Ok, so I know he’s not a baby anymore- he’s a VERY large 6 year old, but this was my thought the other day when Bryce’s teacher mentioned how well he was doing in class and she thinks he should go mainstream with a full-time aide. It’s a two-edged sword, really. Every parent of a special needs child wants their child to be as “normal” as possible, but on the other hand wants to protect their child from those same “normal” kids! Bryce has been improving by leaps and bounds since going back to school after the Christmas break. He’s always been bright academically and this baby Kindergarten stuff really isn’t all that challenging for him. He, of course, has gaps in his abilities, so he still has to maintain the course he’s on, but his teacher has started him in First grade math and reading/writing comprehension. He also does all First grade spelling! So, to give him more of an appropriate and challenging school atmosphere, she believes he should go mainstream next year for First grade. (Which by then will be baby-easy for him, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.)
Now, it’s not that I don’t trust Bryce’s teacher, but I value the opinion of this ABA therapist much more. She is the one who spends 2 hours every day with him one-on-one and she really knows him by now. She has figured out his personality and learning style, and whether he needs time to answer a question or has just wandered “off task.” So I asked her after school whether she thought mainstreaming him was a good idea. She just jumped at the idea and STRONGLY recommended it for him. I was surprised by how adamant she was about the idea. She would be his full-time classroom aide, to keep him involved, on task, and help him when he doesn’t understand. Autistic kids don’t naturally follow the example of their peers, and need to be taught how to take cues from others. In his special ed class, he doesn’t get the peer examples, since all the kids in there are learning disabled in one way or another. Bryce’s therapist thinks that only good will come from mainstreaming him, so it looks like we’ll be having another IEP meeting at the end of the school year to get that all set up. Now I just have to fight to keep him at his current school. His therapist would go with him to any school he attends in the district, but I like his school and I want to keep things as familiar as possible for him.
As to what this means for the future, especially as he ages in middle school and high school, I’m not sure. We just have to take things one day at a time and make the best decision we can for him at each crossroad.