Utter Autism

November 18, 2007

Back to School… Again

I went to visit Adrian’s classroom last week.  I saw first hand why it’s been such a rough start to the school year.  I kept him home for about a week until we could schedule a meeting to develop a new behavior management plan.  That meeting was yesterday so he’s back to school … again.

I’ve hesitated to write much about our difficulties these past few months.  I hate to sound accusatory, even if I’m not naming names.  But yesterday at the meeting, the school admitted they’d not made this transition as smooth as it could have been.  Knowing they see things the same way, I feel a bit more free about discussing our experiences.

It’s not difficult to see why this new team has had such a rough time.   They were left without proper support for far too long.  The school year started without the classroom being fully staffed.  One of the team members missing was the speech therapist, a key person when you’re dealing with non-verbal kids.  The staff has clearly not been trained in basic sign language or assistive technology.  They did not receive proper instruction in the token reward system Adrian uses or the heavy work schedule that should have been implemented on day one.  A packet of information from Adrian’s old team never made it to the hands of the current teacher so she didn’t have the benefit of those two years of experience with Adrian.  The behavior management plan from last year was not implemented and the new one wasn’t drawn up as soon as they realized there were problems.

The result was a very frustrating couple of months for Adrian and the classroom staff as well.  Without the support a speech therapist in the classroom, they were missing vital opportunities to communicate with Adrian, increasing his frustration level and sparking his aggressive behaviors.  Without regular treadmill and heavy work schedule, he was simply not getting what his body needs to be able to function.   On top of all of this, they increased the amount of time they expected him to sit in a group.  It’s really no wonder that he ended up in the saferoom – yes, that padded room where they isolate the out of control child.

Yup.  It was bad.

But we had the meeting yesterday and hopefully Adrian returns to school with a better prepared team.  They’ve been trained on the treadmill use, the heavy work schedule and proper use of the token reward system.  The speech team is now involved, providing Adrian with his 1:1 speech therapy and giving the classroom support until someone is hired for the position. The behavior management team has, I feel, a better understanding of the issues (they escorted me on my visit so I was able to share my observations with them) and the new behavior management plan should be officially in place within a few days. 

I feel better knowing that the school finally recognizes the severity of the problem and have taken action.  They’ve switched our social worker (who’s also the official parent/school liaison) to someone who seems to understand us much better.  The speech therapist that will be working with Adrian is great too.  They’ve agreed to notify me anytime the saferoom is used, which if they follow the behavior management plan and use the proactive strategies we discussed, should be rare to never.

So things are under control for now.  I think everything will work out if they’re able to follow through with everything we talked about. Already Adrian seems happier and calmer about school.

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