Our Autism Story – Day 27 – “School”
The thought of sending Brahm to school was a great unknown for us. Brahm has been behind his peers since he was 2 years old. We didn’t know 100% what we should do when it came to school. Should we hold him back or keep him with his age group? Would a year of school or another year of full-time ABA therapy benefit Brahm most? Could Brahm handle everything that would be going on at school or would it be sensory overload? Would his teachers be able to handle him? Would it be a safe environment (for Brahm, his peers, and his teachers)? Would Brahm learn? Would Brahm have friends? Would Brahm be happy?
We ultimately decided to hold Brahm back a year. Some of the reason included the fact he was very behind his peers, he would have been young for his grade with a June birthday, we could keep him in fulltime ABA therapy for another year, and a number of therapists and doctors recommended holding him back.
Brahm started 4K (4 year old kindergarten) back in September 2017. We had a lot concerns going into Brahm’s first school: behavioral issues, focus, safety, potty training, learning abilities, and many more. Before the school year started we met with numerous school staff and teachers at Brahm’s school to draft an IEP (Individual Education Plan). Going into the initial IEP meeting we didn’t know what to expect but after meeting with the school staff and teachers we felt a lot better about sending Brahm to school.
There are a lot of things that are the same for Brahm as any other kid. And there are some things that are different:
Brahm is in an all-inclusive classroom, which includes kids with a variety of special needs as well as “typical” kids.
Brahm has a special education teacher, as well as aides and supporting staff that are with him during school. I cannot say enough good things about these ladies, as well as Brahm’s regular education teacher – Brahm adores them!
Brahm takes sensory breaks during school where he’ll leave the classroom for a bit to go for a walk or to the sensory room.
Brahm rides his own special “little” bus to and from school and his special education teacher escorts him from the bus to the school and back. (For some crazy reason, this was the one difference that hit me hardest!)
Brahm has an IEP, which lays out all of the special accommodations Brahm needs to be able to works towards his best potential.
School has incorporated many of the same or similar techniques, reward systems, motivators, and visual schedules that Brahm has at home with his ABA therapy.
We have constant communication with Brahm’s special education teacher. This is incredibly helpful as Brahm can’t really tell us how his day was, what he did, or what “stop” choices he might have made! It also helps us celebrate the successes at school with him when he comes home!
When we think back about how this first school year has gone, is seems to really consist of two phases:
Honeymoon phase: For the first several months Brahm was shockingly well behaved at school and we rarely received any reports of negative behaviors. (However, Brahm still continued ABA therapy outside of school and we still noticed rough times/patches in therapy and home life outside of therapy.)
The honeymoon is over!: Right around the winter holiday break, Brahm’s negative behaviors skyrocketed at school. We would routinely received calls, emails, and notes home about Brahm’s negative behavior in class, recess, and bus rides. There were quite a number of bus rides home where the Vice Principal was required to ride home with Brahm (it doesn’t get any easier to apologize to a Vice Principal when you’re our age!). Honestly, all of the negative behaviors didn’t surprise us as we routinely witness them during therapy and at home. After a long rough patch at school, home, and therapy and adjusting his medication and behavior plans, it seems we may be back on the right track. Fingers crossed, it sticks!
Overall, we are extremely happy with how well school is going for Brahm. We have seen so much growth. Just nine months ago, Brahm couldn’t really hold a pencil and refused to draw or write anything (because it was difficult for him). Now, he is writing his own name, drawing his favorite objects, and really loves school. Brahm absolutely adores his teachers (and vice versa). We moved a couple years ago in the hopes we would be able to send Brahm to a school that would allow him to excel to his greatest potential, and we couldn’t be happier with his awesome start to his school career! We are beyond lucky!