Friday, January 13, 2006

Sometimes it *is* that simple. . .

My son is happy. I see it in his smile when he comes home from school, in his quick 'debrief' with me, his endless teasing, his spontaneous hugs. At 12, he is still happy to give his mom a bear hug.

He's in 7th grade in a large middle school. He's an aspie. By all rights, happiness is not part of that mix. But he is happy.

So what have we changed that could create such a dramatic difference from just a month ago? Have we started him on some new powerful medication? No. Has the school suddenly expelled all the bullies? No. What has changed is so small, so easy, that I hesitate to attribute anything to it.


For the past year and a half, middle school lunch has been like decending into the ninth circle of hell for my son. He's had money extorted from him, he's had his food stolen, he's been kicked out of his seat, he's had his lunch dumped to the floor, he's been told, repeatedly, that he's stupid, a jerk, not liked, not wanted.

I've been talking about lunch and PE to his school team since the start of middle school. Finally, at this years' team meeting, the team came up with an alternate lunch option that was nothing short of transformative for my son. The 7th grade social studies teacher has an open invitation for certain kids to have lunch in his room. It's not a 'SPED' thing, just a group of interested kids and a teacher they respect. It's not always the same mix of kids, though my son has lunch there every day. And it's been incredible.

He feels as if he has a place where he belongs--where the kids accept and enjoy him. A safe, predictable place.

Total cost to the school district: $0.00. Value to my son: Priceless.

As for PE--that's another fight for another day.


Kristina Chew said...

That's incredible---I've been wondering how he has been doing since your last post. It does often seem that the smallest of things can make that huge difference, and create so much relief, for everyone.

Thank you for your very kind responses on my blog----I can't say enough about how much I appreciate hearing from you, and how much I have learned from my travels with Charlie in Autismland.

mommyguilt said...

Hi. I just found your post through Kristina's blog and I must say, I love it.

My son is 9 and in 3rd grade. So far, the kids are very kind and accepting of him, but I do worry about what will happen as he gets older and, ultimately, is in "the mix" with kids who "don't get it" once he reaches high school. It's wonderful of that teacher to have such a great group and it's fantastic that your son can be a part of it. I will come back to visit and to find out how PE turns out.

Eileen said...

How wonderful that he has a place he can go and feel welcomed and accepted. When I taught in HS, I had a few that would come hang out in my room (resource room) during lunch. It was a safe haven for them and I never minded. I have witnessed too many times how mean some kids can be.

I am so glad it worked out for your son. I hope you can get the same accomplished for PE.

Phil Schwarz said...

Bless that teacher.
(And the mama bear riding herd on the IEP team :-).)
Sometimes it *is* that simple.
Jeremy has autistic classmates for the first time, this year, since preschool. And guess what: now that there are peers around him who operate at *his* speed socially, he is becoming more social. All on his own. The item on the top of his birthday wish list this year was an extension phone for his bedroom. His classmates call him. He wants to get together with them outside of school. For the first time in *years*.
Yes, sometimes it *is* that simple.

LB said...

That is the best thing I've heard all day! So nice to know that your son has gotten some relief and has the help of people who care and understand both inside and outside of the school system.

Something that simple would have made an immeasurable improvement in my quality of life too, if someone had thought of it when I was your son's age.

I hope things work out that well for the PE thing too. Good luck to you both :)

Astryngia said...

Just what I needed to read today, having asked my son's school to give him a REAL break at breaktime, somewhere he can eat without the sensory overload of the canteen. How do they expect a child to be ready to focus and concentrate when they've just spent the last 20 minutes being turned into a zombie by the impact of 500 decibels !! ;-)

I found you through Kristina, too - hard on the heels of mommyguilt. :-) Hi, all! :-)

Cheryl said...

Found you via Astryngia - wonderful news! So pleased for you.

My son goes to a 'special needs' lunch club and hates it as much as the misunderstandings in the big hall - he feels excluded.

A 'science while you eat'club would be absolute heaven for him.