Autism-Related Articles, Books, Services

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fall 2009: A New Year, A New Beginning

Last spring, we tried hard to get Tom into a local Montessori-style middle school, based at an organic farm just minutes from our house. But he just wasn't ready.

The concerns were understandable. He needed independent learning skills. He needed conversation skills. He needed collaborative skills. Those skills are just in the earliest stages right now. So -- we decided to try to teach him those skills through direct instruction and practice.

We put together a program of study that includes two full days at a homeschool resource center. That means time to work for us, and time with other kids for him. He's nervous, which is understandable, and he's talking about his concerns with his "talking and thinking coach," Kathleen. We'll also be using the Model Me Kids videos and workbooks to help him manage his social anxiety -- and, hopefully, get to the point where he can really engage with other kids in a natural way.

Today, we went for a visit to the new "non-school school," and talked with the teacher, Jessica, about his concerns. She reassured him that yes, it's okay to have and keep your pocket toys and no, you don't have to share them. It's okay to be quiet so long as you say SOMEthing (I don't know is acceptable). I THINK he's comfortable with all that!

Three days a week he's with us -- and BUSY. We're doing independent reading (found a literature reader/workbook combo which should arrive shortly). We're working on math based on the fabulous tutorial involvement of dyscalculia expert Mahesh Sharma (yes, it's over an hour away, but we go twice a month and it's worth the drive). He's continuing with clarinet AND saxophone with his wonderful music teacher, and starting a new afterschool jazz band. He's starting with Rosetta Stone Spanish. He's going to try out a new homeschool gym program.

All this overscheduling is, we hope, going to make it easier for both Tom and us. Easier for Tom because we'll have a clear, written schedule that includes time for TV and relaxing. Easier for us because both Peter and I will KNOW who's doing what, when, and how.

I'm thinking of this year as a "bye" year: if things work out, instead of starting 7th grade this year, he'll start next year -- as a first year student at the Montessori School. If it doesn't work out, we'll just think of it as a repeated sixth grade year, and move forward.

Wish us luck!