In just two weeks my baby boy will begin Kindergarten! I can hardly believe this day is here! It seems like just yesterday he was babbling away on the changing table.
I’ve purchased his backpack, lunchbox, school supplies, and school uniforms. So now we excitedly wait for the first day of school. He seems to be understanding and taking it well that he’ll be attending a new school. He’s not keen on having to wear a uniform, but we’ve made some adjustments for him to make him more comfortable.
As a parent, I am slightly anxious about him entering Kindergarten. I know all parents go through this stage of wonder and anxiousness; what teacher is my child going to have and is it going to be a good fit. My biggest concern is his happiness with a teacher who will “get” him, click with him, be patient and understanding of his needs, yet also firm, unwavering, and consistent.
We have such a sweet and caring boy on our hands, but I’m not naive about the struggles and behaviors he also has. We need to have a teacher who will work WITH us, and understand that, as a teacher myself, I am there to support him/her 100%. I don’t make excuses for my child, and we still hold him to expectations, but he does need a little extra than most kids.
Having a child with Asperger’s ASD is challenging. There’s so much coaching and mentoring that goes into social situations. There’s a lot of intentional conversations daily that occur with him, like how to talk to people, how to look them in the eye, how to say hello, how not to get in people’s faces when talking to them, how to monitor personal space proximity EVERY TIME we are in a social situation, how to use proper tone of voice so you do not sound rude and condescending (boy, is this a constant) every time you talk, and so much more. If we do not give these reminders and coaching sessions constantly, and usually RIGHT before they happen, his social skills are almost nonexistent. He may not answer people when spoken to, he may hide, he may make a silly remark or stick his tongue out, he may get in someone’s face when talking or slam a toy he has in his hand into their stomach (not to be malicious, but just because he has difficulty gaging these things or understanding, still, what’s appropriate and inappropriate), or he will be disrespectful and argue with everything someone says (just for the sake of arguing), he may lay on the floor, and because he is so uncomfortable around new people, he may get frustrated that he’s even in the social situation he’s in and become angry by scowling and refusing to say or do anything. Other times he will talk in this very monotone and matter of fact way that is very black and white, and very quick to correct all of your errors. This isn’t always avoided when I talk to him beforehand to give those reminders, but, I can at least rest easy that there’s a good chance I’ve mitigated the social environment to a degree by putting in some effort beforehand.
These situations happen with strangers or people he knows quite well. It happens when there’s a lot of people around. It happens when he’s overwhelmed. It’s hit or miss. And I just know that in these times others wonder, “Has this parent taught any manners at all?” I know because I see it on their faces. I want them to know so badly how much effort my husband and I both put into this, but how do you say that? You don’t. You just do your best to correct it in the moment and go about your business. All the coaching and modeling helps, but I know my talks with Blake are not foolproof. They will continue to arise,
I read an article recently in Psychology Today titled “Are Aspergians Really Rude?”I love reading up on these things because it helps me to understand B. His way of communicating is often very blunt and forthcoming. He’s quite sarcastic, but dryly, and he doesn’t seem to understand the implications of his tone oftentimes. His counselor has commented that he’s far more sarcastic than any child his age (5) and he’s very funny, but only because his humor is beyond his years, and he’s not intentionally trying to be funny at all. He just tells everything like it is. If you want to know something, ask B. He won’t sugar coat it for you! I recognize that being blunt is also part of his age, that all kids see the world from a different lens and don’t see the harm in just saying what they see when they’re younger, but it’s quite different in Asperger’s kids because, for him, it doesn’t really get turned off. He is quick to give parenting advice to others when a child is misbehaving, funny because he doesn’t recognize this in himself as easily-ha!
All of this concerns me about how he is going to be in Kindergarten. Please understand I’m not as concerned ABOUT his teacher as I am FOR his teacher.
VPK had its ups and downs as we navigated and tested ways to help him have a successful year, and it didn’t come without trials. We finally settled into a daily behavior chart where his teachers communicated all his activities throughout the day with a smiley face, straight face, or sad face, and they commented on particular behaviors. Usual comments were issues with personal space (getting too close to others, too aggressive on the playground because he doesn’t recognize his strength at all, particularly during games of tag and such), hyper and rowdy, easily frustrated with peers and not able to manage his emotions. The daily communication back and forth helped immensely because the immediate feedback was helpful for him. He would get so excited to show me his “orange folder” at the end of every day, even when he knew it wasn’t a good day. He must love our mommy and Blake talks! Haha!
It was also helpful that his teachers allowed him to cope with being too overstimulated or frustrated in the classroom. He would usually go over to the housekeeping area and reorganize it, or draw to calm down, then return to the activity. It also helps immensely when he can be coached and redirected in the moment.
Now that we’ve learned different strategies in the past year through school, OT, counseling, and Speech, I want to help his Kindergarten teacher by setting him/her up for success by sharing what I know works. As a teacher myself, I know how overbearing parents can be, so my biggest concern is coming across like one of those parents who is trying to be helicopter/lawnmower (whatever the heck the term is that’s now circulating), mom. My heart and true intention are only meant to help, not to make the teacher feel that she’s inadequate. So, I can only pray that my communication attempts from the beginning come across the way I intend: as a true partnership from 2 parents who support the teacher 100% and want to lessen any bumps in the road. I don’t want to scare her, but I’m hoping she sees it, immediately falls in love with who he is, embraces him, but also feels comfortable laying down the law, while bending some things that will accommodate him.
I’ve struggled with sharing information or not sharing it with his teacher right from the beginning, and have considered just waiting for her to contact us. But then I thought about myself as a teacher, and how I would welcome any extra information from the parents that would help me immediately in the classroom.
I hope his teacher feels the same way because I created a one-page informational page to give her on our sweet boy. Did you hear what I said? ONE PAGE! Guys, if you know me then the fact that I could make this into one page is HUGE for me! I’m not exactly a pithy person, hence this long blog post to finally get to the point that I have a (hopefully helpful) sheet to share with you all that might come in handy for your special needs child.
I filled it out for B and plan on giving it to his teacher at Meet the Teacher, or when all of his Meet the Teacher paperwork is filled out and returned in his backpack.
Below is the template I made and with B’s information, though I’ve crossed some off. This should give you a general idea.
If this template is something that interests you, you can download your own blank template here.
I hope that by sharing this then I can help another special needs parent enter the school year feeling a little better about having communicated ahead of time so that we can help to create true partnerships between teachers and parents.
I hope everyone has a great school year!