Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's time again...

We're just coming to the end of 3rd term in our school year here, and given the dramatic way 2nd term ended, I thought it was worth coming back to report on our progress.

I say 'our' progress because it really has been a progression for all of us - Billy, his teacher and me. Or is it, I...? (must ask the teacher...)

There have been times in this journey through autism land, where it seemed like there was so much to do, and so little time to do it. Our heads were constantly stuffed with goals and appointments and timelines and plans. We had thoughts about certain things disappearing by certain ages, and certain milestones marking points of no turning back...

But this year, things have changed a bit. We've started the process of accepting that things just are what they are, and we'll bend and shape our expectations around and through the ever changing reality of Billy. On one hand, it's a subtle kick in the guts - a clear message that its not going away. But on the other hand (my favourite hand) it's liberatingly positive.

We're not fighting anymore. We're living. We're advocating. We're learning and we're educating. We're just being.

It hasn't been a simple journey, and it certainly hasn't been smooth. It's actually been deeply and unpleasantly bumpy. We've driven over unsuitable therapies with a sickening thud. We've ground the bottom of our vehicle over inappropriate activities. We've swerved away from ignorant people and judgemental situations. We've gestured inappropriately as we sped past unpleasant experiences.

But today, as I chatted (in our regular weekly before school meeting) with Billy's teacher, there were positives to share. We could both say, without glossing over the details, that the decisions we had made about Billy's school life had paid off.

Among our good decisions, were an increase in visuals, an increase in expectations on Billy in terms of his participation in whole class activities and the introduction of teaching aids like a writing claw (Oh, how I love the writing claw) and a timer (to stretch out attention to non-preferred activities).

The winner of all winners, though, was the decision to shorten Billy's school days.

Seriously, I'm not sure it would work for everyone, but for us, a four hour school day instead of a six hour one has changed everything.

Instead of collecting a weepy shell of a kid at the end of the day, I share the car with a chatty, bubbly joke cracker. He shares work with us. His productivity has increased. His attention span has increased. He's understanding peer rules and relationships better. He completes work at school and continues his own reflection at home. His general abilities, led by his willingness to exercise those abilities, have blossomed.

And all because he gets adequate time to regenerate. And I promise I'm not exaggerating. He's more centered, more relaxed and healthier. This term, we've had two respiratory bugs, not ten. And this has been the winter term here.

It's kind of odd that the very thing that overwhelmed us in the past, has liberated us now. To paraphrase the Rolling Stones, 'Ti-i-i-ime, is on our side. Yes, it is.'

Putting the needs of the kid ahead of the convenience of the system has worked. A full school day is counterproductive for him, so we shortened it. Simple, really.  It's a hassle for the teacher, for sure. It brings up questions for the other kids, absolutely. But, those things are handleable. And, it works for Billy.

This week, I realised I can say goodbye to him when he's in the playground (not holding the hand of a teacher), and leave. He doesn't even want to follow me to the gate. He's on the slide, or on his scooter, and he's content (if not happy) to take on the day.

I don't like being the constantly negotiating Mummy, much, to be honest. Not least of all because I often forget the arrangements we've made, or (spectacularly this week) forget which day of the week it is. That is another story, which either involves some strange brain disorder or the admission that maybe my head is too stuffed full of professional commitments.

Despite the speedbumps, I thank my lucky stars every day we found hippy school. We don't always love it, but who does love school every day? Especially at the end of term.

Did I mention it's two days until the holidays? And that we're finally making the trip north, to the beach and the grandmothers and the in-house movies and the no washing up...?

It's that time again.


Simon said...

So admiring of your brave and tireless efforts to enable Billy,by whatever means necessary. Even if it means bending the rules. Congratulations on your many successes. You are well deserving... all of you. xxxx

Lisa said...

We are in week one of the holidays, and yesterday involved pulling *everything* from the lurking place at the top of the boys wardrobe - you know, the place where 'stuff' gets tossed. It was unbelievable how much 'stuff' fits on the shelf above the wardrobe. It was an archaeological dig.

I now have an entire bedroom floor covered in boys clothes size 7 - 10. Yes, several years worth of 'stuff'. Not to mention 4 plastic crates that were originally toy boxes. I haven't looked through them yet! I suspect much lego, K'nex, and, oh, STUFF.

So... when were you coming to visit? Please bring an empty suitcase.

Fi said...

YAY for Hippy school again.
I'm so happy for you both that they are board with you on this half days idea and that is it bringing such great success!

seanalucy said...

This is a blog post that lots of families, schools and teachers would benefit from reading... especially how simple the answer is... reduce the day. I was talking last night to my big sister who home educates her kids, and so much is appealling about that.

But I don't think I'd chose to do it fulltime... then I thought, how could I get the kids to school only part-time and home educate part-time?? You just explained how!!

This isn't my biggest ASD son though, he loves school and would protest mightily, it's the wee ones I was thinking of. They're still at preschool, so I guess that is part-time anyway.

I must share some joy that I had tonight. Two boys from school called my son up today and asked him to meet them tomorrow to go for a surf. It's the first time kids from high school have made the approach to him- I am so thrilled for him. And surfing, even better... as a new Aussie from a chilly country, it's still a huge thrill to have a child who can surf. Ok so he can't do maths or english, but lets face it, surfing's more fun.