I want to look back at Caleb's school years...
When Caleb was around 2, his therapists encouraged/forced me to send Caleb to pre-school. I was very resistant, but they assured me it was for his best.
I brought him everyday he was to attend, and everyday they had to pry a screaming, kicking, flailing young boy out of my arms. He was not impressed with pre-school.
His pre-school in Brantford was a dud. His teachers seemed more irritated by him than anything else, and they basically told me he would always be severely delayed and separate from the students his age. There was one woman there who did seem to see a light in his eyes though. She always seemed to be trying to encourage him, and would tell me what he had done well that day, instead of just telling me how delayed he was.
When we moved to Bancroft and Caleb started a new pre-school, he still screamed when I dropped him off. In fact, he would scream and cry for at least 1/4 of a kilometre before we even got there! Poor lamb.
I felt better leaving him there though, as I knew his teacher and helpers really seemed to enjoy having him around, even though he would have melt-downs and was a distraction to his classmates.
They saw there was more going on in his wee head. They helped him learn his alphabet, to count and recognize numbers, and to identify shapes.
When we lived in Arden, Caleb attended Land O' Lakes Public School. He got to ride the (big, regular) bus, which seemed to relieve a lot of his tension about going to school. The kid loved school buses!
By God's grace, his bus driver was a wonderful woman in her 60's who's brother (at the time in his 50's) had autism.
I walked Caleb to the bus, and explained to her Caleb's "isms", and that I was so sorry if he squealed too loud because he was excited about the bus, and that he may just be too loud in general!
She was patient and kind, and didn't even mention about her brother until the Christmas break when we gave her a gift, and she had one for Caleb! A Bluebird school bus money-bank. I cried when Caleb ripped it open, and grabbed his crotch in delight at the fantastic bus he was holding. She knew how much he enjoyed riding the bus, and buses in general, and went out of her way to bless him.
She honestly laid a foundation to school for Caleb. She was friendly, and understanding. She helped the bus ride to and from school be a relaxing one (as much as is possible!)
Beyond the bus driver was Caleb's Kindergarten teacher who was such an amazing woman. Caleb never did manage to say her name right, but he loved her. And she genuinely loved Caleb. She was also key in finally getting him potty trained! Miracle!!!
He still had melt-downs, he wasn't learning to read very well. He was behind in most things, and was an interference in the class, but she persisted, and loved him through it all!
For a few years after we had left Arden she would still connect with me on Facebook to see how Caleb was doing. I'm not on FB anymore, so we've lost touch, but I know she would be bursting proud of her little Caleb and how far he's come!
To give you an example of how much he loved her and his experience in Kindergarten, Caleb has recently been saying, "Caleb will go to college, then will go to Mountain Grove school (what he calls the Land O' Lakes school) and will be a kindergarten teacher".
In 2010 we lived in Roslin, and Caleb started attending the school he is still at, St. Carthagh Catholic School.
He had a rough start there, not due in part to any one person, but for a poor group effort. He struggled a lot, and it felt like his longest school year ever.
I actually blame most of that year on myself and my lack of gumption to get in there and make right the things I saw that were wrong. I talked with my oldest sister who had dealt with putting special needs kids through school, and armed with some strategies to fix the year, I arranged to see the principal to sort some things out. She teared up when I told her the kind of year I had been having with Caleb. She had no idea we were struggling so much, and promised to make it right.
She did help us fix what was left of the year by way of opening a dialogue between us and the school, and we started to see improvements-if only by way of understanding what kind of day Caleb had. It helped us to know there was (for instance) a fire drill, and we could reason that the meltdown he was having the instant he got off the bus was a delayed reaction to a chaotic day at school.
In grade 2 we were still in Roslin (for only another 2 months or so), but Caleb got to attend the same school two years in a row! Woot woot! We were excited to see him take root and really start to grow.
I planned to stop into the class a few weeks into school, and talk to the kids about Caleb. I thought he would have a better chance of making friends if they knew who he was, and what autism was.
His e.a. had him out of the class, and I went and chatted with a group of the sweetest grade two's I've ever met.
I explained about autism, and how he seemed different, but how he was really the same. I said he had a blow-dryer brain, when everyone else had a toaster brain. I told the kids Caleb could make toast with his blow-dryer brain, it would just take longer. They all loved the idea of the brains as electronics.
The best part of the visit was when I asked if anyone had any questions they needed answered about Caleb; about his sometimes strange behaviours, his crazy noises, why he has meltdowns, etc.
Instead I got a lot of, "Um......did you know can sink a basketball in the highest net in the yard?". I did not know that. "Caleb's Mom, did you know that Caleb sings O Canada the best out of everyone every morning?". Didn't know that either.
That beautiful class of kids had NO questions for me, only things they wanted to tell me about how wonderful he was.
I knew this would be a turning year for him, and I was so glad he got to stay in the same school with a group of kids who had already gotten to know him, and loved him as he was.
In grade 3 Caleb had the same teacher as grade 2, and that made me happy! Not only was she a wonderful teacher to Caleb, but I knew having her again would help Caleb progress because she knew him and what he was capable of.
The other huge thing for Caleb this year was having the same E.A. So, that lucky boy got the same teacher and the same E.A. 2 years in a row! It was like an answered prayer I hadn't even uttered, the Lord just knew!
That amazing E.A. wrote a post for me back in December, and it's worth a read. It demonstrates how much she cared for Caleb as a person, but also from a very educational point of view too.
That year saw Caleb change and grow a lot, and it was due to the amazing staff at his school. I will admit openly that on this particular year I relaxed in my intense care and advocacy for Caleb at school. I felt so confident in him, and in the people I had entrusted him to, that I relaxed my special-needs-kid-death-grip on his school. It felt like I was able to breath for the first time when I sent him on the bus and watched him leave in the morning.
Last year, in grade 4, Caleb got a new teacher, who was wonderful and really thought Caleb was fantastic. But in December his e.a. got offered a job working at the head office of the school board, and after the Christmas holiday Caleb came back to school to a new e.a.
He knew his new e.a. from school already, which really helped the transition, but I think the situation really let him shine and demonstrate how much he had changed and grown in the last few years.
In the past, he would have a good day at school, then get home and fall apart. Or, he would have a rotten day at school, then come home and be so sweet and wonderful. His adapting skills were so poor, and he internalized changes that bothered him, then let them explode in severe ways.
The new year came, and with it a new e.a., and he took all the changes in stride, and had more consistent days where no matter what was happening, he would pull himself together, and keep moving.
He finished the year off strong, and we were so proud of him and all he had accomplished.
This year, Caleb has the e.a. he got last January, and we know she cares for him, and we know she wants him to succeed.
She challenges him, but we know that he is also becoming aware and accountable to himself. He wants to read more consistently, is using better words (though his manners are still sort of appalling!), and he loves math (yuk!). :)
Caleb has two teachers this year who I think will be good for him. They seem to "get" him, and want to see him do his best.
Last week we went to a meet-the-teacher/start of school year bbq.
As soon as we got there Caleb vanished, and was swept away in a crowd of boys. The kids were talking with him (while he semi-ignored them. Caleb style.), sharing their DS and phones with him to play games, and goofing around with him while he shouted about his "crabby paddie!" (his g.f. cheeseburger I brought him).
I started this post because I was looking through photos, and saw the one of Caleb in pre-school, and thought, "wow, what a wild ride!"
I can't believe where Caleb has gotten in the 10 years of his life.
When he was young we didn't want any more kids because he was too much to handle and we didn't think we could possibly manage it. I would cry a lot beside his crib while he slept, wondering why God would burden me with this little boy who was so difficult every minute of the day.
His early years were more pain and heartache than success, and sometimes it felt like one step forward, then being shoved back 10 steps.
The key though is to get back up, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward. Raising a child with special needs, and navigating the school years and the school system can be frightening-forget that, it IS frightening!
Fight for your child, pray for your child, and get the best for your child!
If something within the school is not sitting right with you, get it sorted! It's your kid, and you can voice your concerns! But also, try to see that usually (though not always), the school will have at least one teacher, e.a. or a principal who truly and deeply wishes for your child to succeed. Find that faculty member, and make an ally!
We have seen hard years for Caleb at school, but we have also seen a school that loves Caleb, and has gotten to know him-sometimes we feel they know him better than we do!
We were joking recently that if my husband and I died, we are going to leave Caleb in the care of his school.
I feel like I've been writing about school a lot...maybe I have, maybe I haven't. But, I want to sing the praises of his school! I know this new school year has only just started, but I have so much faith in the people working at St. Carthagh's that I feel so blessed.
Caleb had a "incident" last week that my husband and I were confused about. When we talked with the principal about it, it brought my husband to tears to realize how well the school knows Caleb, and how much they advocate for him-even amongst themselves!
So, this is a random, start of the new school year thank-you to Caleb's school!
To the staff who love him, and to the kids who accept him. I would love to say that my husband and I, and Caleb's siblings have crafted him into this fabulous (and seriously goofy) kid he is today, but I would be a liar (pants on fire).
What a blessing you have all been in our lives. We love you and pray for you daily that God will continue to use you in Caleb's life. It also prompts us to pray for special needs kids and their parents who need a boost; for families who don't have a wonderful school to rely on, or teachers or e.a's or a principal who truly care.
To Caleb's school-you are wonderful-every one of you!!!
Hi, I'm Amy-Lyn!
I am the lady behind this here blog! I live in the sticks with my animals, my super handsome husband, and my
3 amazing kids!
Here you'll find things from recipes (gluten-free, paleo, and strait up junk food!), DIY ideas, thoughts on raising a son with autism, and whatever else pops into my brain! : )
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