Thursday, August 28, 2008

Road to Independence

Lots of other bloggers are posting about school preparations and trepidations. I have been doing what I do best - living in the world of denial. I did the bare necessity of school shopping a few weeks ago and I called the school to make sure my youngest actually starts Kindergarten the first day of school (some schools have staggered start for Kindergarten). Other than that I have tried not to think about it.

If I do I start to have pains in my chest. Funny thing about nagging worries, even when you are not actively worried they sneak up on you, start to affect you. I have been having more migraines the past week or so and I have drank a lot of Pepto. If anyone brings it up though I act confident and nonchalant about the plan for this year for C.

He is going into Grade 5 (a whole issue all on its own - for me that is) and will be on the "other" side of the school - out of the primary wing. He will have a teacher he has never met before. The EA he had the past 3 years was supposed to have moved to a new school this year. He is anxious and worried about her. I found out last week he will also have a new Learning Support teacher and today I found out he will have a new French teacher.

Today we visited his classroom and met his teacher. She seems very nice and I am very optimistic about his year in her class (more on that later). The principal came by to tell me she still doesn't know who one of his EA's will be but the afternoon one will be an EA that has been at the school for years but never been C.'s EA other than to fill in at times. What I am really concerned about is that we are back to the school pushing for C. to have 2 EA's (one a.m., one p.m.) because they are worried he is becoming too dependant. People PLEASE! How many times do we have to go over this? We have been down this road several times before, with the same Principal! I love this woman but why oh why does she think this will work? And why would we do it now when his anxiety is so high, his OCD is in high gear and there are so many new things and people to adjust to? Doesn't she know the saying - the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

Here is part of the letter I wrote and emailed her today (I'll spare you the whole diatribe):

I wholeheartedly respect that you view C. as an individual with so much potential for independence. Thank you for that. I understand that you are of the opinion that too strong of a bond with one EA is hindering C's independence.

My view is that in previous years when he has only had one EA all day, that individual was able to build the required safe, trusting and successful relationship with C. By building this relationship it allowed him to feel secure, successful and independence could then flow from that. Last year when C. went back to having one EA towards the end of the school year, his grade 4 teacher made concerted effort to encourage C.'s independence and build his self esteem. I still remember the day she called me to tell me how wonderful he was doing, he was managing his emotions so much better and he was doing things like walking to the bathroom on his own and returning to class safely and appropriately. That was because he felt safe and secure. For C, as with any child really but just magnified in C's situation, he needs to feel safe before he can be more independent.

I would put forth that there are indeed other ways to increase C's independence. For example, having the EA give C less verbal instruction (possibly having a book with a visual schedule inside that would show C step by step what to do next); sending him on short errands to the office; having him help a teacher other than his own with a task; and so on. I believe that by linking him with more of the school community on a very brief, situation specific scale we could gradually increase his success which in turn would increase his self esteem and independence.

In all of this though, we must keep in mind that C has very real and quantifiable challenges that might preclude complete independence free from any additional support from an EA. As his parents we would love to see small, incremental steps taken toward setting him up for success. However, given his needs, I don't think we should view his collaboration with an EA as a dependency but rather as an adaptive accommodation - it is just one piece of the puzzle in making him successful and supporting his learning at school.

I very much want this to be a year of continued growth and independence for C. I've written about it before on here and I have had ongoing conversations with the school. As I told the Principal though, we have differing views on the road to get there. I have no doubt she will join me on my road soon but I left that part out when I spoke with her :-)


  1. Kristina6:39 PM

    That's a GREAT reply! Good job!

  2. Anonymous10:32 AM

    I hear you on all of it. And yes, they should listen and take your advice into consideration. Because, of course, you are right, and you know your son better than they ever will. Good luck. I hope you'll let us know how things work out.

  3. Kind of hounded the principal to get a response. She intends to go forward with her plan and "re-evaluate" with the EA's (no mention of evaluating it with me) at the end of the week. Also found out that the morning EA is brand new to the school. Boy, she better have lots of experience with kids like mine or it is going to be a doozy of a day.

  4. I really think your letter was SUPER! I can't believe they think having the same EA is hindering him. Our kids need to feel secure and feel like they can trust. Please keep us posted:)
    Best wishes!