Looking back at Grade 1 as we get closer to celebrating Johnny’s 7th birthday, this has been an amazing year for Johnny. Every single day he goes to school with a smile on his face and a little hippity hop getting on the school bus. He really enjoys his teacher, he has some friends, and he is learning so much.
“Mommy I am working so very very hard every day.”
He spent 80% of his time in the Grade One classroom with all the other children learning at Grade One level and he had an Educational Assistant with him. The rest of the day he went back-and-forth learning social and self-regulation skills in the Intensive Support Autistic classroom.
It’s been an amazing year especially since we were a little worried at the beginning when we were told that the best spot for him would be designated in the autism room and then go back-and-forth to the regular room. We feel he learns best integrated with his peers so he can model after them then in a separate classroom. At the beginning of Grade One, they thought that Johnny would only be in the classroom 50% of the time and then he would be in the other room learning regulation and social skills and then coached on how to handle the grade one room. Because of Johnny’s intellectual and cognitive abilities and his determination he showed everyone that he should be in the Grade 1 classroom learning with his peers. All that was needed was that the teacher adapt the material when he needed it according to his way of approaching the work. Johnny looked at being in the regular classroom as a big reward and once he got past some attention seeking behaviour he becomes a serious student. He endeared himself to the Grade 1 teacher by singing to her when he entered the classroom and received applause but soon moved past that and told me everyday “Mommy I worked so hard in Miss ******* classroom. You are so proud of me.” Johnny seems to be excelling learning in this format. If he’s working on a project in the regular classroom and says he needs extra time or is finding it too noisy or something then he can go and take his work and go to the other classroom.
The teachers and other professionals made some assumptions about Johnny at the beginning of the year but he proved everybody wrong. He was able to do Grade One, do the work and learn. His handwriting has made a big leap of improvement and I am absolutely overjoyed because I know how hard this has been for him. He persevered and did it and I find it amazing how determined he is. When it comes to reading, teachers and autism team people felt the best way for him to learn to read is to learn by rote method and memorize words, then look at pictures match with words etc. His Educational Assistant knew better because she’s the one that works closely with him and knows Johnny knows his phonetic alphabet. She’s also worked with him since he was four years old and she said he does memorize some sight words just like all the other children but its more about him learning how to produce specific sounds correctly and work pass his motor speech delay and not about understanding the decoding of words.
At home Johnny sits with the iPad and I hear him sounding out words as he uses an app where you can create your own stories. I look over and see him sitting and thinking about what he wants to try and type after choosing and inputing a picture into his story. He is trying to type a sentence that he has thought about and is literally sitting there sounding it out. The teachers and the professionals at school didn’t think he can do it all on his own. I now keep my iPhone close so I can quickly video Johnny doing this so that when there is doubt I can show what he is doing unprompted. Sometimes all the face to face meetings in the world will not move your case foreword but one video showing my son’s abilities gives us the push in the right direction.
Johnny now stands in front of his Grade One class and he makes presentations. I have to pinch myself after typing this because it really wasn’t that long ago that he couldn’t speak. He has fun doing the presentations and he loves it. Here is something we helped him print out pictures and put together for his class project:
So in the future Johnny, when you sit and read this blog I want you to know that Mommy and Daddy are very proud of all the hard work you do. We think you are absolutely amazing showing everybody that you can do this. Everyday you show Grandpa in heaven that he was right all along about you. Here is his favourite saying that he would tell me when I was growing up and what he would say to “you” when he was looking after you Johnny. He’d say it over and over again…
“There is no such word as can’t. You just haven’t figured out a way to do it yet but that’s okay. Just know that all you have to do is try and try again but in the end…. you can. Never let anyone tell you, you can’t.”
Dad he can;)