When we last met on Charlotte’s travel through time, Ted was about to begin 3rd grade in a self-contained Emotionally Conflicted classroom. You can read here about the struggles in school that lead to this placement and here about my struggle accepting the placement.
It was with a best foot forward attitude we started the school year in this less-than-desirable placement. This was August 1999 and the school’s plan, which we reluctantly agreed to, was to get Teddy back in school and a mainstream classroom by first putting him in the EC class so he could “learn to follow the rules” with their strict behavioral program.
Their approach was, as always, behavioral based. And not behavioral based on Teddy’s unique challenges. No, it was as if an individualized program was unheard of, far-off, impossible, easier to go to Mars than design one for him, you silly lady for thinking such a thing. Instead, the program was a generic, rat hitting the bar kind of behavioral plan. If curious, you can read the Emotionally Conflicted Classroom Behavioral Management Plan here.
Addressing his need for accelerated coursework went, except for one morning a week of gifted class, unaddressed.
Addressing his need for frequent breaks so his sensory-system wouldn’t get overloaded went unaddressed.
WARNING: Charlotte is going to break from the story to editorialize for a moment
It is my sincerest hope that educators can now see the need for a multimodal approach for our kids. These one-size-fits all programs don’t work.
Actually, in truth, the one-size-fits-all style of education we have doesn’t work for most kids.
Imagine everyone fitting into the same pair of jeans. It isn’t going to work.
Even if we were all size 6, we still wouldn’t fit into the same jeans.
Some of us are hippier. Some of us have larger waists. Some of us don’t have hips or waists. Clothing designers realize body shapes are different so they make jeans with different cuts. Why can’t educators?
Clothing designers have the economic incentive however to make different cuts so they will sell more jeans to more people, so they will make more money and thus stay in business.
Do educators have the same incentives?
Do educators need success to stay in business?
Do incentives help stimulate creativity and the creation of different programs based on the needs of individual children? Would truly individualized programs increase the possibility of more children succeeding with less emotional cost?
Can we get away from the conformist, learning is linear (when it really isn’t) attitude that dominates education?
I don’t know, that’s why I am asking.
I digress from the story but the questions that arise from the telling of the story is precisely why I am telling it.
End Warning: Charlotte will now return to Teddy’s 3rd grade story
Well, when the first six weeks of school came and went Ted had not spent a moment, save the morning of gifted class, in a mainstreamed classroom. The six-week mark was important to me because we had agreed to this placement only because we had been told this would begin to happen within six weeks. It was their time-table and I was holding them to it. Silly me.
Moreover, this absence from the mainstream did not happen because Ted was having problems. Just the opposite. He was doing well, we had notes from the teacher documenting his success. So when I asked why he wasn’t being mainstreamed, the question was diverted with vagueness such as, “Well, we are working towards that.”
Then it started to happen, just as I had seen it happen the year before…
The first 9-weeks honeymoon came to an end.
For Teddy handled the first 9 weeks of school with few problems. Then he just seemed to get sick of it all and quit trying.
Sick of everything.
It was as if his tolerance was used up. At home we spent from sun up to long after sun down struggling through EVERY detail of his life. Eating, sleeping, toileting, meltdowns, negotiations, his sister, the way we looked at him. Anything. Everything bugged the crap out of him and was fodder for fighting.
And you all know how tiring that is.
Then he went to school, which we knew was the cause of the troubles, and he struggled on even a greater and more public scale.
And his unraveling did not happen in isolation, for as the school year was progressing, throughout our county, kids, or more accurately, boys, were being identified in their classrooms as problems and were being sent to Teddy’s EC class. A new student was arriving almost daily, and this nearly constant change only added to his agitation.
So my child, in an Emotionally Conflicted classroom became just that, emotionally conflicted, and on a scale even more than he had been before. He was unraveling, and in an unsettled classroom, full of the school system’s most challenging kids.
And a child with Autism does, as a child with Autism sees, and Teddy was no exception.
He saw some truly unsettling events and began modeling some truly unsettling behaviors.
And what apparently seemed to be a far-away idea, that of returning him to a mainstream classroom, truly did become a far-away idea, because now Teddy was rapidly going down, not up, the school’s all-important behavioral management program slide.
Well, he was going to school to learn. And learning was exactly what Teddy did. Heck, he should have gotten straight A’s for his retention and application of the behavioral lessons he learned. School, however, didn’t see it that way. And all sarcasm aside, we definitely didn’t. We just had very different opinions of how the situation should be handled.
Next: The police become a frequent visitor to Teddy’s classroom. Yes, uniformed, on-duty officers who were NOT there for career day.