I thought we had been pretty lucky. We had gotten through 2nd grade without a struggle, and although we were seeing added characteristics of his Asperger's during the summer, we still thought maybe things were going to work out for MJ. We were on the ball and met with the teacher the first week of 3rd grade. We gave her an outline and a list of detailed information about MJ, and we thought things would go well, but soon things went elsewise.
#1-The first month of school I noticed right away that MJ was coming home with tons of homework. I felt bad for the poor kid. He would be doing homework from 4 pm till bedtime. I didn't understand. His teacher said at the beginning that homework shouldn't take longer than 45 minutes, but with all the stuff he had it wasn't possible.
I let it go for a while hoping things would mellow out, but they didn't. I finally emailed the teacher asking what was going on. She emailed back to say that MJ was supposed to be doing these things in class and only taking home what wasn't finished, but I guess somehow he wasn't even getting started on these huge booklets of work.
Well, then what was he doing? I know he has the distraction issue where he could see something on the window and stare at it for an hour, but wouldn't the teacher notice? She promised to keep a better eye on him and for us to let her know if anything got ugly again as far as homework.
#2-Homework wasn't bad for a while, but what MJ was having problems with were these timed math tests called 36's. (36 math problems that must be done in 90 seconds.) We found out about them over the summer and remember I directly asked the teacher how these were going to be worked out because of MJ's processing delay. She said she would try doing some orally, but really it doesn't matter orally or written, there is still the delay. I did not and still do not agree with timed math tests for grade. Sure, I think it's OK to have limits like you can't take forever but making math problems a pass or fail if not finished just seems unfair to me. If they know the facts, they know them. Why must they be timed?
Anyway, he was not doing that well on these. He knew them all and we worked with him daily shouting out multiplication and division problems but there is always the delay. He knew them all, and he wasn't stalling, it's just part of MJ. It takes his brain an extra second to process and verbalize or write. No big deal, but for a timed test it meant a big difference. Pass of fail! I kept telling him it didn't matter if he couldn't pass these off because I knew he knew them all and the tests were just stupid. (Yeah, I know, I probably shouldn't have been giving him a bad attitude, but I couldn't help it. They were unfair for a kid with his disabilities.) I told him I was proud of him no matter what.
He seemed to accept this until he started coming home telling me that the teacher was making him stay in from recess everyday until he passed off every 36 test. So, that meant he was being punished everyday to stay inside and do test after test after test until he could pass them. At this point he had stayed in the whole week so far.
#3-Now, the meltdown---one day in particular I picked up MJ from school and he was in tears. He was super upset because he had gotten in trouble repeatedly enough times that he was in big trouble with the school disciplinary rules. (They do so many warnings, and then you have to face consequences.)
I asked him what happened and he said first his teacher marked him down for not doing his work but he said he was trying but another group was working right next to him and he couldn't concentrate on what he was doing with them talking. (Now it is seriously impossible for MJ to work with a lot of distractions.)
Next he said he got in trouble because the class was talking. (OK, so group punishment, I can handle that.)
But then 2 strikes means you must stay in from recess. So OK, that's fine, but when it was time for recess his teacher came up to him and said "I hope you know that THIS IS RECESS TIME." So MJ, being that he takes everything literal and he must be constantly reminded and cued to remember things, looks at his teacher and takes her sentence as, hey--I need to go to recess now. So he does. And as soon as he does, his teacher tells him that he did not fullfill his punishment and stay in from recess, so he is in trouble a 3rd time.
OK, so it really wasn't a super big deal, but MJ was really upset. I mean, sure he was distracted, but couldn't he move to another place to work? And then if he is being punished, then can't you just remind him "Hey, remember you got marked down twice, so you need to stay in from recess" rather than making some hidden statement about it being recess time now (when you're really meaning, this is recess time now, NOT for you because you're in trouble) and then punishing him yet again for not fullfilling the punishment?
We already outlined all these things at the beginning of the year about
#4-the need to be cued
and many many more, but why was he getting in trouble again and again?
I felt so bad for him because he was just crying and crying trying to tell me how he didn't mean to do wrong and he didn't mean to be bad, he just forgot he was supposed to stay in and his teacher didn't remind him and why would she tell him it was recess time now?
So, goes to say, what I thought was going to a smooth year was just getting ugly, and apparently I was dumb to think he didn't need an I.E.P.
I did email her right away and I was actually very nice stating things like, "what can we do to help solve these problems together" and then restating some of the instructions and characteristics of Asperger's for her info. But when she did not email back, I took this as a negative, and a need for me to look for help in other places.
I immediately began contacting the school department head and calling MJ's team of doctors to see how we could go about establishing an I.E.P.