A new school year is always filled with change as students start a new grade and get to know new teachers, but this year has a special beginning. Princess, Johnny’s little sister began Junior Kindergarten this September. She is now in full time all day kindergarten and rides the school bus with her brother to school. Johnny was getting worried during the first few days because she had a staggered entry because she was beginning school for the first time. It was only then that I realized how important it was for his sister to be going to his school.
Johnny had been very upset to go back to school just days before school started. He had been having a happy fun filled summer when suddenly we only had one week left before school starts. He tried very hard to convince me that he needed an extra week of holidays so that he could stay home with me and finish his projects. He would start to cry over little things going wrong. He also started having troubles sleepying. We decided as we got closer to the start of school we would scale back our holiday weekend fun to low key activities like go to the park or the neighbourhood splash pool.
To add to our concerns we knew that the Autism Intensive Support Room teacher who Johnny got close to last year and who was suppose to be teaching him for the next few years had decided for personal reasons to change jobs at the school. He’d be teaching in another program and would see Johnny but not with him all the time. There would be a new teacher in the special education room as well as the expected new Grade 2 teacher. I have gotten into the habit that every year just before school starts we drop by the school and let Johnny take a wander around and get his bearings and meet the teachers. This year he was adamant that he didn’t want to at all. He went as far as not wanting to walk past the school when we went to and from the park. Since we were not visiting the school we decided to email a note of introduction on Johnny’s behalf to the Principal to pass onto the new ISP room teacher.
I also decided to contact Johnny’s EA or Educational Assistant who has worked closely with Johnny during kindergarten and grade 1 to make sure she will be back so that he can hang on to some sort of continuity. “Tell him I am back and not to worry. We will have lots of fun and I will see him in 4 sleeps.” When I told him he smiled a “secret” smile to his own thoughts. I knew it would be okay.
Once Johnny came to school and saw the teachers he knew and his friends I knew everything would be okay. It really helped that last years ISP room teacher was there to introduce him to the new teacher as well. He became visibly relaxed and was literally bursting with happiness and hiding his face when they said hello. He saw one of the boys from his Autism class arrive with his family and he immediately got very happy and went over to say greet him. The boy was upset and didn’t want to leave his parents but it got easier when he saw Johnny’s smiling face. With a little prompting they had a little conversation which was great! It was the first time I saw my son being the mentor or senior taking the lead as he demonstrated his advanced skills. He has worked so very hard over the last few years so it made us very proud to see him generalize this skill. Even with the introduction of a new nonverbal boy into his special education class, he has quickly fallen into his routines.
On the second day of school the new special education teacher asked Johnny if he was ready to meet his Grade 2 teacher and spend time in his other classroom. With a big smile he told them YES! So on Princess’s first day of kindergarten her big brother spent the entire day included and immersed into his Grade 2 class. I would say that the new school year is starting out just right.