What You Don’t Know Is What You Don’t Know
Shannon asked about me doing a classroom observation of Charlie to help with the current school situation. I would love to do that and to explain Jim's and my understanding of how Charlie communicates via what he does—via his behaviors—to the teachers, aides, and therapists. Unfortunately I don't think my suggesting that to our school district would result in me observing as:
Our school district specifies that parents may observe the classroom from October through May, on scheduled visits. (Teachers also make monthly home visits during these months only.)
When, this past summer, I asked about being present during a speech evaluation for Charlie, I was informed via an email from the Special Education Director that:
"the presence of any other adults would be a distraction to your son and therefore tamper with the results"
Accordingly, I kind of suspect that, being "just a parent," a request to visit Charlie's classroom would not be "allowed" due to concerns about "tampering with" something or other.
Back in August, Jim and I arranged for a behaviorist who used to oversee Charlie's home ABA program to observe him during summer school. The school district's behaviorist was there (not unexpected). Right after his old home behaviorist left, Charlie got upset (as manifested by grabbing); everyone I've mentioned this to (including Charlie's neurologist and a neuropsychologist) said that it was not surprising that a "behavior" took place following the departure of a visitor. A request for Charlie's old home behaviorist to visit his classroom in September was not "allowed," and I was told by the school district that I was to notify it/them in writing as to the "purpose of a second visit."
Behavior is communication. For all of us (school districts, mine, etc. included).
Since last week, we have been been driving Charlie to school. He has to wear the helmet on the bus as specified in an April letter written by his case manager. As he's only wearing it at our town's public middle school, Jim and I decided on driving him and hand over the helmet to an aide or teacher. (Charlie is to wear it home on the bus, as also specified in the April letter.)
Charlie's taken the bus to school every year that we moved into our current town, since June of 2006. Back in 2003-2005, when he went to school in a different New Jersey town, I drove him most days and picked him up, too. Doing so enabled me to be at the school with the students and teachers and staff there, to hear the school's sounds and note people coming and going and see what was hanging on the walls;
to get a sense of the pulse of the school as a community.
Charlie's current public middle school is large (with some 1400 students) and its beige-brown buildings are all on one level. It is located not very far from where his grandparents' house of 30+ years is. There's a big parking lot at the entrance, a circle in front of the school, and some swampy fields beyond. There's no track, basketball courts, etc. (the high school has these, and so, come to think of it, did one of Charlie's elementary schools).
My public junior high in Oakland, California, was just about the same color as Charlie's and the buildings were all one level too, but they were terraced (the school was in the Oakland hills) and you could walk out of most of them into breezeways. There were also—as there were at every public school I attended in California—portable buildings in rows between the main buildings and the woodshop classrooms. It was a very different sort of school than Charlie's: I remember my junior high as a place of chaos, noise, objects flying in the air, and stuff going on by the sticky picnic tables near where the AC Transit buses lined up, and amid the pine trees. It's quite quiet in Charlie's middle school and it's possible, I suppose, never to go outside the whole school day.
I don't remember if there were any special education students at my junior high school. That's not because there were none (this was the very early 1980s). I was completely oblivious to anything but my books and homework (which there wasn't enough of, or enough that was challenging) and my small circle of friends. For all I know, more than a few Charlies were in some classroom out by the woodshop room, or in a less traveled portable. I just don't know.
And as for what the other students at Charlie's school know about him, or are told: That, among things, I just don't know.
What I do know: This boy is taking to his new old bike like a natural.