"Lo, Children Are An Heritage of the LORD: and the Fruit of the Womb is His Reward" - Psalm 127:3

Friday, April 25, 2014

School Tour

 I have very mixed feelings about even posting this, because we are die-hard homeschoolers. In fact, we've been at it for 16 years straight, and plan to continue for at least another 16, when our now 2 year old graduates.  (Holy cow. I just realized that adds up to 32 years!!!)  But when our five year old was diagnosed with autism, we prayerfully decided to allow him to attend a special preschool, where all his therapists are located.  It just seemed like he would get much more attention from them than if they each came to our home once a week individually. And we've been very happy with the results.  He's only there for three hours a day, four days a week.  But we are feeling pressure to put him into public school for kindergarten - which we do not intend to do.  We plan to use their therapy services and possibly put him in art class for time with other kids (I think it will help with his sensory issues too.)  But today they had a field trip to the school and we decided to let him go along.  (I also want to state that I have a lot of respect for public school teachers.  I just don't feel like it's the best fit for our own children.  My sister in law is a teacher and she does a great job.  So I mean no offense when I say we won't be putting our kids in public school.)

We have a pretty amazing elementary school facility in our town... paid for by gas field money.

The kids came from preschool on their bus.  I think this was the highlight for the five year old.  He loves the bus.

 We met the principal, who led our tour.  And the kids got to visit all the important places - library, art room, music room, playground, gym, cafeteria, and classrooms.

We hadn't gone far when we went out to see the playground.  There were a LOT of kids playing, but it's a really big playground and I didn't think it was too noisy - just a lot of visual stimulation with kids running everywhere.  But our son started messing with his ear as if he was picking wax out of it.  Then he grabbed the other ear and said, "It hurts."  Part of autism is being easily overstimulated by all things related to the senses.  Even though I know this, it caught me off guard that his ears were bothering him.  I thought the visual issues would be the worst part.  After that, he was clearly starting to get overwhelmed, and started hanging back from the rest of the group.

Here we are in the music room - where we went immediately after the playground.  See whose child is completely separated from the group?
 The school is divided into "pods" - this being the kindergarten and first grade pod.  The pods are divided in half and one side is for each grade.  The kindergarten section has 5 classrooms - and still they are overcrowded.  There are 20-22 students in each of the five classrooms this year.  And the rooms are not that big.

 The first one we visited was completely overwhelming - not an ounce of white space on the walls (and by white space, I mean visually empty/giving you a break).  The clearest spot in the classroom was the ABC rug.  See him still grabbing his ears?  This class was empty except for our little group of 14 kids and a few teachers and parents, and it was already a problem for him.  This is one of the main reasons we're not planning to put him into a classroom setting.  Plus, everything I've read (which is a LOT) about autism has emphasized the importance of really going with their strengths.  I've seen so many cases where intense focus on their interests often leads autistic kids to become geniuses in their field of interest.  A person isn't free to pursue those interests if they're being pushed to follow the same path as everyone else.

 And then there's this.  On the way home, he put on his ski helmet and plugged his ears.  And he just doesn't look well to me.  How can a kid learn, if this is how he feels?  And we were only at the school for about 45 minutes.

 On a more cheerful note, we had a beautiful sunset tonight, after a very nice dinner at the Chinese restaurant with my husband's parents.  My husband had stayed with his Dad for the day (he has alzheimers) while his Mom went to a Wii bowling tournament in another town.  Her group took first place, so we were out celebrating :)


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