Friday, October 17, 2014

Just the Right Place

Last year (pre-blog stage) I wrote on my personal Facebook page about how I was a little worried about Abby going onto the middle school, because then they wouldn't be at the same school. Matthew would sometimes visit Abby if he needed a little calming down.  I shared how we were at Abby's orchestra concert and Matthew was enjoying the music, but starting to make a lot of noises.  Rob took him out into the hallway and a few minutes later came back into the concert without Matthew.  I looked at him in surprise and he said that Mr. Supa (the principal) was taking him for a walk.  At that time I commented that I was reassured that everything would be okay...Abby could move on and Matthew would be fine, because he was in the right place.  

Now that we are in the second month of the school year and have had his first parent-teacher conference, I thought I would share with you some of my current reasons for knowing that he is in "just the right place."   

1.  His classroom teacher said that sometimes she tells the rest of the class,  "Look at Matthew.  If you don't know what you are supposed to be doing, look at Matthew."  I have to admit my chin almost hit the floor on that one.  We have heard positive things about Matthew before, but I don't know that he's ever been referred to as a role model!  

2.  The school asked me to write a little about his weekends in his communication notebook.  On Mondays they use that information to help him write a journal entry.  They write it in his journal and then he traces over the letters.  His aide will then type that sentence into his ipad. When it is journal sharing time, Matthew's journal is put under a projection device so the class can see his words/picture and hear his ipad saying the words.  They understand the importance of his ideas being heard.  

3.  Almost every week he gets to have cooking class.  Not only does he love to cook, but his speech and language teacher is in the room at the time.  She is able to facilitate communication in a real life situation.  He won't always eat what they make, but he has fun nonetheless.  

4.  If he requests a rest time or they feel that he is exhibiting behaviors that indicate that he is tired they offer quiet time in the special education room.  They understand that if he is too tired, it's counterproductive to force him to work through that.  Someone as active as Matthew needs to recharge every so often!  He goes through goofy sleeping phases at home too that can affect his energy level.  Sometimes he will go weeks and sleep through the night and sometimes (like this week) he is up at least once every night.  Sometimes he goes right back to sleep and sometimes it is a process...a process that involves one of us being awake too.  

5.  Thanks to both school and home therapy (and a program called Handwriting Without Tears) his handwriting is really taking off.  I can't tell you how delighted we were when he brought home a paper and he had written Matt independently from a model.  He now writes Matt on his papers.  He had another paper where he did such a good job on writing the words Mom and Dad.   

6.  He has a daily communication notebook.  This notebook is so important to a parent of a child who is nonverbal.  I can ask him if he had a good day at school and he will nod "yes", but that doesn't really tell me what was good about his day and it doesn't tell me if there were some not so good parts.  I confess when I pick him up from school, I read it in the car while he is getting buckled.  Sometimes at home, I will read parts of it to him or ask him a question about something that was written in there (i.e.  It says you had library today.  Did you get new books?")  We also try to talk about if there were bad choices made that day.  

7.  If you read Whatever It Takes you will know that Matthew has some interesting things that motivate him. The school utilizes some of these motivators to help him be productive.  One of his favorite things to work for is to spend time with the school custodian.  He likes to watch him vacuum of course, but also other cleaning and building projects are pretty exciting too.  

8.  They will sometimes take pictures on his ipad of things happening at school.  He was scribbling on his dry erase board and his teacher said, "Write your words."  They took a picture of the word Matt on his dry erase board.  In the past they have also taken pictures of him on field trips or special events at school.  

9.  When I drop him off at school, there is a girl who was in his class last year who likes to give him a big hug and hold his hand.  Another one of his friends will always say "Hi!" to him and one day announced, "I love Matthew."  The rest of his classmates love it when he talks with his ipad.  

10.  And this just might be my favorite...they are attempting to help us cut his pinky nails! He will not let us cut his pinky nails or his toenails.  I will not describe for you what kind of torture this is to even try.  Every night I try to sneak into his room when he is sleeping to cut them, but he always wakes up.  Today they made some progress as he let them file his right pinky nail.  

As some of you know, after teaching full time for 22 years, I am teaching part time in Special Education. Since I have been in a different teaching role for the last 14 years, I am taking note of all the positive things happening for Matthew at his school.  My goal is to have my students' and their parents feel that same way...that their kid is in "just the right place."  


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