Saturday, August 12, 2006

First grade, second thoughts

We've been easing Bud into the transition to first grade slowly. As his Kindergarten year ended, his teacher found opportunities for him to visit his first-grade classroom. His new teacher, Mrs. Parker, created opportunities to interact with him. Over the summer we've started name-dropping the children who will be in his class (which took on even greater significance when we saw Sophie in the grocery store and she gave us the insider scoop on the make-up of first grade classrooms.)

Bud seems to be ready to make the move. He talks about going to first grade, about Mrs. Parker, and about his new classmates, which thankfully include Sophie and Clay, who is returning to our district. He's chosen a new backpack, a new pencil case, and a new water bottle. He knows it's coming and seems happy enough about it.

It seems that the gods of pupil placement have once again smiled upon us, and we are quickly learning that Mrs. Parker is another dream-come-true teacher. She called me last week because she thought it might be a good idea for her to get together briefly with Bud once a week this month to build his comfort and familiarity with her before the school year starts. She'd be leaving soon for a long weekend, she said, but perhaps we could drop by the classroom for a visit? Or she could stop by our house if I thought that might be easier for him. Oh, and while she had me on the phone, she was hoping to get my ideas about how she might be able to create a comfortable corner in the room where Bud could go when he needed a break or needed to be alone for a while. And did I think it would be a good idea to leave some space at the back of the classroom where he could get up and walk around during the activities that had the children seated for long periods of time?

Dream. Come. True.

My hunch was that visiting the classroom would be easier than having Mrs. Parker come to our house, since seeing people out of context can be dysregulating for Bud. So we set up a time, and Bud talked eagerly about the visit. We decided to bring dancing bear with us to show Mrs. Parker our fabulous creation. We were prepared.

But as we drove to the school Bud's anxiety began to build; by the time we got to classroom he had firmly decided that he would not be visiting Mrs. Parker today. I got him into the classroom, but he refused to engage with Mrs. Parker, refused to look at the books on the shelf, refused to look at the calendar she was hanging. He cried real tears, shouted loud shouts, and said he had to go home. We visited for a stress-filled ten minutes. By the end of it, Bud was puffy and blotchy and tear-soaked; I was knotted and tense and sweat-stained. But Mrs. Parker was cool and breezy and upbeat, and acted as though we'd just brought her cupcakes. She cheerfully kept her distance and even seemed sincere when she told us how wonderful it had been to have us visit. She sent us on our way with some pictures of the classroom and her home address, just in case Bud would like to send her a letter in the mail. She even reminded us to come back again next week.

Bud's usual calm demeanor had returned by the time we got home and I transferred him to Nana so that I could return to work for the rest of the day. I kissed him before I left and as he headed up the stairs to play he said, "Thanks, Mom. That was fun."

"It was fun, Bud?" I asked, following him. We sat together on a step halfway up.

"Yes," he said.

"What do you think of Mrs. Parker?"

"She's good."

"I thought she was nice, too. She wants you to visit again next week."


"Do you want to visit again next week?"


I remain in awe of that child.

Today Bud mailed a letter to Mrs. Parker. He composed it on the computer by himself. It says:

Der mis prker

I liek horn moeosik

Iliek read er rabbit

Luv bud

Horn music and Reader Rabbit: I guess now they have something to talk about during the next visit.

But just to be safe... maybe I ought to bring along some actual cupcakes this time.


Anonymous said...

I stumbled on your blog, and wanted to send you a hello from the other side of the fence. I am a teacher who has taught children with autism, autistic spectrum disorder and Aspergers syndrome for 15 years give or take. I have taught in seclusionary and inclusionary classroom environments.
You're off to a great start! Mrs. Parker sounds like she's a good duck. Just remember to always keep the lines of communication open. Teachers don't know everything, just as you don't, but together, you can figure just about everything out.
If I might give a suggestion... Have Bud create a visual schedule with a picture of Mrs. Parker and key kids in his class. He can utilize these pictures as an anchoring/control resource. I have found it beneficial to have the schedule so that the kids understand 5 "Teacher" days then 2 home days. Special days out of the normal schedule can be included with a quick polaroid or digital shot. Less anxiety... and even a trigger for an otherwise lost memory.
It also helps when new "staff" may be introduced. Have Bud take the picture to give a sense of control, and input. Then, when he looks at his schedule, he recognizes the faces, and doesn't feel the anxiety that he otherwise might. It has worked really well for me.
If you don't mind, I would like to check back now and again to see how your year is going. It would be wonderful to hear about the schooling from a parent's point of view.
Here's to a great school year for you and Bud!

Anonymous said...

oh my goodness! that is *unbelievably* cool - and i want a mrs. parker when my kiddo starts school! he has an amazing preschool teacher - but mrs. parker is above and beyond. you are so so so so lucky (blessed)to have someone so willing to accomodate him and make school a positive experience.
good luck to bud.

Anonymous said...

Bud, Mrs. Parker and MOM,nos get an A+ on preparing for a year of first grade. It's so nice to hear that there are good teachers out there.

Tara said...

Mrs. Matthews, Littleman's Kindergarten teacher just sent me an e-mail inviting us over to the school for a visit.
God bless teachers.
Bud's reaction to the visit is interesting-he was not able to process all the new information but came away liking the classroom.
Here is wishing Bud a very good first grade year!

kristina said...

Perhaps that bout of anxiety Bud had will mean a smooth start to the school year----I've been Charlie sometimes just have to "get it out," and then he is all right. So happy to hear about the return of Clay!

Charlie's teacher told us to stay in touch via email over the break if we had any I'm a teacher too (though of a quite older student population), I always hope I can live up to the examples of the teachers our kids are so lucky to have!

Frogs' mom said...

Bud, I am so impressed! Usually something that provokes that much anxiety sends my daughter over the edge and it takes a lot of work to try it again - she is NT. I hope Bud has a wonderful year with his special new teacher :0)

gretchen said...

1. Do you live in the twilight zone or something? Everyone around Bud seems so tuned in to him- it's awesome! (I'm still waiting to hear from Henry's teacher. School starts in 9 days.)

2. Henry does this crap with me all the time: where he screams and cries during an entire event and then acts like it was the best time of his life. In hindsight, what a fun day mommy! I don't remember that you had to carry me around while I scratched your face.

3. His teacher sounds very experienced, and must have known what to expect here. If Bud gave her his worst, then there's nowhere to go but up.

4. Welcome back Clay!

Anonymous said...

That sounds so familiar - the anexity, later saying 'I liked that' or 'that was fun.' I look forward to hearin gabout how Bud dies in the future, I agree with Kristina, Bud probably just needed to be carthartic and then will be fine. At least that is how it often is with Aspie Boy...

Random Mom said...

Wow. I'm always so happy to hear about positive school experiences. We are in the third week of a Transition Kindergarten, and it's been a little rough, but it gets better every day. His teacher has called twice just to talk about how he's doing, what she is doing to help, and how is doing socially, which is my only concern at this point. She also writes notes back and forth, and everything from her has been positive! Hooray!
I read your description of Bud's initial reaction to the classroom, and have felt the same way so many times. Kids are so funny, how he said it was fun though his reaction said something else....
He sounds like he is actually looking forward to it, but there's that little fear of the unknown that lurks. He'll come around for sure, with a Mrs. Parker there for him. She sounds like a gem.
Have a great school year!

Daisy said...

Thank you so much for sharing this event! I am a teacher and a parent of an Aspergers child. Since the autism spectrum is so huge, no one can know everything they need to. It sounds like your Mrs. Parker is good: she is a knowledgable teacher with an open mind.

lifelong learner said...

I'm so excited to find this blog! I am a second year teacher and have been blessed to have a student in my class with autism. I have learned so much and am always looking for better strategies and more insight on how to better serve all of my students! Thanks for sharing!

Raincitykitty said...

I just discovered your blog last month, and have been going back to your earlier posts where Bud is the same age as my PDD-NOS son who's 6 and just started first grade. Reading your posts has been the highlight of many days now. :)

Overall it sounds like you have had amazing teachers for Bud! We were lucky last year with kindergarten (first year in a mainstream, inclusionary classroom and all-day school), the teacher had a special ed background, understood where my son was coming from, and worked equally hard on both getting my son to engage his peers appropriately, and to explain to them that when he pushed/threw markers, etc. the best response was not to scream and run away but to say "Oh, do you want to play?" We loved that teacher.

But this: "she was hoping to get my ideas about how she might be able to create a comfortable corner in the room where Bud could go when he needed a break or needed to be alone for a while."

Wow. As a proactive suggestion? Wow.

First grade has been a rough transition, getting better now with the introduction of a personal, printed schedule and a watch, but I may have to share this suggestion with the current teacher, who is nice but doesn't seem to have a clue how to handle non-NT kids.