Have you been in a kindergarten class lately? When Gage was first diagnosed as having mild/high-functioning autism all of my time and energy went into helping him beat the diagnosis and be able to go through school with his peers. A few weeks ago I visited the school he would be attending and the classroom he would most likely be in and my view totally shifted. I was appalled, quite frankly. Twenty-seven students in a classroom where they are sitting in a circle listening to the one teacher or at the tables doing worksheets for five plus hours! They had one hour a day for lunch and recess. I walked out of the 2nd ranked school district in Ohio knowing that there was no way I wanted my 5-year old in that environment.
So, I made a list of the things I most wanted for Gage and went from there. I wanted a small class size, ability to move, play, and structure. He’s a smart kid and I don’t worry too much about him in that department, even if some of the harder concepts will need to be taught one-on-one. In Ohio, if you have a child on the spectrum and you pull him from the public schools you get $27,000 to use at other autism-friendly places. The company where he gets his ABA and the place he gets his OT are both on the list so I did (and still do) consider homeschooling and using that money for those two places, where we easily pay them that already.
He got accepted to the first school we applied to, a school that accepts only kids who learn differently. In all honesty, I don’t know exactly what that means, only that they all have at least average IQs and that they only have 10-15% of students on the spectrum. Get this, they only accept 6 kids into their kindergarten class! If a kid has to move he is not made to feel bad about it (important because Gage has a hard time sitting still for a long time, as do most 5-year-old boys) and the class has the kids move every 15-20 minutes. There are play areas all around the classroom and there is so much structure. They all have access to their own ipads in the classroom and computer, art and music once a week. There are so many great things about this school…but there are no typical peers. I’ve visited twice and the kids seemed great, well-behaved, like regular kids.
I’m still going to look around (my favorite place only has a wait list right now, but it is similar to the school he was accepted to) but feel good about the option we have. It’s not what I thought we were working toward, but when I visited a public kindergarten class, I knew I didn’t want that, for sure. Speaking as a mom who has an education degree I am very disappointed in what we are doing to our kids at such a young age. Even if Gage weren’t on the spectrum I would be looking at homeschooling or private schools and I always thought that was a terrible choice.
I was a public school girl all the way, even college. What about you? Any homeschooled or private school peeps out there?