Thursday, March 6, 2008

Things are looking up...a little

Anthony and I went to see the school on Tuesday. We were there about an hour and had a tour of the entire facility. We didn't know what to say to each other as we were walking out. We could both visualize Matty there. We don't want to jump the gun, and after some thought, I decided it's in our best interest to visit 1 or 2 other schools to have a reference point. The more I think about it, the less angry I am that my district wants to send Matty out. They really don't have a program suitable for him in the middle school. From parents I've talked to, there is an autistic class that is 100% self-contained and there is no mainstreaming. Then, there is a resource room setting, where kids changes classes for everything except math and reading, where in theory, the resource room teacher teaches to each kid on their level. That doesn't work in my opinion. That's what I've been through since the first grade...a self-contained environment with 1 teacher and various assistants based upon the number of kids (8-12) each with a different disability.

What I noticed first in the private school was that in each classroom, each child had a cubby/desk with walls that extended out, so when they're sitting doing seatwork, they have a visual lesson plan hanging in their desk, they know exactly what they are supposed to be doing at all times, and then they rotate in the class to working with 1 of 3 certified teachers in the classroom. What struck me was the serenity and peace in the classroom, kids weren't distracted by my entering, they looked at us, said good morning, and returned to work. They all have customized lesson plans (they implement the IEP in place, making revisions as needed after 30 days). The seatwork is at a level lower (re-inforce) than what it taught by the teacher, so that the child can do seatwork frustration, no reason for avoidance. The teacher teaches a new lesson, and then the group work is a bit challenging so they have a teacher to help them through it, and then THAT becomes seatwork the following days once it becomes mastered. In other words, they breed success so that the students learn to work independently.
They have vocationsl areas that the kids earn tokens to visit and utilize. A bakery, a print shop, a nail salon (for girls ;-)), school store with real items that can be bought with tokens, a cafe. These places also serve as teaching the kids how to handle themselves in a community setting. They have big ST, OT and PT areas.
It really is a nice place. The kids were much higher functioing than I imagined, and they take kids from over 40 districts in NJ. If Matty isn't the right fit, they won't take him / keep him. We shall see. We're going to see 1 or 2 other places and then meet to decide his fate for the fall.

Ben is now in the mainstream for 1.5 hours a day instead of the 20 minutes he was getting for the last 6 weeks. It's a 2.5 hour program. In theory, he's supposed to be there for the 2.5 after 4 hours in the self-contained classroom. He should be in there for the full time 6 weeks later, no? Imagine my alarm when I learned he was still only going for 20 minutes after 6 weeks of starting the class. That was the same meeting where they told me he belonged in an autistic Kindergarten....OY! Not even going THERE.
So now, he's going for 1.5 hours since Monday after I called and told them I wanted a game plan (in writing) for their time table to get Ben into this class for the full 2.5. So he currently gets dismissed at the same time, 2:15, so he can go to his typical preschool from 2:30 to 5. He's going to be in the mainstream for the full 2.5 by April 1. OK...fine. That will totally mess with the private transportation I utilize to take him to the typical preschool 3 days a week...he's going to be there only for an hour after April 1, where as he goes for 3 hours 3 days a week now.
On a lighter note...I got a promotion at work. Back when I worked for Marsh in the 1990s and met Anthony, got married and got pregnant with Matty, I was a client representative (broker). I was on the verge of qualifying to be an officer, an Assistant Vice President. Had I returned to work after Matty, I probably would have gotetn promoted within a year. Fast Forward 10 years later...I didn't go back, how could I with my Matty and his needs? When I returned to work in the summer of 2006, I was grateful that they bridged my service back to 1997 when I left, so I was getting more vacation, more 401K, etc...than my co-workers in this new unit I work in. I didn't even think about about being an officer, I was getting paid, that was all that mattered. Out of nowhere yesterday, my boss calls me over and tells me that effective April 1, I'm an Assistant Vice President. WOW! What pure satisfaction....getting promoted without having to ask for it. She didn't even know me back then, she's new to Marsh (2 years), yet as my manager, she took them time to review my personnel records back from when I was a broker in the 1990s and she told me she thought to herself, she would have been an AVP a long time ago had I returned to work. WOW! She must see see me talk to all the Managing Directors in my office who used to be my fellow broker trainees and drinking buddies back in the day we all worked in NYC. It's so funny how I was so taken by surprise...that was the best news of the day!
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