Sunday, March 20, 2011

Plus One Week

Tomorrow Maya will start her second week at her new school.  Last week went pretty well.  Despite an earlier morning -- Maya now gets picked up at 7.20 instead of 8.10 which is a big difference.  The good news is that she is going to bed earlier to compensate, and not by my pushing for an earlier bedtime she is doing it on her own.  Maybe one day her actual bedtime might catch up to the time I tell people she goes to bed!

Anyway from what I can tell things went well.  I got a letter from her teacher on the first day and was told that things were good and that Maya had a great first day.  On Friday I got another letter, but this was just the general letter they send to the all the parents in the class which kind of runs down what the kids did during the week. I like that they do this because it gives you material to find out more information from your child.  Most of what I get out of Maya each day was that school was fun, and she mostly talks about what she did during recess more than anything else.  At her former school I never heard much about her schoolwork and was shocked after her last day when I saw her notebooks to see, for example that she is doing simple arithmetic.  I like that they give you a little bit of an academic update.

Another thing I love.  Each week they focus on one letter of the alphabet and learn 5 words, and these form little themes for the week.  On Friday in Maya's backpack was the letter and the words and some exercises that Maya will do in class.  The teachers ask you to have a look and if your child has the energy for it to go over these at home.  We did go through the words and also did them in English and did one exercise which Maya was very proud of herself at having completed.  It was also the first time we did anything close to homework together.  Also they gave copies of her reading lesson for the week which I must say I find really interesting.  They are using a totally visual based method of reading, incorporating the use of the letter and words of the week.  The method focuses of course on word recognition and repetition.  Maya was focused and cuddly this morning so we went over the words and did one of the exercises.  She ran away when I wanted to do the reading with her, but a few minutes later came back with a beginning reader book and asked me to read it to her and to point out the words.  I can see already that she recognizes some words so I do think that even though she is shy about it, she is on her way to learning how to read.

Mood wise Maya has been happy and I haven't noticed that things are taking a toll on her. Usually when there is a big change in her routine she becomes more clingy, can have more meltdowns and has a more difficult than usual time with listening.  We haven't had much of that, she is very loving but not clinging.  When she started at her last school she got so clingy that she didn't want me to even leave the room sometimes and the mornings were difficult.   She says she loves the school and she especially loves that twice a week there is gym class and once a week swimming class.

All weekend Maya has been excited as she says tomorrow she gets to be the class helper.  I asked her what she gets to do and she told me she gets to help with passing out snacks and drinks and the lunches.  She also told me that she gets the first choice of activities during the morning and afternoon (twice during the day the kids get to choose between a variety of individual activities, things like working on the computer, reading, doing crafts, playing in the doll house, etc.  Each morning and afternoon the kids choose their activity and the helper gets to choose first and the only rule is that you have to choose a different activity in the morning than in the afternoon.  So I asked Maya what she was going to choose and she said first computer and second Play Doh.

Although I have not heard anything more from her teachers on how Maya is adjusting since the first day I have the impression that things are going well.  I think if they weren't I either would have heard or I would have been able to see it on her.  As much as I want to call every day to check and hover I do think the distance is good.  They are trying to know Maya on their own terms and that is probably a lot easier without me calling them all the time.  A Facebook friend said to me to trust the teachers, they have been doing this for a long time and I should put my faith in them.  I have had a great feeling from everyone I met at that school, the teachers, the assistants, the principal, the registrar, the speech therapist and even the custodian.

It was initially hard to accept that Maya had to go to a school for children that are difficult to teach.  As I said, she does go to a school where there are classes with children with Down's syndrome and classes with children who are severely mentally impaired.  As much as it is a happy and positive place, it is a reality check that your child is one of them.  I have not been able to be at the school yet without having to blink back tears at some point but at the same time this is the first time I have had such a good feeling so early on.  Of course we need to see how it goes and of course I am waiting for the first big milestone, the conclusion of Maya's first 6 weeks when they will discuss her individual educational plan with us and give us their initial impression of our girl.

So after one week I would have to say so far so good.  I am so proud of my girl.


  1. Yay for a good start to the new school.
    I'm looking forward to writing a post like that soon.

    Go Maya, and go teachers who like to communicate!!

  2. I am glad things are going well. We have an IEP meeting Thurs and we REALLY want Katie to spend some time each day in the Autism classroom...I might be the only parent who WANTS her kid out of the mainstream. I think it's great to get more intensive help now, so there will be more success later!!! I hope things continue to go well for her!

  3. Question for you...are there programs in the public school, or if your child has special needs do they automatically go to a special school. We might be moving to Germany and I really need to know what Europe is generally like. I know the countries probably aren't all the same, but maybe there are similarities...or not. ha.

  4. Hi Jen,

    I don't know if it is reasonable to assume that special needs kids in Germany's situation is like the Netherlands. What I know is that in principle the Dutch schools try, if possible to mainstream kids with special needs and will accomodate special needs (including things like having an aide present, allowing time for therapy, etc. But generally your child needs to be able to succeed in that environment for them to remain there. So, you won't get the equivalent of an IEP in a mainstream school here, your child needs to more or less hit the milestones. But officially, they want as many kids with special needs in the mainstream schools. The issue here is not really with the laws and the setup but more that Dutch people have a hard time with kids who are outside of the mold and that gives your child very little chance to succeed in a mainstream school as academically, socially and behaviorally your kid needs to hit the range of milestones expected from other children.

    My experience in school was a very short one here before diagnosis when Maya was 4. She was basically unwelcome in the school and I saw very little flexibility or accommodation for her. They tried as quickly as possible to get her out of the school. Her teacher resorted to insults, saying that we had no limits at home or that I was not raising Maya in the "proper Dutch way". But this is just one experience at one school with one child, perhaps it is not indicative of how it really is.

    Is that helpful at all?

  5. Funny b/c the guidance counselor pretty much said the same thing to me. That Katie was a discipline problem and we were messing up at home. Gotta love it. I almost wish Katie could go to a specialized school. My husband growing up in Germany had a stutter and had to go to a special school for THAT, not sure how they deal now. I am trying to figure it out before we make any big move. I have a feeling their schools aren't set up for any non-typical kid, too, although I have also heard Germany is pretty good with Autism. Homeschooling isn't an option over there, so I really want to make sure the school system is OK.

  6. I think the first instinct is always to blame the parents and it is hard for people to tell a misbehaving child from an autistic child. One thing autism has taught me was to stop assuming and dial down my judgement.

    It may be difficult to mainstream her, Maya just couldn't handle a mainstream school. I do worry that her current school will ultimately set the bar too low for her but I just know right now that she cannot hack it at a regular school, even with therapy and extra assistance. I just watch it day by day and year by year. Another thing I have learned is to not think too far in the future as you don't know what may hold for your child.

    It's wise to look into options for Katie before moving. For sure she will need to be evaluated before any kind of special placement. Not exactly sure how Germany works, but they are pretty socialist too which means that special school costs the government much more money and they probably won't let you just enroll your kid. So it is good to do your homework up front I think.

    Are you seriously thinking of moving to Europe?