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Monday, January 31, 2011

New Year, New Rules

So the year started out rocky.  We've been in and out of school thanks to snow and sickness. Of course, any change in routine really messes Aidan up, so we've been struggling somewhat to have good days. Overall though, it's been a really good year. We got back Aidan's annual goal progress report which allows us to see how well his IEP is working for him and what kind of progress he's made toward his goals this year (hence the name...). We had two major goals.

  • Goal: By the end of the 2010-2011 school year, Aidan will exhibit appropriate social skills by controlling his excitement, using an inside voice, asking for a break, and staying seated 8 out of 10 times.
    • As of 10/08/2010: Some progress had been made, and mastery was anticipated: "He loves being in Kindergarten! He has been asking for breaks and controlling his excitement. He has his days but the General Ed teacher reports that he has done great!"
    • As of 12/17/2010: Some progress has been made, and mastery was anticipated: "Aidan is a great typical Kindergarten boy. He is using an indoor voice, asking for breaks, and staying seated. We are working on him listening and staying on task. He loves to make friends. We are working on the dos and don'ts of how to play with friends and not get in trouble.
  • Goal: By the end of the 2010-2011 school year, Aidan will improve his basic living skills by demonstrating the ability to fasten and unfasten small button closings on his clothes and tie his shoes and write his numbers 1-10 in 3 out of 4 trials.
    • As of 10/08/2010: Some progress had been made, and mastery was anticipated. "He is able to fasten his buttons and clothing. We are working on tying a knot on a shoe. He is doing great in writing his numbers but has to be reminded to slow down and write smaller."
    • As of 12/17/2010: Some progress has been made, mastery is anticipated. "Aidan is working on tying his shoes, he is able to zip up his own jacket. He is able to write his numbers when he is on task and focused. If he is not focused, staff will make him redo his writing and he does very well the 2nd time."
So all in all a very good report. We're excited to see that he's doing so well and enjoying his second go at kindergarten.

Today we had a meeting with Ms. Simmons (the kindergarten teacher) and Ms. Annie (the autism unit teacher) to discuss preparing Aidan for first grade next year. Since he started at Johnson he's been using a system that required him to earn 4 baseballs in order to earn a reward at the end of the day (a toy, computer time, time in the sensory room, etc). He is also required to earn all of his baseballs to get to play his DS when he gets home. Basically what this means is that as he progresses through his day, he'll earn a token at certain intervals if he's met the behavioral expectations. If he hasn't done well (i.e. pushing, running in the hall, refusing to do his work) then he doesn't get the baseball. Ms. Simmons has decided that it is time to phase out the baseballs. She has her own behavioral system in her room that involves check marks for bad behavior and consequences for those checks such as time outs or losing the opportunity to participate in the sharing portion of show-and-tell on Fridays. Her biggest concern about the token system is that Aidan obsesses over how many baseballs he's getting. We're hoping that if we get rid of this system it will free up his concentration for other things. She also asked that we not make a big deal at home out of behavioral problems at school since he gets punished for them at school.

Secondly, we discussed the end of sending him back to the autism unit for the last 15-20 minutes of every day. He used to go down to Ms. Annie's room for the last 45 minutes to an hour, but that was distressing him for a couple of different reasons; he really wanted to stay with his group, and he felt like the autism unit was the "baby room". Because of this they switched the majority of his time in the autism unit to the morning as soon as he gets to school. Currently he spends about 30 minutes in the unit every morning to get prepared for his day. Ms. Annie talks to him about the day's schedule (library or art or show-and-tell) and any changes from routine such as a pep rally or Ms. Simmons being out for the day. They also work on social stories (A Social Story™ describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format.) to address behavioral issues or learn rules for social interactions such as conversation or how to play with friends. The planned change will be to phase out the time in the afternoon that he has been going to Ms. Annie's room. Because the goal is to mainstream Aidan as much as possible, we want him to stay with his class so that he is a part of the normal school day and can enjoy being part of the group. We'll still have him go to Ms. Annie's room in the morning - he really needs this for starting his day off right, and he really seems to enjoy starting his morning that way - but in the afternoon he'll simply stay in Ms. Simmons room and go with the rest of his class to the car line.

Apart from those changes, Aidan will continue to have an aide in class with him at all times and will still have the safety net of Ms. Annie's room should he need to work independently because of behavioral or focus issues. Ms. Simmons stressed his need for an aide. She said that he tends to wander and drift during his work or reading time and needs that support to keep him focused and on task. This is something we very much agree on and I'm glad, because I fear that if we took this support away it would set him up for failure.

The IEP meeting to determine what happens next year should happen in May. Until then, we hope to see lots more progress and lots of fun in Ms. Simmons' kindergarten class. Aidan loves his friends and he loves Ms. Simmons and the predictability of her classroom and her rules. We're so grateful to have her and Ms. Annie to teach and support Aidan every day.