In the weeks leading up the beginning of kindergarten, I was a nervous wreck! Up until this point, Devin had been in a special education preschool run by our school district – now he was going to a regular kindergarten classroom. Even though kindergarten was still a half-day program in our school district, I was not really sure how he would handle this!
Would Devin be able to handle a regular classroom and school building?
Even though I knew that Devin would spend some time in the resource room with a special education teacher, he would also be spending part of his time in the regular classroom. In addition to this, the building that preschool was held in did not have bells going off for different items throughout the day — Devin was very sensitive to loud noises and even though we had a CD player with headphones for him to wear when the bells were slated to ring, would this be enough and would someone remember to tell him to put his headphones on in time? I knew all too well that an unexpected loud noise would generally cause Devin to run, screaming at the top of his lungs!
Would the other students accept Devin?
Devin’s speech was better than when he had come to live with us, but he was still hard to understand at time — especially if he was excited or upset! Plus he would go into emotional outbursts at times that we could not always determine the cause! Would this disrupt his class so much that the school would decide it was a problem? Would the other students pick on him because of his odd behaviors and his speech delays?
The Honeymoon Period
As would often happen when Devin was in a new situation or place, the first couple of weeks passed with only a couple of minor incidents and those were quickly determined to be due to staff members who were not familiar with the plan we had put into place. One substitute teacher told Devin he was not allowed to have his CD player and headphones out of his bookbag when he was in the building.
Another time another student grabbed one of Devin’s crayons by mistake and you would have thought they had taken his favorite toy! This also happened in front of someone other than his classroom teacher so he was sent to the principal’s office. But I felt more comfortable about the mainstreaming overall!
So Much for Smooth Sailing!
After the first few weeks of kindergarten, I started getting a few calls from the principal at the school. The first call was minor — he simply wanted me to know that Devin had pulled another student’s hair because the student had made him mad. He told me that he had visited with Devin for a bit about what had happened and Devin returned to class for the remainder of the morning.
There were other calls about Devin not listening to the teacher when she said recess was over and he did not want to come inside yet, or Devin not wanting to do his work and walking out into the hall.
It seemed like Devin was starting to feel more comfortable at the new school and he was pushing the limits to see how far he could go. I reminded the principal that autism is not always a matter of conscious choice and each time said that I would also talk to Devin at home that evening.
The School’s Solution to a Bad Day
About 3 or 4 months into the school year, I got a phone call saying that Devin was having a really rough day and the principal thought that someone should probably pick him up and take him home for the day. He said that Devin had been brought to his office twice that morning already and that the last time he just could not settle down. He was crying and frustrated, but nobody seemed to be able to figure out why.
So I called my husband and he picked him up and took him home. Once he was at home, he was fine. He ate a snack, played with some toys and watched some TV with my husband. Keep in mind that kindergarten was only a half-day, so Devin was only at school from 8 until 11:15 am! I could not figure out how he could have been so upset that he could not stay at school for just over 3 hours.
When I got home at the end of my work day, I sat down and talked to Devin. He either could or would not tell me what was wrong. We talked about how he needed to behave at school and that it was required that he go to school — his response was that he wanted to go to school. I felt better about the situation as I was putting him to bed that night and chalked it up to one of those rough days that everyone has once in awhile.
The next morning, I woke Devin up to get ready for school. As I was trying to motivate him to get his clothes on, he looked at me and said, “I think I need to stay home today.” I told him that he needed to go to school, and he looked at me like I was crazy and said. “I don’t think I will have a good day. I had better stay home.”
Needless to say, he went to school and I walked into the principal’s office to tell him that Devin had it all figured out — he could stay home from school if he was going to have a bad day! Then I informed the principal that it was up to the school, not me, to keep him on an even keel during his school day — his IEP did state that if needed, he could have a break to walk down the hall or other provisions for times when Devin was overwhelmed.
The principal kind of stuttered and stammered, and I suggested that if he needed further guidance he should consult the special education director because Devin was entitled to an education appropriate to his needs!
If you have any comments, questions or ideas to share on this topic, please feel free to leave a comment below! Or maybe you have another area related to autism that you would like me to talk about! Just let me know!