Cordy begins kindergarten next week. I know many moms tear up at the thought of the start of “formal” school, and I’m holding in the water works, too, although for different reasons. After all, Cordy’s nearly six years old – she could have started kindergarten last year, but Aaron and I made the choice to give her one more year to prepare, holding firm in our belief that she would be ready for a mainstream classroom this year.
My tears come at the reality that she will be in a special-needs kindergarten class this year. I didn’t want this. I’ve spent the last three years convincing myself that everything will be just peachy for Cordy when she gets to kindergarten, that all of this intensive therapy and special-needs preschool will produce a child who will glide into a kindergarten classroom of typical children, place her safety scissors and crayons in her desk just like everyone else and blend right in with the crowd.
Message from reality, ma’am. It says: stop being a twit and take a hard look at yourself, ya weirdo. Blend in? Ha.
Stupid thinking, I know, but we were told so often over the last three years that the goal was for Cordy to mainstream at kindergarten. Goals aren’t promises, though, autism isn’t something that just disappears when she reaches kindergarten and I need to stop treating it like it is.
I didn’t fully accept it when we were told last spring that Cordy needed to stay in a special-needs classroom, and I still struggle with accepting it today. Every “but…” springs to my mind. But she’s smart. (Dumb excuse – there are plenty of smart special-needs kids!) But we’re told all the teachers in the school love her and think she’s so sweet. But she spent a summer in a class with typical kids and had no issues at all. But we didn’t have a single meltdown ALL summer. But she doesn’t qualify for speech therapy any longer, and occupational therapy has been reduced to only as-needed. How can they say she belongs in a class of special-needs-only kids?
Still they insist she isn’t ready, and they also explain that she is on an “inclusion track” where they will try to slowly introduce her to mainstream kindergarten. I’m sure this is brilliantly successful for some kids (and know it works very well for introducing animals to new situations), but I don’t know how well this will work for Cordy. After all, part of her autism is her desire for routine. She can handle transitions with some warning, and is even getting better at adjusting to small sudden change, but constant major changes seem like a big deal to me.
So we’re going to get her used to one classroom for several weeks, then expect her to go behave in another class, with a wildly different routine, for 15-30 minutes every day or two, and yank her out if she doesn’t cooperate? Um, I know I’m not an expert at this, but I think she’s going to not cooperate. Just a hunch here.
My idea was to put her in a mainstream class, accept that the first few weeks will be an adjustment (just like any kid starting kindergarten, I’d guess), providing aide support if needed, and then watch as she adapts and rises to the challenge. After all, it worked this summer – she is a smart kid, and she can figure out how to act if given the chance to learn how the class works. Coddling or baby steps generally doesn’t work for her - she’s more a “sink or swim” kind of girl. (Even if she does get mighty upset about being – figuratively – shoved in the water sometimes.)
But I’m only her mother, and it’s been made clear that I don’t understand how the system works. So I will (grudgingly, and with a lot of hovering) let them do it their way for now and evaluate the results in a couple of months. If it isn’t working to our satisfaction, or if I feel Cordy is falling behind academically in any way (and she’s already well ahead of the standard kindergarten curriculum), we’ll be calling her support team together and finding another option.
And if it turns out that this was the perfect way to do it, you’ll all be reading my admission of being wrong. In this case, I want to be wrong. I want to write an embarrassed apology on this blog for my incorrect assumptions and how silly it was to not trust the experts.
I really, really, really hope I’m completely off-base and Cordy rocks the inclusion track all the way to full inclusion faster than any other student they’ve ever had. I hope she’s such the perfect model for the inclusion track that academic papers are written about her experience.
Nothing would make me happier than being wrong. And knowing Cordy, she’ll find some way to do it, because she’s just that damn awesome, and she loves to prove me wrong.