Get used to this: I’m going to post about Martin’s newest adventure, general education. I’m going to post and post and post and post about Martin in general education.
At age two, Martin received center-based Early Intervention services in a six-child, seven-adult setting, that is, one-on-one.
Ages three and four, Martin attended pre-school in a self-contained special-education setting, where he was deemed too unfocused for a 12-child, two-adult classroom. He was placed instead in an eight-child, five-adult classroom, i.e., eight kids, one teacher, two assistant teachers, and two aides.
Martin attended kindergarten, first, and second grade in a self-contained special-education setting, in a classroom with 10-to-12 children and four adults, i.e., two teachers and two assistant teachers.
Two weeks ago Martin started second grade (again; he’s repeating) in our local public school, mainstream classroom, with an aide. That means 21 kids and two adults, i.e., a teacher and a teacher’s assistant, who is designated to assist Martin as needed.
This is a remarkable leap for Martin. For the first time, he will attend school with typically developing peers, and he will have to manage with far less classroom support. He will walk with me to the bus stop—in a 2016 suburb, I’ve learned, an eight-year-old does not navigate two blocks to the bus stop alone—and ride a regular school bus: no more short-bus pick-up and delivery directly to our door. He will eat lunch in a big cafeteria. He will be cast out upon the playground without any planned “social awareness activity.”
He may learn that not every child in his class is his friend.
He may get hurt.
The first morning unfurled with great fanfare. Martin chose to wear a t-shirt bearing his new school’s name. Adrian stayed home from work. He and my mother-in-law (still visiting) and I accompanied Martin to the bus stop, where we found five other families, some we knew and some we didn’t. All the other moms and dads had come to the bus stop, along with an uncle and a couple nannies, so we made quite a crowd. Martin greeted the twins from across the street but otherwise kept to himself. When a parent suggested a first-day photo, all the kids lined up and smiled, and Martin lined up and smiled with them. He even posed and managed to smile toward the cameras. When the bus came, he hugged me and Adrian and his grandmother good-bye—this was appropriate; all the kids were giving hugs—and boarded the bus without hesitation. The assembled adults remained, waving as the bus headed schoolwards. Adrian and I stood in the crowd, waving.
My mother-in-law and I had tickets to the U.S. Open that day. We went, only for a couple hours. I was a wreck, checking my phone constantly. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe a message that Martin was having a meltdown? Maybe a call from the school administrators to inform me, in hushed and apologetic tones, that they’d made a mistake, and Martin wasn’t the right fit for general education?
Our district offers us the services of a behaviorist, Darlene, who has worked with Martin weekly (or so) for more than two years. God bless Darlene. Knowing I would be nervous, she decided to visit Martin’s school that first day and observe him. Early afternoon, she sent me these text messages:
Doing great. When I walked in kids were sitting on carpet. It took me a few minutes to find him. He blended right in. Aide was sitting on the other side of the cluster from him. Teacher said he needs a lot of structure but responds well to it. Said she noticed that he thinks his thoughts out loud but we can work on that. He is participating in discussions and is doing well.
Recess he tends to like the swing. I spoke to Mrs. I [the aide assigned to Martin] and we gave him some small tasks. (Find someone from class, go say hi, go down slide, etc.) Then he could come back and swing. Will explain more later what I’m thinking of how to structure re essential while teaching social skills. Heading to another school! All good though!!
I responded, “Thank you!! This is awesome!”
My mother-in-law and I were home from the U.S. Open in time to join Adrian at the bus stop, along with my father and my niece, who arrived that afternoon for a visit. Martin alit the bus all smiles. With prompting, he told us about his new classroom and teacher and friends.
Day One was in the books.
I was optimistic. Still, as I told my friend Stacey, if this general-education placement doesn’t work out, that won’t mean we’ve failed. It will mean only that we moved too fast.
Good luck to Martin! I love your last line ” If this placement doesn’t work out, doesn’t mean we failed. It will mean only that we moved to fast.” I need to print this out and tape it up somewhere. My husband told me essentially the same thing last week when I hesitated to put my son (who is still in a self contained class) in an afterschool music class with typical peers. I asked my husband, “What if he can’t handle it and they say they can’t handle him – I will be upset and discouraged, esp because I know he wants to take the class.” And to that my husband said “If that’s the case, we’ll just take him out and try again later, just cause he can’t do something now doesn’t mean he can’t do it ever. But we will never know till we try.”
Did you do it? Did you put your son in the after-school music class? How is it working out?
I did put him in the music class! And its working out. While it may take him a little bit longer to get some of the directions, he’s is doing better than I expected…and he really does enjoy it 🙂
That’s kind of the way taekwondo is going for Martin right now—it may take him longer to get some of the moves etc., but he’s doing better than we expected, and he really does enjoy it. Good work to both our kids!
Everything will work out fine. You might want to drive Martin to school on some days just to be able to see the other kids his age. Believe me, it’ll give you more peace of mind in knowing that they’re not all so different from Martin at that age. When we fought for our kid to switch to general ed in first grade, it really helped me when I saw kids crying on the first day of school and kids with anxieties, etc. I’m not saying we didn’t have to keep fighting everyday, but we could see the gains. You’ve to fight more than earlier to keep your kid in general ed unless you get lucky and have an amazing school team, which looks like you do. Our first year in general ed was the worst mainly because they were completely ignorant about the needs of our kid and the teacher was the worst that year. The school had this one size fits all approach to all kids and they were set in their ways about how to discipline kids(sending kids to office, making them loose recess time, etc.). We’ve been enlightening them since what inclusion is all about.
BTW, I bet there’s a lot of us in the same boat as you: everyday wondering how to continue to keep our kids in the general ed setting, not because we want to but because we know that they would benefit tremendously and make huge progress by learning from their peers. Something that cannot be achieved no matter how much support you give them in a secluded environment (self-contained class). You will be seeing that growth everyday and it’s worth fighting for everyday. So please know that in sharing your current struggles you’re still helping us. Never ever stop blogging. It’s been a huge source of strength and support to see I’m not alone in this fight. My husband doesn’t get what I try to do everyday. You’re lucky you have the support from your family. Fight on!! Just like biomed, one has to try general ed for a good couple of years at least before coming to a decision (unless the school district is making our lives miserable everyday; even then it’s not time to give up, but to hire a very good advocate(I know you don’t need one:))