Thursday, September 17, 2009

So How is School Going?

For the past couple of weeks, people have been asking me how Jack has been doing in school. And I've been answering, "He's doing great! I mean, it's still hard for him, but he's doing so much better than last year."

And that is all true, and I am so proud of him.

But then there's the other truth—the truth that includes almost daily reports of Jack hitting other kids, his aide, or his teacher; and the phone calls that are increasing in frequency from school staffers about Jack's behavior.

His whole team knows and acknowledges that these behaviors stem from his autism, from the fact that he has a disability, but it still is no fun to deal with. He's frustrated, so he'll hit because he doesn't have words. He doesn't know what to say, so he'll imitate something he saw on TV or saw someone else do, and he'll hit. He doesn't know how to get someone's attention, so he'll hit.

These behaviors are really slowing him down in a year in which, academically, he seems to be killing it. And, unlike the beginning of last year when so many of his problems stemmed from lack of adequate support, I don't think this is something an attorney and an IEP meeting can fix.

But, that aside, school has been going really well. (And there haven't been hitting reports in the communication notebook for two days in a row. My fingers are, and will remain, crossed that this continues.)

The first couple of days that he had homework were tough. Like, it took an hour and a half of cajoling to get him to do four minutes worth of math problems. But since then, he has improved. My guys get home at about 3:30 and I let them play until 4. Then we all sit down at the dining room table and do homework.

The gold sticker? It says "Excellence," and he earned it at school.

Today Jack finished his homework before Sam finished his, which is unheard of in my house. It is so encouraging. (And, yes, my fingers are crossed and I'm knocking on wood for this too.)

He reads the books he brings home, complete with different voices for different characters. He does his math perfectly. He excitedly pulled some art work out of his bag the other day to show me. He's getting his reading comprehension questions right. He's even using his finger to carefully make spaces between words, which I find absolutely adorable.

Yes, he IS using a Stimeyland pen.

I'm coming to the slow realization—or not realization, but more acceptance—that Jack's autism is not a "developmental delay." It truly is a disability, and he is not going to suddenly catch up and be all better and just like his peers. He is going to have challenges, and they are going to change year to year, month to month, and day to day.

But that's okay. Because he's getting older and more aware and even more lovable, if that is possible.

And it's okay because I'm not the only one who gets this. Jack's team gets it. The other day the principal called and left a message to tell me about a problem that Jack had had that day. I didn't get the message until that evening, so the next day I emailed him to tell him what we were doing at about the problem.

He wasn't at the school that day, but he emailed me from his home at 9 p.m. that night. And it wasn't to tell me how Jack had misbehaved, but rather to tell me that he's doing all right, hopes it gets better, and that he's going to have Jack make some trips to the principal's treasure box for incentives and rewards.

Me. Speechless. And grateful.

So how is school going? There have been some ups and downs, and I have spent some very sad afternoons worrying about Jack. But mostly I am just so proud of him I could burst.


  1. Oh god, I know this so well. The good and the not good, the worry. I'm so glad he has the right support in place this year. It will, in the end, make a world of difference for both of you.

  2. Sounds like a great start to the year, the right support, very encouraging. I've never been fond of the term "Developmental Delay" for the reason that you stated. It implies that there will be a catching up, that one's child is just behind, but will, eventually, be just like all the other kids. Development is not linear, but more wed-like, with one skill possible supporting something else, or a coping mechanism combined with maturing making a child able to handle something new. While other pieces of the web actually break off when not needed anymore, or perhaps just don't get integrated. Hmmm, I think I could run away with this metaphor....

  3. I'm tearing up reading this. I love Jack. I will always be on his team.

  4. I am so glad things are going in this direction!

    As a mom who lives in fear of the communication notebook, every single day, I get it. I do.

    We have a kid at a school he loves, getting straight A's and blowing the teachers' minds with his sharp, sharp mind. But every single day is still a struggle.

  5. You made me a bit teary eyed here, knock it off! But hey, kids by their very definition are roller coasters. Jack is just his own kind of roller coaster and thank God you're totally willing and able to take that ride. Jack is so lucky!

  6. You are awesome. And so is Jack. I'm so pleased he's getting the support he deserves - and you are too - from the school.

  7. Jack- you are so awesome. And so are you my dear. I hope you both know my picture from Jack is hanging on the wall of my new house. It's m favorite. xoxo I'm praying and holding good thoughts for a great year.

  8. Amazing post and I'm so happy for you and Jack.

    If it makes you feel better, I have a "typical" kid, and he is having a ton of trouble in school. And we have the same thing, bad reports, daily phone calls, and even a meeting next week about it.

    So, it's not just Jack.

  9. The start of school is tough on any kid, so I can imagine how Jack feels. We are 4 weeks into the school year and I still feel lost!

    Does Jack have one of those folder things that tell what's going on in his day? They have little pictures so that he can see when they are doing math, reading, specials, snack and lunch? I know they use them in the schools up here for kids with autism and it seems to make the transitions smoother.

  10. And you've got a great team -- there -- and here -- who are behind him all the way.

  11. "I'm coming to the slow realization—or not realization, but more acceptance—that Jack's autism is not a "developmental delay." It truly is a disability, and he is not going to suddenly catch up and be all better and just like his peers. He is going to have challenges, and they are going to change year to year, month to month, and day to day."
    I kind of want this printed on a t-shirt. You are amazing and wise. I think this is an incredibly hard place to get to. I'll sometimes think this way about Joseph but then he'll make some huge leap forward developmentally and I'll be back to thinking maybe he will just "grow out of it" some day.

    I'm so glad Jack has such a good team on his side. He deserves it.

  12. Ok, tears are in my eyes! Jack is awesome and so are you!

  13. Can I just say "ditto to what Jen wrote"? Except substitute Nik for her son's name...

    You know how big a fan I am of Jack...of all your boys. Glad others are catching on! ;-)

  14. I'm so proud of you! What a big realization! Onward!

  15. It's so good to read an update and to hear that he's doing so well. I know those calls can be worrisome, but you really seem to have a great team in place. Awesome.

  16. Jack has such an awesome mom! And the whole internets are proud of him. (If I may speak on behalf of the internets... and I am whether it's ok or not!) How could you not just love that kid making his little finger space?

    Here's hoping the good stuff keeps getting better and that the bad stuff gets better too.

  17. ***HUGS*** to you and all those hard-working little dudes.

    One thing you could try is teaching Jack the sign for help. Make a thumbs-up with the right hand, and smack it against the palm of the left hand. (The real sign this is done firmly and calmly, but perfect signing isn't the point...)

    This makes a noise (to get attention) and also has the jolt-feedback of hitting without hurting anyone, giving him that frustration release. Hey, he can hit is OWN hand as hard as he likes! It also gives him a way to communicate without having to spend the energy on words.

    Yeah, yeah, everybody else gets into the philosophical spirit, and I post another practical "this is what we do!" comment. I hope you know we love you guys here, and are SO proud of how well you and the little dudes- all of them- are doing and getting on. Its not really about "catching up", but learning the skills we all need to develop and enjoy our talents and lives.

  18. 1) I'm catching up. Losing your mojo? I don't think so!
    2) FBA. Request one. Soon. And if he has any sensory issues, request a sensory eval to be done by a school OT.
    3) So glad he has a caring team. So so so glad. :)
    4) Jack is the fartbomb!!!

  19. What aren't you demanding a full FBA be done on his behaviors? That is the law and the "wonderful schools" knows it but hopes you don't. Brush up on IDEA (the law that is there detailing your child's rights!)if you really want to help your kid. Either that or go to Wright's Law.

  20. Anonymous: He does have an FBA. Trust me, my school is working really hard with me to help Jack.


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