School has always been something Beanie has loved, even with the number of times she has been the “new kid.” She has always gotten excited about going, and she has always chattered endlessly about her friends and about science class.
But this year, something changed.
Beanie has always gotten into mischief, but she started getting bad reports daily. And her behaviors went from “normal” trouble-maker limit-testing, to hitting and screaming. Instead of talking about her friends, she made up a bunch of imaginary friends. She still enjoyed doing her homework and going to piano lessons, but she began throwing tantrums when it was time for school.
With her ARD meeting coming up (those are called IEP meetings in the other 49 states), I had a lot of correspondence with her case manager. I learned that Beanie was screaming in class nearly everyday, in spite of the added supports and sensory diet they had her on. She was needing an aide 4 hours out of the day, instead of the 30 minutes she had needed before. And the kids were less interested in hanging out with her, due to her screaming. And all of this was affecting her academically–her reading level dropped from a level F to a level B.
I have to admit I was nervous. I knew that this was not the best situation for my daughter, but what would be? She really wouldn’t benefit from a resource room, where she would go for smaller reading, writing, and math classes. She’s not very far behind academically, and this wouldn’t solve the problem of The Rest of The Day.
And she really didn’t belong in a life skills program, which would be a special class just for kids with autism, where she would learn cooking and other independent living skills. This wasn’t the place for a kid with above average intelligence.
And she certainly wasn’t going into a behavioral program, where she would copy the misbehaviors of her classmates.
Those were the three options I was familiar with. And I knew that the resource room was the only one I would be willing to entertain at all.
So I was worried, but not surprised, when her principal called me. She took a long time preparing me, which only increased my nervousness and defensiveness (which I suppressed quite well!). So imagine my surprise when she told me about a program I had never heard of! Their district has a self-contained classroom for kids who have severe speech and language disorders. Beanie would be in a class with no more than 5 kids, would get lots of one-on-one time with her teacher, would learn her academics but really focus on getting caught up with her speech, and would be worked back into general education classes, until she would eventually be ready to return to her neighborhood school.
All of my defensiveness was replaced with the question, “How soon can we start?”
Beanie was hesitant to visit the classroom, but once she saw the puppets in the “break” area and the stretchy therapy swing, she was sold. Since Beanie is above grade level in math and science, she would be in a general education class, with support, for those subjects. She would also go to P.E., music, and art with her general education class. She would work on speech, reading, writing, and social studies with her special education class. The speech therapist would come into the room to work with her and the other students, and the class would visit the large motor lab on a regular basis.
Beanie met her special ed teacher, her aide, her general education teacher, and her speech therapist. She then led everyone on a search to find and meet the principal. And she charmed every one of them.
Beanie rides the bus to her new school, but it gets her home in time to make it to her piano lesson on her old school on Wednesdays.
So how did her first day of school go? Beanie came home with a very good report and a smile on her face. She couldn’t wait to tell us about her new friend in her class, and she was eager to go back.
And thus, the charmed life of the Bean continues.