- Learns easily when taught without too much language, excellent visual learner
- Academically strong
- No aggression, generally calm
- Poor language. Needs practice, step by step instructions, visual prompts for many things.
- Poor focus - cannot complete job without prompts
- Poor social skills - no peer interaction, doesn’t learn in group setting, choosy about who he will interact/respond to
- Rigidity of thought - needs to do what he wants
- In my opinion, for children who have the capacity to learn, but lack language/social skills, the SD assumes they cannot learn. I believed for now, that he can learn at the same rate as a regular ed.
- I felt he could learn at the same rate as long as there were modifications made in the way concepts were taught. I did not observe any modification in the way concepts were taught in sp ed. I would have to teach him the material at home anyway as he wouldn’t learn in school.
- I also felt he needed 1:1 attention and he was not ready for learning in a group setting even in sp ed.
- Initial seed was planted when I saw Jayashree's msg in JEENA
- During the Kindergarten stage, I found the IEP process very stressful. And all for what? A sp ed class where he could not learn.
- Rigidity involved in schedule to attend school was stressful for him.
- There was only one solution for me to avoid stress of IEP, negotiating with SD etc - homeschool !
- Flexible and at a pace set by the child
- Helpful where ever possible
- Lots of alternative ways to teach - through games, kits etc.
- Not necessarily setup for Sp Ed, so I have to think of how to teach him something.
- I am not stressed out ! I have time to take care of the kids, house and spend a lot more time playing/teaching rather than shouting out orders all the time.
- Flexibility e.g if he has not had good sleep at night, he can wake up late and still have a productive day.
- He is only in Kindergarten, but for now, he has been able to keep up and even get ahead of the curriculum requirements for K even with significant language delay.
- I had to quit my job, so SIGNIFICANT impact to finances
- When I am sick, kid is at home and well, its hard to manage
- No down time, I don’t have much of a "life" to speak of !
During preschool years, when Vishnu was attending Special Day Class, he has always been a curious learner. He will get intent on one topic and want to know all about it - animals, emergency vehicles, sea creatures, etc. When we read books to him at home, he will pay complete attention. When asked to play by himself he can switch from being hyper - jumping, running around not knowing what to do to being hypo - just lying down in his body sock. When given structured activities to do with fine motor, he will pay complete attention such as beading, drawing, playing with building blocks, legos, manipulatives. He is not much of a gross motor game player.
His sensory needs are high - sensory seeking most of the time - wanting to touch, feel everything on his body – he will draw with markers on his body. Regarding following directions, he will do if what we are asking him to do is motivating for him. He has good visual and auditory memory. He will sings all the songs with the action at home - the songs they have been teaching in circle time at school. But at SDC preschool class, he can be completely spaced out during circle, not do table activities, putting shaving cream on his hair and face. But the teacher could get a glimpse of his knowledge when he paid attention to when she read books.
So when it came time for Kindergarten (age 5), we were sure that he would be offered the high functioning SDC Kindergarten class. We weren't even asking for regular Kindergarten with aide - since we thought that he can get spaced out if there are too many kids in the classroom. But we were offered low functioning class with mostly non-verbal or minimal verbal kids. Vishnu was speaking in full sentences that time. When we didn't accept it, they offered medium functioning class - but again here the 3rd grade (it was a K-1-2-3 class) kids were reading CAT, HAT when Vishnu was reading more complicated words such as "Construction zone keep out", etc. that he sees on the road. At this time, I had visited Challenger pre-K afternoon 2 hour class (8 kids) and thought Vishnu can repeat pre-K for a year. With less kids and more music/movement/structured activities, I thought he can handle it. He did survive for a whole year and they even gave him admission to their Kindergarten program! But it was difficult for him to sit still, pay attention when phonics was taught over and over, interact with kids during free play, etc. So we didn't think he can make it through K at Challenger since the
transitions were very quick. So we chose another private school that was child centered, yet structured with 12 kids in K-1 class.
But Vishnu couldn't stay still and learn. The environment was too taxing - high ceilings, noise from multiple classrooms. For the first time, he tried to keep escaping from the classroom. So we pulled him out, and of course the school wanted that too.
Now we are in September and didn't have a school to go to. So I started going to a parent participation school with him - I explained to the principal his strenghts/weakness and all the issues he has had at the previous schools. She was very welcoming. It turned out that this school is a vendor school for homeschool. So I registered as a homeschool parent through Ocean Grove Charter school of which this school LEAD center is a vendor. Vishnu goes to LEAD center 2 days a week with me there completely with him. The other classes he gets through Ocean grove are cooking, horse riding and Youth science institute classes. He loves LEAD center and has made friends and has
regular play dates. While I was skeptical to homeschool initially and signed up since I didn't have a choice, I certainly think that is the best for him. He is doing well at school, enjoys his classes, friends. At home I still use motivators to get task done. It is a complete
time commitment for me, but has worked very well for him.
We also did a IEP through Ocean grove and he currently gets speech and OT. We are waiting for resource specialist services once a week - the drawback with ocean grove is too long a wait for services. Our Education specialist meets with me once a month and goes over our progress. And since he is homeschooled, he is in 1st grade now.
The negative for the family is my complete time commitment at school/classes with him during the day to the extent that I am not spending any time volunteering in Nitya's class. But the positives are just too many - a happy kid making friends and enjoying school.
My daughter is 11 yrs old now and was diagnosed with Autism. around 4 1/2. We have gone through a myriad of therapies from ABA, Speech, OT, NACD, RDI to alternatives like DAN, Amy Yasko protocols, ayurveda, homeopathy, AIT, Tomatis, Bioset, Cranio-sacral etc.
-Very creative in solving problems for herself. Quick-thinking.
-Ventures to try new activities even if they're hard for her. She might give up some things after trying, but has a good attitude going in.
- Highly independent in self-help skills, which is affecting her expressive communication, but useful on the whole.
- Very social person and loves to be in a crowd, even if she doesn't interact much with anyone.
-Expressive language is limited.
- Impulse control and verbal stimming issues there.
- Initiation for activities is still not happening.
My daughter was in special ed (mild to moderate) from K through 3rd grade. She was doing well till 2nd grade. Then, her biomedical issues became overwhelming which prompted us to start the DAN protocol. This only aggravated her detox even more and slowly aggressive, OCD behaviors started coming up in school. Though she was moving on target till 1st grade, learning had come to a complete stop after that. Except that she has always loved going to school, nothing was happening at all. I was trying to teach her
at home, but after a long day at school, she would just shut down.
Pure serendipity. We had started Tomatis and there was some regression in her behaviors - as usual. We pulled her out of school for 3 weeks and asked for an independent study program. Those 20 days were the most peaceful time we had ever seen. After a long time, I saw a spark in my child's potential and that gave me some hope that she can get back on track, body and mind-wise. The program specialist was a wonderful person, who immediately put us through to COIL. And, the rest as they say, is history.
The circle of independent learning (COIL) is our charter school. They have been a wonderful support and mentored me throughout our journey thus far. The good thing about the COIL staff is that they are all homeschool mothers themselves, so you can connect well with their experience. The library is the best and I've been able to select any curriculum of my choice and mix and match them to what works for me. The only downside if any, is that when we started, they were new to Autism too. They clearly told this to me at the outset. My teacher would bring in her 20 yrs of educational experience and with my knowledge of what would work for my child, we tried to come
up with a plan.
Along with an equally important RDI life style, we have more peace at home. No negative IEP's and teacher woes. We have been able to handle puberty and hormonal mood swings much better. As a family, we have been able to rise our own learning and curiosity levels. Traveling becomes a lot more fun because we combine science or history along. Most of all, my daughter has gained self-confidence in herself, is learning every day and is much happier.
No pains, no gains. Initially, I have spent all of my waking hours on lesson planning, teaching and even thinking over the whole responsibility on my shoulders. So, no personal time at all. My husband, who takes care of my child's extra curricular activities
including sports, gets zero time too. This has become much better the last year though. Also, teaching is the easy part. My hardest task is to constantly think about engaging my child because her initiation for activities is still low. One last downer is that I never get
time to expand my social repertoire as much as I wish to.