Thursday, September 9, 2010

Facing a New Challenge: Skipping Grades with Aspergers

Well, we heard back from the Principal and the decision was granted---MJ was to be allowed to skip the 5th grade all together and enter 6th grade this coming fall.

Although it made sense academically to skip MJ, it was a bit of a social no-no. Really it isn't that great to skip regular kids into a higher grade at times, let alone skip a child with Asperger's Syndrome, someone who was already a social misfit?! How could we?

It took a long time for us to come up with this possibility. MJ was very very smart. The schools and doctors had tested him and shown us even more than we thought at how smart he was. Yet, here was this kid with poor social and processing skills, and who was awkward, clumsy, had poor handwriting, and slow speech, and he didn't always show his smartness right off. It really wasn't fair to the poor kid that he had all this intelligence inside him but could never get it all out in time to prove it.

Over the years as we figured out his Aspergers, we found ways to work with the school to accommodate him so that he was able to show his talents. With his 504 Plan, teachers gave him less written assignments, more oral, allowed him extra time to write, gave him social cues, and little things here and there to help him adjust. It was working quite well mostly, but he was still way above the other kids academically.

We had hoped he would figure things out socially, yet he was not. And with Aspergers, would he ever really fit in the social circle? We hated to see him so miserable and bored both socially and academically. So, we had to choose at least one to be happy in. With Aspergers, who knows if we can help with the friendships and social acceptance, but at least we could help him enjoy school more and feel challenged. They had tried in 4th grade to allow him to go back and forth between grades, but it had been a big mess. Schedules never quite worked out and MJ was always left an emotional mess. We knew he needed to be challenged, but he also needed stability in a set schedule and one main teacher. We agreed to the skip.

But now the really would this work? The workload was surely to be more advanced, and would a new 6th grade teacher be willing to accommodate a child that not only had skipped a grade, but had the issues of Asperger's on top of it? And plus there was to be a new principal this year. What if she didn't agree with all these accommodations for MJ?

All summer we worried and waited until it was close enough to school starting that we could set up a meeting with MJ's 6th grade teacher.


Anonymous said...

That's great! I share your concerns about teachers understanding and handling an Asperger child... What a cute picture.. My son Chris, who just went into 4th with Aspergers saw your photo, and was wondering if he could be friends? (Saw the lightsaber and that was all it took).

Good luck.. I hope the school is compassionate and helpful.

Jodi said...

Hi, my mom-in-law shared your blog with me. My son is 6, just starting kindergarten and has asperger's. We're also starting to think that he's getting bored with kindergarten. The post about your boy seemed so similar (even with the photo at Jedi training- my boy managed that this past spring). I'm wondering how to help him in school. He's been reading since he was 3.5 yrs and devours chapter books like Harry Potter, easily. But he's also very resistant to writing and doesn't respond quickly when questioned. He's only been in school a few months but is starting to resist doing the work, sitting for story time... Do you have any tips or advice? thanks so much and i hope your boy is handling Jr. High.

Becca said...

Yes, MJ was very bored in Kindergarten as well. He began waking up in the morning and telling me he didn't feel good and didn't want to go to school. We soon found out it was because he didn't like school because he said it was boring. The kindergarten teacher wasn't much help. She gave us all the "BOB" books and said he could read those. They were sooo basic and boring for him, so rather than just read them, we would go over punctuation, and I'd quiz him on which words were the nouns and verbs and such. I remember writing him math problems in double digits when he was 5 just to "entertain" him. Very true, writing has always been a huge stuggle, and the not responding quickly when questioned is pretty normal to Asperger's as far as what we've seen and experienced. My husband with Asperger's describes it as the time it takes to process everything in your head and organize it to how you are going to respond before you answer and it's a delay. Often teachers think he doesn't know the answer, but it's just that it takes MJ 5 seconds longer to begin his response. Jr. High is going OK so far. We still have some misunderstandings with teachers at times, but MJ enjoys school. As far as advice, you can either supplement your son with extra stuff at home so he'll feel challenged, or press the school for harder work or see if he can be tested to move up to 1st if that is an option. Being that he is 6, he's already older than many in Kindergarten, so it wouldn't be so dramatic in age for skipping. Long ago when MJ was in Kindergarten, they ended up testing him and putting him in a magnet full time gifted program the next year for split 1st and 2nd graders. It was good for a while for the most part, but I'm sure you can read all about that experience as I see you are part of my gifted child followers. It's always a challenge. With Aspergers it's like you can be super smart, but then the processing thing holds you back. It's not really fair, but if you can get the school to allow your son accommodations to let him reach his full potential, he can make it. We have had to fight the schools a lot. You have to get them to find a way to get that processing up to match up with his intelligence.

Jodi said...

thanks for the suggestions. we've been trying to figure it all out- he was having trouble because of an ear infection that we didn't know about, which caused some outbursts. and then there's the not wanting to do things. it can really be exhausting some times. Magnet schools are not an option in this area so we're trying to do our best to supplement and encourage him.