Butterflies, Colored Balls, and Puzzles
We took Cameron to orientation for his new school two nights ago. The school itself is fairly new. They Autism classroom is even newer.
It was interesting to walk unmarked and shiny floors, and to explore a school we’d never been in. No one knew exactly where the classroom was located, so the Special Education Coordinator had to periodically search the halls for new groups and bring them to the classroom.
You may recall that I initially had a strong reaction to Cameron’s being switched to another school, having his routine disrupted so much. I thought it would throw him off. After all, the old Cameron would have put up a fight, and been so out of his element, that he would have closed down.
The new Cameron, the one that we and his former teacher and aids worked so hard to bring forth, has adapted to change wonderfully. He stated that if his friends from his old school were going there, he was too.
I have to say, I think Cameron might have been one of the most comfortable kids there that night. That might not seem like much to the ordinary person, but to an Autism parent, it means a lot.
Some children picked up an activity and closed the rest of the room out. Some of them wandered from room to room, with a fair amount of ease, but not a lot of interest. These were probably the ones who had been there for Summertime Programming.
Cameron explored all areas with great interest, picking everything up and trying it out. He checked out the sensory room, then moved on to the toy room, where he stayed for most of our visit.
My husband and I had a few questions for his new teacher, so we lingered at the front of the room for a few minutes. I asked her what they do in the case of discipline. She replied that they like to “reinforce positive behaviors.”
This didn’t get to the heart of what I really wanted to know, so I asked directly.
“This will never become necessary with Cameron, but do you restrain them?”
She said, “We are trained to restrain, in case a child becomes dangerous to themselves or others, but I have never had to do it. I have taught teenage Autistic children, and never had to restrain one.”
This didn’t quite set right with me, but what could I do at that moment? I filed that away for further review.
Afterward, I explored the room, while my husband watched for the return of the Special Education Coordinator. I checked out the toy room, where my son was playing with one of those puzzles that has the ball you have to get to the other side of the obstacles.
I then headed for the sensory room. I had never been in the one at the old school, so I had no idea what to expect. It was a small room, not really impressive. There was a string of colored butterflies around the edge of the doorway. There was a tent in the middle of the room, in case the child really wanted to separate themselves from the chaos of the world. There was a multi-colored ball in the corner of the room. It didn’t spin or pulse. I suppose it was simply intended to be soothing. There was also some sort of vibrating thing that could be rubbed on the child’s back for further soothing or distraction.
As I looked around, a girl walked in with her mother. She appeared to be between 11 and 15. She had lingered in the hall for quite some time, and they had finally gotten her into the room, only to head directly for the sensory room.
As she walked in, she was saying in a panicked tone, “I don’t wanna be here. I have to get out of here.” She repeated this many times. I felt sorry for her and her mom, but grateful that my child was adjusting so well.
My husband finally tracked down the woman to whom he wanted to speak. He was concerned over whether or not she’d keep her promise to let us have the vans for transportation to and from school. She assured us both that arrangements had been made, and that all but two of the parents had insisted upon the very same thing.
When everything wrapped up, and we were headed down the hall, Cameron had a bounce to his step and a positive attitude, which can be a rare thing with an Autistic child. Thankfully, he’s quite high-functioning.
I asked him, “Why are you so happy?”
He replied, “Because the new school is great!”
We had walked in cautious, and left cautiously optimistic. It was progress for all of us.