Monday, April 20, 2009

Our story part 7: Bearhug’s rough start in preschool

When Bearhug and Cuddlebug started Pre-K, Cuddlebug handled the transition much easier since he had already been going to school there the previous spring. Bearhug, on the other hand, really had difficulty with his new routine.

He had a meltdown every morning when we dropped him off. Since Cuddlebug had been going to school there for a few months already, he thought of it as “Cuddlebug’s school” and didn’t seem to think he was in the right place. It was about two weeks before he actually said anything to that effect, so until then we thought it was just the newness of it (which was part of the problem).

Aside from morning carpool, he was struggling throughout the day with staying focused, transitions, and having to work on any non-preferred activity, and had frequent meltdowns. His teacher reached out to his speech therapist at the school and asked for a meeting with us.

We were hardly surprised, we had suspected that he would have difficulty in a classroom setting with no support. I put together a one-page summary of his strengths and challenges for the teacher in preparation for our meeting (posted here). When we met, it was clear that his teacher was overwhelmed, especially by his meltdowns. “He just drops onto the floor and starts rolling around screaming!” We offered a number of suggestions but she wasn’t exactly receptive. In fact, she seemed a little resentful of the amount of time it would take to help him out, and that the other kids might start demanding “special treatment” too. Feeling a little dejected and disappointed, we realized that while we had gone into the meeting thinking the goal was to brainstorm ideas to help Bearhug adapt and be successful in his preschool class, his teacher’s goal had been to lay out her case for why he didn’t belong in her class. She wanted him moved to a special needs class full time.

We requested a re-evaluation to see if he could be found eligible for some support now that he was clearly having difficulty in school as a result of his developmental delays. The assessment team observed him in class and scheduled another eligibility meeting. At that point, he was found eligible for services beyond just speech. They recommended putting him into a smaller, special needs class twice a week (similar to Cuddlebug’s placement) and having a resource teacher to help him in his regular pre-k class the other days. The resource teacher would be able to give him the one-on-one help that his teacher wasn’t able to, and could also offer suggestions to his teacher.

Once he had the support he needed, Bearhug thrived at school. In fact, by the end of the school year, he had almost no meltdowns at school anymore, and the teacher who had initially tried to get him out of her class commented that he was one of her best students!

Both he and Cuddlebug had a great year, and when it was time to set up placement for kindergarten, the school recommended putting them in an ASD resource program at a nearby school (not our home school). They would be in a regular-ed class 5 days a week, with pullout during the day as needed as well as resource support in their regular class. I was nervous about having in the regular ed class every day, but we felt they were ready to give it a try.

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Maddy on April 21, 2009 at 10:25 AM said...

It is a long journey......they are doing so well, I am delighted to hear more or your trials and triumphs.
Best wishes

K on April 22, 2009 at 7:25 PM said...

Thanks so much for the detailed story- i look forward to the instalments - we had a similar esperinece
R hated daycare but loved his small preschool

Kim on April 24, 2009 at 8:46 PM said...

Thanks for sharing. I have been enjoying reading your story. It helps to be able to connect with people who have gone down this road!


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I'm a mom of three boys on the autism spectrum, 11-yr-old identical twins and a 7-yr-old. My husband is a SAHD.


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