Up until this point in G's schooling career, he had been doing harder level work after finishing his traditional grade-level work. I'm pleased to announce the very long-awaited first day of his gifted class! Three days a week he spends his afternoons in the gifted class down the hall from his regular classroom and gets a happy wave from the SPED (Special Ed) teacher from the hallway as a reminder of him being able to ask for a break. How absolutely wonderful it is that he has an amazing set up where he can be treated as both gifted and needing services at the same time! WHO KNEW?!?! Okay, I knew, but we're so incredibly excited to see how his behavior changes with the additional challenging work. We'll see.
To understand the win that this actually is, we have to understand where G was in his last school, a traditional public school with an A+ rating. When G was at his school (which supported gifted learning... supposedly) he was depressed, hated school, and we had to fight the school at every turn to get him any kind of support on the gifted side of things. His teacher, the school psychologist, and the SPED teacher all agreed that he wasn't doing well and we needed to move him up a grade with SPED services... but the admins didn't think it was a good move and refused to have us move him up. Instead, they had him in 4th-grade special ed. Now he is at a charter school (public-funded private school) which takes so much better care of him.
Having finally gotten to this point, here are the top tips I can give to parents who are having a tough time with their kids' schooling.
1) Join Parenting Groups-
Whether it's Facebook, Twitter, or a physical moms' group that meets in your area, I highly suggest getting together with other people going through the same struggle. Not only will this give you support, but they'll give you lots of things to learn about and teach you special buzz words that let you know if someone is really familiar with your child's disability.
2) Know What Your Child Needs-
For this, it really helps to be able to sit down with all the adults in their life, therapists and family included, and see what services would be helpful while still being attainable in a classroom setting. At school, my son uses a wobble chair, fidgets, special pencil grips, and a written schedule that sits on his desk to show what times they do each activity. It really helps him understand what is coming next and how long he has to wait until the next activity. He also gets an extra break in the afternoon with the special ed teacher to help him regain a little extra executive function toward the end of the day.
3) Communicate Often-
Honestly, I learned so much more about my son's services during the shut down than I ever did during his school day. I really got to participate in his speech, OT, and classwork in a way that I hadn't actually been able to before. For me, it gave me a whole new host of tools to really understand my son and figure out better language to use at home. It also helped me work with all of his team (inside and outside of school) to make his tools a bit more uniform across the board. I work really hard to share things that I learn from one place with all of the others so we can really get to a place where everyone benefits.