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  • Writer's pictureKatie Vahey Gaebler

Why an ASD school program works for us

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

In December 2018, Bryson’s IEP team convened to decide next best steps for Bryson. At the end of those 3 hours when it was at that moment decided my biggest littlest one would be transferred to another district school to be placed in an ASD classroom, I cried. I cried for my little boy who had been through so much change in his short life. I cried for my family who thrives in structure and routine, and just when I thought we had the right combo of logistics down, something knocks down my house of cards (again, and again). I didn’t cry when we had gotten the diagnosis the previous June. Then I felt relief, documentation opens doors, and now we had the right words, clinically assigned. But this time I cried because Bryson’s team of social workers were so competent and kind and focused on what was truly be best for my child, my strong momma heart couldn’t help it.

I was not surprised by the data they collected, and I knew intimately the challenges our local school team met daily to discuss about my son. Not in a bad way, but finally he was in a place where I had enrolled him in because by law they had to work with him, and they did it. Caring, family oriented, and smart professionals, were now spending all the time and resources they could come up with to work with my child. Entering this meeting, it’s not like they were at their wit’s end. I had been in those kinds of meetings, and that wasn’t it. They all spoke about how much they wanted to see him stay. His charisma and creativity, he brought laughter and joy to so many people, when he wasn’t running off or lashing out. These specialists who were highly trained in applying ASD methods, used their best abilities on my child, and saw those strategies work. It couldn’t be denied that an environment where he- and every other child around him- lived under that structure, would benefit him. OK, let’s do this. I wept, and I agreed it was best.

Because their school day had a later start/end, and I needed to be at work, logistically I needed help with transportation, so the school district offered us private bus service. I made arrangements with the bus company on Bryson’s first day to ride with him, to experience it for myself and to take him in on his first day around other kids (I had met with their social work team separately, and brought Brys in for an individual teacher visit over the winter break). All went well, and from that day on it was pretty smooth sailing. We had to make some minor adjustments; he wanted to eat the school meals for both breakfast and lunch (fine), in class snacks needed some altering, etc., but literally within a week he went from x20-30 p/day elopement, to zero. As in, none. Whhaattt?!? There were a couple of incidents, but a couple was minor in comparison. ABA sessions improved (less drastic, and more progressive). He clearly felt better about himself as he became less ridged in what he ate, and gained weight he very much needed. He did have days where he pushed boundaries, needed to learn what was appropriate, but he learned fast. He started talking about new friends at dinnertime- that had never happened before. He loved his dedicated para-teacher, Mr. H., and we heard about him and their science time together, a lot.

In later posts I’ll talk more about the school program, and for now in essence I’m so impressed. The goal has always been to include him in the regular kindergarten class he was assigned, but over the spring term he spent very little time there. He was clearly still getting used to the routine of his ASD class, and I was fine with them taking the lead on what they determined was best. He showed so much improvement right away, I trusted their judgment. Bryson had also been tested as GT (gifted and talented) eligible, but really he’s 6 years old now so I don’t feel a need to push that. He will be in this same class with the same teachers through 5th grade, so he has plenty of time to adjust. Once he is more integrated and can handle attending the mainstream class, I’ll make sure he is getting the appropriate level of GT instruction.

Over the course of this past spring term, I struggled at my job until I gave my resignation in May. This was so bittersweet for me, and in future posts I plan to talk more about what’s in my working-momma heart. For 20 years I’ve worked on college campus’, so the decision to stay home with my boys, is something I wrestle with. I mention it here because how I reflect on this past spring- Bryson’s new school, and my challenge with work- are intertwined. I know this is the right this for me to be more available for Brys and Wes, and I’m really so grateful Brys settled into this program. My work this spring was so hard, I needed some relief that he was cared for during his school days. Moving forward, I look forward to sharing our family adventures, and what works for us. If it can in any part and parcel help another family, it’s worth it.

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