Buddy’s Brother

It’s been two months since my last blog post. Right when I decided to post weekly, life happened. This time, it happened in the form of buddy’s brother. I finally have a nickname to use for him for this blog: B2. First, some background, so you understand. (Also, I am exhausted, so if this is rambly or doesn’t make sense, I apologize in advance)

B2 is five years older than Buddy. We used to live in a different state, where they didn’t do testing for special needs until at least third grade. He suffered a lot in school. Finally having him tested in this state was a big cause for celebration.

B2 started reading when he was three. By the time he was five, he was reading the Chronicles of Narnia, and could play and beat me at chess and Monopoly. When I enrolled him in school, I asked for them to let him skip Kindergarten and go to 1st grade. They denied my request. B2 was immensely bored.

He’s always been a great kid and rules were important to him, so even though he was bored, he paid attention. 1st grade turned into a nightmare when his intelligence caught the attention of bullies. Long story short, the police got involved, and I had to pull him from school to homeschool him.

After we moved to this state, I found many more school options. He attends a STEM school, which fits him wonderfully. STEM is a school that focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. He wants to be an astronaut, and he finally found a school that supports him in it. There’s one issue: this school has had no experience with an autistic child.

To be fair, that’s not accurate. I’m learning that there are so many programs and accommodations that are able to be made for Buddy and other kids that are “obviously” autistic. B2 is higher-functioning, and it seems easy for people to forget that he has the same needs Buddy does, just less often and generally to a lesser degree.

B2 did end up skipping a grade, as he tested out of it. At the beginning of 7th grade, this school year, he complained he was bored. I promptly went to the school and asked for them to consider letting him skip this grade, maybe test out. As is usual, I heard the dreaded word, “socialization.”

I’m unsure why NTs focus so much on that word. I’ve yet to see any student that is held back for socializing end up actually doing it. Instead, they do what B2 did and sit with older kids or teachers, people who are able to carry on a conversation on the same mental level — and they act out.

It started off simply enough. B2 got bored, so he stopped doing his work. He got in trouble for reading (of all things!) instead of doing his schoolwork. Then he got in trouble for sneaking out to read. When they stopped letting him leave the room and checked him as he came in for any books he might be hiding, he began using his laptop to access gaming websites. They took that away. He began messing with the students around him. This is where it really went south.

The kids he messed with, by playing with their hair or poking them in the back then acting like he didn’t do anything would get mad and decide to retaliate physically. The teacher would be teaching, and suddenly a kid would get up, yell, and shove B2 over. The kid would get into trouble. After it happened a few times, the teachers finally started putting cameras in their classrooms and found out what was really happening. B2 began getting into trouble that way, until the inevitable happened: he was suspended.

My blog posts stopped then. I began spending a ton of time at his school with various meetings — his teachers, the dean of discipline, the SPED team, the school counselor. They were all baffled as to why he “suddenly” was acting this way.

For the past two months, I had to fight for my son. I had to beg and plead for him not to be expelled, no summer school, and no repeating 7th grade. I tried explaining to them that if he’s bored, repeating 7th grade would be the worst thing they could do to him. I couldn’t make them listen until I finally went one-on-one. If I couldn’t convince them as a group, perhaps I could reach someone, even just one person, if I got them alone. It worked.

First, his science teacher told me he hasn’t had any trouble with B2. Science is his favorite subject, and the teacher told me he was always engaged and eager to participate. He had no issues in Art, Physical Education, Technology, or Spanish. I found that since math was difficult for him, he was doing well there, as he was actually learning. Social Studies was the same way. When I got all of the teachers alone, they admitted he was a great kid, highly intelligent, and they didn’t think he needed anything except to be challenged.

Like I said, he’s been reading since he was three. The library near us got so used to him coming in for books that they raised the limit on his account. He can check out up to 100 books each week. I won’t lie; most of them are manga. That being said, last week he read the Percy Jackson series and the follow up series, which are not thin books. He managed to read them after school and between his other engagements, such as church, Civil Air Patrol, youth group, library events, and fundraisers.

With his reading the way it is, he is failing his reading class. I had to practically sit on the teacher to get her to finally open up. She admitted the book this year was too easy for him — a mere fraction of the size of his other books, and it was quite old and not longer relevant. He hadn’t done almost any work to the point his grade in that class dropped to a 28. The only reason he didn’t have a zero was for work unrelated to the book.

English was the same. If it was challenging, he did it. Otherwise, he was failing the class with a 44. His teacher was ready to pour her heart out when we sat down to talk. She loved him, but he drove her crazy. She knew he could do the work and even stated she would not fail him at the end of the year because of it.

After meeting with each teacher, they wrote an anonymous letter with their recommendation. They all agreed — he was too smart for the 7th grade, but now it was almost over. They wanted him tested and then placed in classes according to his ability. It’s never been done at that school.

A specialist was called in. B2 had his IQ tested. He is officially labeled Gifted and Talented. Since it was an IQ test intended for 7th graders, they did not have a score for how high his intelligence is. They know it’s high, and the specialist referred to him as a genius throughout our meeting. She put in the recommendation that he be tested and take the classes that would actually challenge him.

We also set a plan in place to train his 8th grade teachers on how to handle a kid with high-functioning autism. We created a quiet space for him to go to when needed, a buddy system for field trips so he wouldn’t wander off, and a reward system. We agreed that if he could do his schoolwork, he would then be allowed to go to the library to read.

After two months of meetings and plans and arguments and forms, all of this has been settled. I sat down with B2 and told him everything that had gone on. He sat there quietly, listened, and then shrugged when I was done. “Okay.” He walked off. I didn’t think I had reached him.

Last night, he asked if he could do a school assignment on my computer. I sat nearby to make sure he did that and nothing else, and he did. He did his schoolwork… and another… another…. He stayed up until 5am. This morning, I had a binder full of assignments to drop off at the school (as he’s suspended again). His English teacher nearly cried. She flipped through her set, marveling over it all. He even did an assignment she had canceled.

I think we may have gotten it right. It’s so easy to remember that Buddy has needs and needs accommodations made in school, and so easy to forget that while B2 may function better, he still needs help. He still gets overstimulated, still has meltdowns, still needs to be reminded to focus. While I had originally requested an aide, the plan we have in place makes me optimistic for his future. In a few months, when the testing is done, I’ll post the results.

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