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.