Fifth grade for my son was uneventful. He loved his mainstream teacher. For his special ed. classes (reading, language and math) he was stuck with the social worker serving as the special education teacher. Serving is probably not an accurate description of her activity. She was a thorn in my son’s and my side. She did not understand Tourette Syndrome or Non-Epileptic Seizures. My son had no privacy when these events went on, which could go on as short as a minute or as a long as forty minutes. She expected him to continue working while his body was having these spasms of tics and loud, yelling vocalizations. She kept telling him he was fine, and to him, he did not feel fine.
Something to note, since my son was put in Special Education I saw no evidence of school work. No completed assignments, no home work (which was specified in his IEP), no comments in his assignment book, no nothing. The only way I knew what was going on was by what my son would tell me. In our teacher conference that happened once a year, they would flash a couple of papers in front of my face and tell me everything is going fine. In those days I was not smart enough to ask for a definition of fine. I made an assumption that they were doing what was best for my son. They were supposed to be the experts. Big mistake that was.
What I did know is she was still teaching him math facts using the timed tests, which in turn created more episodes of tics and/or non-epileptic seizures. I had given up trying to make the school stop. Each day my son would come home and tell me how this teacher was treating him. She was consistently punishing him for having these tics. He was left out of any reward systems which was available for the rest of her students. I kept telling my son to please hang in there. This was the last year he would be in this school because he would be moving on to Middle School. At that time he would not have to ever see this teacher again.
Toward the end of fifth grade the Middle School met with me to ensure my son’s transition went well. The meeting included the principal, the special education teacher, the nurse, and the psychologist. Based on the meeting they appeared to have their act together. We talked about the various types of support my son would need. They appeared to be very diligent in addressing these needs. It was obvious to me that this school operated completely different than my son’s elementary school.
One of the best things that the Middle School provided is an orientation week before school started so that the students could get their bearing in the big middle school. This school was the biggest middle school in our state and was quite overwhelming for students at first.
In this orientation week they ensured that the student knew where their locker was and how to open it. The showed them where their home room was, which was the room they went to first thing in the morning and last thing in the day. They were showed where the special education room was and explained what time of the day they would be coming there. They showed where their house was located (the grade was divided into houses, very much like Harry Potter) and the house location served as the hub for most of their standard classes such as English, Math, Social Studies, etc. They also showed where art classes and physical education classes occurred. For physical education they explained what to expect as it relates to another locker, clothing, showering, etc. And finally they explained the bus routine. This was a new thing for my son because he had not ridden the bus up to this point. All in all I think this was a wonderful program. The school brought together the population of four elementary schools into one seventh grade class at the middle school.
Parents were also invited to an orientation which was basically a demonstration of the rules, preparing the parents for middle school. Believe it or not, I wasn’t anxious about this transitional year until I went to this meeting. One of the big topics was school absences, which I was really concerned about. I talked to the Vice Principal after the meeting about this topic and explained that my son would be using up his absences in no time, just for the purpose of going to doctor appointments. At this point my son was seeing a neuropsychologist every three weeks. He also saw his neurologist every three months. The Vice Principal told me to not worry about it. The absences were understandable. Later, I learned the absences were a bigger deal that what the Vice Principal led on.
So we were set to start sixth grade. I use the work “we” because the transition was not only for my son, but also for me. It was like starting all over again with new people. I explained to my son that this was an opportunity for us to start out new and not be impacted by personal prejudices that some of his previous teachers had shown. He was looking forward to the year and was glad he was out of elementary school.
To be continued . . .