Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Shortly after we arrived home with Belle, it was time for Button to start "big school". At this stage he had a "working diagnosis" of autism - basically enough to get him some services, but not all. I enrolled him in our local school, a relatively big, all boys primary. He had and SNA (Special Needs Assistant) in the class with him and was given 5 hours of resource teaching a week.
His first day was absolutely nerve wracking for me. When I met his teacher for the first time, I immediately got the vibe that we were not going to be singing from the same hymn sheet! She was very strict and intimidating, and didn't listen to me at all when I briefly ran through the issues Button had, especially his auditory sensitivity and behaviour.
On picking him up she told me he had not been "too bad", but that he wouldn't do what she asked him! Well, what did she expect? I explained again, that he worked very well for reinforcement, and that all she needed to do was to find something he liked (at this point he loved shape sorters, so anything shape related would engage him!) and tell him "First work, then...."
Her response was "Knowledge should be it's own reward"!
We were very fortunate that his resource teacher was a lovely, calm and capable lady. She took him for the last hour of every day, and he achieved more for her than he ever did for his teacher.
As the days went on, Button's behaviour got worse and worse. His SNA had her hair pulled often, he screamed and screeched his way through the day and threw and ripped his work.
Button's OT and Psychologist had both been in to see the teacher and explain the way to get the best from him. it was important that his behaviour got no reward, and that he knew that he had to finish the task, no matter what he did. I learned later that when he acted up, his SNA would take him out to the yard to have a run around! Teacher also was fond of blowing a WHISTLE at her class of 4 and 5 year olds to keep them in line! Auditory sensitivity obviously didn't mean much to her!
His teacher told me on many occasions that she didn't think Button had autism - that his problems were "behavioural". So she didn't implement any of the strategies suggested to her. I have to say at this point, that I collected Button every day from the Resource room, so rarely spoke to the teacher, and was therefore unaware of how bad the situation was. In hindsight I should have taken him out of there after week 2!
In the Spring of 2007, Button's diagnosis was confirmed, so we could finally look at getting him into a more suitable educational placement. We had heard great things about an Outreach Class in a school about 20 minutes drive away, and were delighted when he was offered a place there. Mr Taz and I went to see the class and were immediately bowled over by the teacher. She was exactly what Button needed, calm, firm and lots of fun! The school Principal was passionate about his little class of ASD kids - he had gone on training courses himself and was so enthusiastic it was infectious. I could imagine Button being very happy there. All we had to do was to get through the rest of the school year.