the age range for ESY? I think my guy could have benefited from something like that this summer.

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  18. Now I feel a little bad for leaving a "Oh NOES! Summer school is scary!" comment. I'm so glad it worked out so well for Jack. He's a super star!

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  19. This is so great! Yay for Jack! I bet this feeling of being really successful in school will help him in 1st grade.

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  20. Hey Megan, I couldn't find your email address, so I'll leave a comment here in case you check back. I'm not sure what the age range is, but if your son has a case manager at school, s/he would be able to tell you. Or check the Wrightslaw website. There might be good information there.

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