Just Like That... We're Homeschoolers!
It was two weeks before the end our our 2nd 9 weeks. Just one more week and then it was Winter Break! We did a thing...
It all started with what would be the last phone call from the Principal, "Hello Mrs. Bobst, we have M here in the office after an incident in the lunch room." I could have stopped her there and finished the entire description of what occurred, as it isn't the first time it has happened. "M tripped a student and will be spending the rest of his day in in school suspension." My heart sank. Here is my boy who has to sit isolated in an empty classroom as a social outcast because he can't conform to a neurotypical child's routine.
One of the first things I want to know when I got calls like this is "What is the function of his behavior?" I want to know why he did what he did, what happened before the unwanted behavior occurred so we can recall antecedents that may have helped in predicting the behavior and find ways we could have redirected or intercepted before it happened. Time seemed to be the issue here, the student to teacher ratio definitely played a roll in behavior, and the consequences to a diagnosis related incident weren't doing anything but making M feel like an outcast/"bad."
My 7 year old, has Sensory Processing disorder, a co-morbid diagnosis to Autism. In loud chaotic environments, he is not in full control of himself. His behavior varies of course depending on how his day has been going. If he is having a smooth day, lunch and other unstructured time periods can be manageable, however if he is overstimulated, he's bound to behave unacceptably. I have worked closely with the school in providing suggestions for alternative accommodations that would help him be successful in the public school environment. We had agreed on him bringing a comic book to lunch so when he was finished eating, he could read to keep him busy and focused, aka in control. Sadly he was without his book every time there was an incident, the teacher ultimately forgot having 18 other students to attend to. Understandable to an extent, but we needed the most simple accommodations such as this and had nothing to go by but verbal agreements and planner notes. We fought for an IEP (Individual Education Plan) with no success. We were continuously denied due to his academic performance topping the charts. M is what is known as Twice Exceptional, or 2E. Although he struggles socially as a result of his diagnosis, he excels academically.
This was not the first phone call or meeting we have had in regards to M and his social deficits and poor peer relationships. M had been excluded and treated differently than his peers many times. I was so angry for him, and felt awful he was being treated this way due to something he couldn't control. Many times the teachers would say, "I have seen him have self control before, so I'm not sure what is going on today, I feel it is a lack of respect." They. Don't. Understand. High. Functioning. Autism. No matter how familiar they say they are with HFA, this statement alone proves otherwise. Variables are key, things change, as does behavioral response. It's nothing to take personal, and most certainly isn't disrespect. If behavior is a language, what is it saying?
My husband and I had originally decided to request another meeting with those teachers who seem to have troubles redirecting and implementing these accommodations and understanding M's needs. I requested that his ACE teacher (gifted teacher) be present, as he did extremely well in her classroom of 5 children with highly challenging activities, here he was excelling with his teacher's full support both academically and socially. We were ready to give them another chance with a sit down, to hopefully get everyone on the same page to make accommodations where need be. The principal had emailed me that she planned on having the guidance counselor there, to help come up with a different "behavior plan." Having been there before, and having a response-cost technique (punishment) suggested to us, I instantly felt a sense of discouragement come over me as this truly confirmed they really don't understand M and his diagnosis. It was that Sunday evening after 2 days of strong deliberation listing pros and cons, we decided to not send him back to school. No notice, no goodbyes, no chance to encourage us to reconsider. I emailed the teacher and the County's Superintendent our intent to homeschool along with our curriculum subjects.
We told M that he wouldn't be returning to school, that his "class was now at home now." I was afraid he would be upset, and miss his friends... however, when he was in school, he was always "in trouble" and hardly given the chance to socialize appropriately with his friends. I would much rather him see his friends on the playground after school when we pick up his sister. Here he has me for support 1:2 vs 1 teacher and a classroom of nearly 20 peers.
O, my 5 year old kindergartener, thrives in the classroom. She has zero issues and enjoys being in the school environment. I struggled making the decision to homeschool just one, but it has been the BEST choice for our family. M is still involved in the community aspect of the school through his sister. Attending events, and seeing his friends on the playground strengthening his social skills after school. The one on one time we have during academics at home is without interruption, and it has really helped our communication. He is able to join me in real life tasks (ie: visiting the bank, grocery store, etc...) where he can have a realistic idea of social expectations and practice them too!
I wanted to write a brief post on how we literally jumped into homeschooling mid year, hopefully it helps those who are contemplating doing the same thing. It's scary, and I doubt myself at times... however we are all thriving and learning together as a family. It took some time for me to realize that my two children have different needs... different things work, and that it is okay!