Our journey through autism

Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Kindergarten

Today marks the end of the first two weeks of Kindergarten. His teacher says he’s doing well and trying really hard and he seems to really enjoy it. His teacher has years of experience teaching grades 1-3 this is her first time teaching Kindergarten but I liked what she said during curriculum night. She knows what is required for a successful first grader so she will make sure when the year ends they are ready for that. She told me she has special education training so it seems a great fit for Bilal to be in her class. She has created a website that she updates regularly and she is always sending out emails with news and requests. In the middle of the first week Bilal suffered a stomach upset, says he wants to throw up we said it could be motion sickness from eye exhaustion or the beginning of a cold. She said she’ll let him rest a bit and if he’s not any better we should pick him up, he was soon fine and spent the rest of the day at school. That evening she called and checked on how he was and updated me on his progress, she said he was doing really well and trying really hard, that he has trouble staying seated but that she doesn’t mind herself. She said writing is the most difficult for him but that OT and his special instruction should help with that. I really fell in love with her then, and really looking forward to the rest of the year working with her with helping Bilal. I’m trying out some volunteer positions in his class keep me better updated with his progress and what he’s learning. I volunteered to be a mystery reader, show up without the class knowing who it is and read them a story, wasn’t really interested at first but when I saw another mother with a heavy accent volunteer I thought why not. I volunteered for the Scarecrow Festival but we’ve yet to do anything.

Bilal at first only talked about the difference between pre-k and kindergarten about the bigger class, about recess, PE, the cafeteria, the school bus. He particularly enjoys waiting at the bus stop and getting on with the other kids and walking the bit from the stop till the house. He made friends with a first grader on his bus who is most probably only a couple months older than Bilal. He’s mentioned a few games he’s played during PE or recess. So far it looks like attending a typical class is the best fit for him inshaAllah. We should have an IEP meeting soon to update goals and include his vision problems, looking forward to a great year.

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Piano Recital

Last weekend was Bilal’s first piano recital. He did amazing and he looked really handsome and grown up in his shirt and slacks. He’s been playing piano since July of last year with Ms. Megan of MTSofGA and he’s picking it up really well. They’ve been practicing and working on his songs for a month and he played 2 songs with finger together placement. His playing brought tears to our eyes, we couldn’t be prouder.

I’ve said this before and its also been said by the mother of the autistic teenager that may receive a noble prize for his work in astro-physics. That you have to find the child’s “spark” find what he’s good at, something he has a passion for and concentrate on that along of course with all the other therapy. Try to turn his passion into therapy that will help the child in his other areas of weakness. As the child gets older therapy becomes work and boring its no longer a play date with an adult so doing something fun is important. Bilal has a musical ear and can carry a tune on key and all that so we looked for music therapy, he does tend to get silly and off track a lot but his teacher has been amazing and great with him. Playing the piano has been good fine motor practice with moving his fingers along the keys his sessions at OT improved as well. So my two cents of advice is to find that passion or spark and work on it, be it music, art, math, design, science, computers… etc. It may turn into the child’s career path or just something that gives him a confidence boost and helps along with life.

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Bilal was the first one playing. Also his trophy.

Pre-K over

It’s summer! School ended on the 23rd of May, and all in all its been a good year, on the 20th they had their end of year party and all his teachers had good things to say about Bilal. One of the assistants said that he is a know-it-all, answers every question and the day he’s absent they get no answers and they feel his absence. His speech therapist says he’s doing really well and that she would have discharged him if it weren’t for changing schools, structure, and a whole other environment that might cause issues or regressions. She said his IEP is due 2 months within the new year so his new teachers can take it from there and next year he is also due for a re-evaluation by the school system, so then we’ll see. His progress report shows that he is making progress or has mastered all his IEP goals, those that are still in progress are at 65% and up.

This is an email that his teacher sent us:

Dear Parents,

Our last book unit for the year was called “A House for Hermit Crab,” by Eric Carle. I never realized how appropriate that book is for the end of the year. It is about a crab that finds a new shell home and decides to decorate it with many different forms of sea life over the course of a year. At the end of the year, the crab has found that it has grown out of his special shell and needs to embark on a journey to find a new one. When I reflect on the story I think of the children as the hermit crab that has come to a new shell home (PSE). It was scary at first but they grew into it. As the year has passed each child has added new decorations (milestones, friendships, and achievements) to their shell home. Now it is the end of the school year with many of the students finding their shell again too small and they have to shed the Preschool shell and embark on their journey to find a new shell and add new decorations to it throughout their school career. I know that some of the children will not remember my name but I hope they will always remember the lessons that they have learned, the self confidence that they have developed, and the love that surrounded them here.

I want to thank each and every one of you for allowing me to get to know, work with, and serve your children this year. The lessons that they have taught me are beyond measure and I will never forget their names. It has been an honor, a privilege, and a pleasure.

It’s so sweet and brought tears to my eyes, their dedication and hard work makes a lot of difference in these children’s lives and they usually go under appreciated and taken for granted I pray that his teachers are always this passionate.

 

Well first week of summer we have nothing planned, his weekly therapies are continuing and just relaxing and having fun. Second week he has his music recital and final horse show, and also he starts summer camp, busy, busy, busy, fun, fun, fun!

 

Have a great summer ya’ll!

 

IEP Transitional Placement Meeting

Last week we had Bilal’s IEP transitional meeting for kindergarten placement. We also went over his goals and updated goals required for the remaining of the school year and the beginning of the next school year till his 6th birthday. It all went really smoothly and alhamdullah I’m glad by the attention and dedication his team have for Bilal’s continued progress. Ms. Norton the special ed instructor from Manning Oaks was invited to attend and she continued to take down a lot of notes and better explain the system at her school. It was agreed that he attend typical kindergarten with speech, OT and 2.5 periods a day of special instruction mainly for writing and any other instruction he would need. His OT has been reduced from an hour a week to half an hour a week. He’s got scissor cutting and pencil grip learnt but just needs to improve his arm alignment while holding the pencil to press harder and be able to actually write instead of draw his letters, smaller and neater writing. His only remaining special goals are the use of a “fidget toy” something to keep his fingers occupied so he can pay attention better, and a little one-on-one talk with a teacher to learn that he doesn’t need to be a perfectionist and speed his work. His speech goals are mainly to improve articulation and grammar structure and be able to use more adjectives.

We did it! 2 years of special education and therapy have prepared him to attend a typical kindergarten with typical peers, he’ll have a normal day at school with reading, writing, math, science, social studies, art, music and PE. He’ll ride the typical bus to and from school. He’ll move from a class of 9 students (7 boys, 2 girls) to a class of a maximum of 22 students with a more equal mix of boys and girls

Towards the end of the month local schools have Kindergarten Tours, where parents and little kids can tour the school, have a snack at the cafeteria and take a ride in a school bus, parents take home the registration package and have any questions answered. Then the week before school starts (August) they have orientation again to tour or ask questions and by then their homeroom classes and buses would have been assigned and we’d get our school supply lists. I’m super excited and optimistic that Bilal will do just fine and hopefully make a friend or two inshaAllah.

Kindergarten Observations

This month we’re busy with figuring out the best kindergarten placement for Bilal and later in the month we’ll have our transitional IEP meeting. So last week his teacher told me to contact the special ed instructor (Ms. Nateli) to tour the special ed kindergarten at Alpharetta Elementary. I went and saw the class and and had a chat with her. The class was set up exactly like his current Pre-K class and there were only 5 boys in the class (no girls) this year, they appeared to be high functioning but who knows who will be in the class next year. I felt it would be a repetition of the last two years for Bilal and not really beneficial, I feel its time for him to be included into the real world and deal and interact with typical peers and learn early on what the world is like. So she told me to contact the special ed instructor at his home school (Manning Oaks) to observe a typical kindergarten class and see the resource room and better understand Bilal’s other options. So a week later I go and meet her (Ms. Norton) and she takes me to the resource room, this is a small classroom where students who are having trouble with a certain subject can get pulled out and get more one on one instruction, the class usually doesn’t get any bigger than 6 students. It happened to be a math class, an area where Bilal will not need special instruction, but I understood the system. The teacher was explaining the word problem slowly and step by step, they solved it using different visual aids, drawings on the board, finger counting, block counting. The students get sticker rewards for good behavior and when they acquire a total of 25 stickers they get a prize from the treasure box. The whole time she kept taking notes on Bilal and asking how Bilal would cope with certain situations and explaining what a typical week was like. Then we went into the typical class. It’s set up very like his current Pre-K class but larger and with several tables (desks), they were also working on math word problems, but it was on the board and they were using terms like signs, equations, and solutions, they didn’t use much visual assistance. They move around a lot from group work on the floor to sitting in their chairs and writing the problem in their notebooks, to centers for play learning and then switching around again. Ms. Norton was very helpful explaining everything and taking down notes. She will be invited to attend the IEP meeting and give her opinion about Bilal’s placement as well.

From what I saw I feel Bilal would do fine in the typical class and he can be pulled out to the resource room to work on handwriting skills, and he’ll also be pulled out for his Speech and OT  sessions.  I’m nervous but ready for this IEP meeting to be over with.

School Update

Bilal has been back in school for 6 weeks now and is doing great. He was super excited to start school and had no problem transitioning and moving into the other class. This year those closer to 5 are in one class and those closer to 3 in the other. The week before school started there was the open house and he was so happy to see his school and class and he asked about all the toys and was disappointed that we left so quickly. The first day of school I walked him to his class and he didn’t even look back went right into playing and he had a great day. His teacher this year, Ms. Tiffany has 11 years of special ed experience and it really does show, regular emails sent out, the daily report sent home completed everyday, she has a song or game for everything which is great for Bilal, he came home the 3rd day of school already singing the songs and telling me the story of the month. As his birthday is at the end of September with barely a month of progress achieved she had a progress report and notice sent home and a draft IEP and was all set for his annual IEP meeting. Went to the meeting and it went really smoothly, I added a couple goals to the draft, went over concerns and got an idea about what to expect next year for Kindergarten, with a transitional meeting due in Feb. He’s met all pre-K cognitive goals, most social goals but almost none of his fine motor goals, with only an hour a week of school OT therapy they’re trying their best to get him writing and using scissors, also because he never sleeps during nap time they let him rest for a few minutes till all his classmates fall asleep and they take him out for some extra therapy which is great. Ms. Tiffany says that next year he’ll most probably be placed in a typical Kindergarten class with support and therapy so we’ll see when Feb. comes around and also whether we’ll move or not and which school he’ll go to then. He’s the oldest and most advanced in his class, with 2 other high functioning classmates so they’re working hard on keeping him challenged and learning all his pre-k skills and even a little of Kindergarten skills like reading. Alhamdullah I could be happier, so proud of him and really grateful for such an experienced team to help him progress even further inshaAllah.

 

 

School Year in Review

We just started our summer vacation. Bilal has completed a full year of special ed pre-k, and he’s done great, met and exceeded all expectations. He’s made so much progress in only 9 months. He started the school year barely speaking, sensory issues, and almost no eye contact at all. His IEP goals included stating full name, age, and gender when asked, to sit still for 5-8 minutes, to have no aversions towards messy media, etc. very basic things. In February he had met all these goals and I asked for an IEP amendment to keep him challenged and we wrote up a whole new IEP with new goals which he’s made progress in and if he keeps it up inshaAllah he’ll have met them all by the time of our next IEP meeting at the end of September. We’ve been very lucky and blessed to have an amazing team that really care for Bilal and his progress and who genuinely adore him. In December his class teacher left and for 6-8 weeks the TA’s and substitutes took over, until the 1st grade teacher transferred to become a special ed teacher. I was really sad to see his teacher go, she was very dedicated and I didn’t want a change in schooling so soon. After a bit of a slow start his new teacher learnt the ropes and has been great with Bilal and his goals, listening to all my concerns and helping me set up a PT evaluation and the IEP amendment meeting. His TAs are amazing people. Ms. English works with special needs teenagers and adults, helps out at a women’s shelter she is such a dedicated caring individual and Bilal was blessed to have someone like her. The other TA Ms. Abernathy is a young teacher still studying for her masters in special education, Bilal has a crush on her, she always plays with him, makes him laugh and helps motivate him with her own personal iPad, sadly she wont be there next year as the county has transferred her elsewhere. The two most important members of the team are his speech and OT therapists, Speech has come so far speaking in sentences now, answering most questions and started using pronouns correctly, OT is the one area where he didn’t make leaping bounds of improvement as his fine motor issues seem to be difficult to overcome, he still hates to color or write, but he can kinda scribble out his name, and he has overcome his aversion to playdoh, stickers and any other messy media.

Towards the end of the year I started thinking of what to get his teachers and therapists as “Thank you” gifts and as I’m not at all crafty or creative I decided to seek help elsewhere. Went to the local farmer’s market and found a young women selling her own organic hand made soaps, so I had her make little baggies for the teachers and I quickly wrote out thank you notes and gave them to the teachers at the End of Year Party. The next day they all sent home with Bilal their own thank you notes, thanking me for the gift but more thanks for letting me teach Bilal and how amazing he is and what a great sense of humor he has, I was speechless, I still get teary thinking about it, and feel really blessed to have such amazing dedicated people in our lives. I also got his bus driver and the bus driver assistant the same little gift bag and got thank you cards from them as well.

Now its summer and its loooong, 3 whole months I’m not sure how we’ll fill it up, his therapies are going on as usual, a session a week, we’ll be adding the myofunctional therapy and his teachers informed me of a 2 weeks sports camp in June, Ramadan is in July but I worry about him getting bored and regressing.

Next year he’ll be repeating pre-k as he has a late September birthday, he’ll be one of the oldest if not the oldest one in his class and he’ll be placed with Ms. Tiffany the other special ed teacher, she’ll be in charge of the 4+ year olds while his current teacher Ms. Bethany will have the 3 year olds. Its a little of a change, new teacher and TA’s but not drastic as he knows them and he’ll have the same therapists, cant wait until we start and get back to our typical routines.

First day of school – August 15th 2011

Last day of school – May 18 2012

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