We’re less than two weeks away from the end of the school year in our district. While I should probably be focused on what on earth I plan to do with my children during the summer months (answer: summer camp for most days), I’m actually already looking ahead to the next school year.
Cordy started kindergarten in a way that I wasn’t all that happy with. I had big hopes that she would be deemed “ready” to be placed in a mainstream kindergarten class, having conquered the difficulties brought on from autism.
I occasionally have to remind myself that autism is for life, and many of the challenges it can cause don’t vanish into the mist with a little therapy.
So I grudgingly agreed with the school assessment that she should be placed in a special-needs classroom and given some “inclusion” time with the typical kids. I feared it would mean that she wouldn’t get much time in the other class and would only drive her further away from normal.
I’ll admit I was wrong. Cordy has done very well in her class this year. Her teacher has put in a tremendous amount of work to help her cope with social situations, coach her through her anxieties, and encourage her to spend time in the typical kindergarten class. She’s coaxed Cordy into showing what she knows academically (Cordy is very shy about demonstrating any talent), sharing that she can read at a second grade level and will likely qualify for the gifted education program. And Cordy now spends up to half the school day in the mainstream classroom with few problems.
Why am I concerned with next year then? Easy – I’ve been anxious over determining where she belongs next year.
Cordy is academically advanced for most first grade subjects. Letting her go to a mainstream first grade class would challenge her socially, but would mean she didn’t get the academic challenge she needs. On the other hand, keeping her in a special-needs class would guarantee more specialized academic education, but she wouldn’t get the social challenge she needs.
It’s a dilemma.
Luckily, Cordy’s amazing kindergarten teacher may have come through for us again. She told us that one teacher will have a “split” class next year, meaning it will be made up of a mix of first and second grade kids. Her suggestion is to have Cordy attend that class, while still staying on the homeroom roster for the special-needs classroom.
Here’s how it would work: Cordy would check in with her special needs teacher each morning, then go to class in the mixed grade classroom, where she’d get both the social challenge of being with typical peers and the academic challenge of being in a class that also has second graders. She would be a member of that class, but if she had any problems she could go back to the special-needs class for however long was needed to address the issue that day.
On paper…err, e-mail…it appears to be a fantastic option. I’ve asked to meet the new teacher and hope to do so in the next week to finalize the details of this plan. To say that I’m thrilled that a split class has been formed would be an understatement. A mixed age group is exactly what Cordy needs – ideally, we would have sent her to a Montessori school, but private schools are outside of our budget.
Of course, a lot of the credit for getting this plan in place has to go to my sweet, hard working, preternaturally charming Cordelia. It helps that she has the entire school enchanted with her, from the principal who made an exception to keep her at that school, to other teachers who have declared they want her in their classes when she’s older. Not only has she put forth a lot of effort this year to practice the bizarre (to her) social requirements of society, she’s also fought back some of her stubbornness to allow herself to be taught, all while keeping up her aura of charisma.
For being socially awkward, she sure knows how to reel them in to get what she needs.
I’m hopeful for the next school year – more hopeful than I’ve ever been, I think.