I am so very thankful today for acceptance. In this case, for the acceptance of my son by the staff and students at his new school which has literally made my year.
Gilbert had his first formal transition visit to his local public school yesterday. We were all nervous and anxious about it, not really knowing how he would fare outside his special education classroom.
We met his current ASPECT teacher in the school office and were then taken to the COLA for morning assembly. Gilbert sat next to me and stayed still and quiet for the duration, which was a really great achievement in itself.
But when I started to leave as the students went into class, he got anxious and started holding onto me asking whether I could come in to class with him too.
I knew I couldn’t stay but stayed positive and encouraged him to go to the classroom with the coordinator and his ASPECT teacher. He started to get upset and I feared for the success of the visit at the very first hurdle.
I eventually disengaged myself from his grasp and he went with the teachers (not very happily mind you, but it showed all was not lost!) I walked anxiously back to the car to go to work, hoping that he was okay and that he wouldn’t have a meltdown the minute he got into the classroom.
I was on the edge of my seat all morning, waiting for a phone call to let me know how things went. In the end I couldn’t wait any longer and ended up ringing the school at lunchtime (sad, I know!).
Despite my fears, things had gone well. He was happy to enter the classroom once the other kids had gone inside and sat up the back while the class did their news. He also participated in reading groups before each child came up to him individually to introduce themselves.
This could have gone either way, but happily, for all of us, he enjoyed meeting them all. He even told me that Riley liked Scooby Doo (which is one of Gilbert’s favourites at the moment!) and that Jenna wanted to play with him in Lunch 2!
For most people this wouldn’t mean much, but for us, this was amazing. Listening is not a strong suit for anyone on the autism spectrum and for him to remember 2 kids out of the 20 odd introduced to him PLUS remembering what they said to him, that is beyond fantastic.
What was more encouraging was his enthusiasm for the follow up visits that have now been planned. He is most excited about the all day visit that will happen in a few weeks time. He has already asked if he can wear the full school uniform on that day and was most upset when I told him next week’s planned visit has been delayed – all very encouraging signs for him.
While Gilbert really embraced the visit, I am so thankful and grateful that the school has embraced him. They have painted the many poles dotted around the school to make it easier for him to see them, they talked to the kids before he started and told them his name and asked that they welcome him and look out for him.
They have listened to the vision and autism special education teachers to learn how best to teach him. They have consulted us and have included us in most decisions surrounding him. Most of all, every teacher, every aide, every one of the support staff have made the effort to say hello to him and make sure he feels welcome and safe whenever he has come to the school.
I believe this genuine care for him has made the difference in his attitude to transitioning to the school and I believe this care and attention will be the reason for the eventual success of this process. I know it is still early days yet, but I am so very thankful and grateful for the welcome we have received so far – it means far more than the world to me!