Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Perfect Classroom Placement: In Search of The Middle

Parents of autistic kids are always told that they should want their kids to be in the middle relative to the other students in their classroom placement.  For self-esteem reasons, you don't want them to be at the bottom.  And if they are at the top, then they are probably not being challenged.  But in reality, somebody's gotta be at the top and somebody's gotta be at the bottom, right?

If you're kid's at the bottom you're all:
I-need-a-new-placement-she's-in-over-her-head-she's-not-learning-anything-she's-completely-lost.

If you're kid's at the top of the heap then it's:
I-need-a-new-placement-she's-not-learning-anything-new-I-don't-care-if-she's-a-peer-model-for-the-other-kids-screw-them-it's-every-man-for-himself-see-ya-later-suckers-wait-Audrey-is-your-peer-model-you-are-so-screwed.

Even if you do find the perfect placement for your child, the complexion of the classroom is bound to change over time.  The kids progress at different rates.  Some of them move on, and others take their place.  Audrey's been in her current placement for a year.  She started out near the bottom, but, mostly through attrition, is now towards the top. 

So whenever I hear that a new child has joined their classroom, I'm anxious to find out if he is a potential peer model for Audrey.  But it's hard to ascertain this from asking Audrey, who is really only able to confirm his existence (which I learned from the daily note home), his name, and that he's nice and she likes him.  So I've taken to having my fellow classroom mom Aimee do some reconnaissance with her daughter, Audrey's BFF Grace Anne, who is able to provide more juicy details:

Aimee:  "Is there a new kid in your class?"
Grace Anne:  "Ryan."
Aimee:  "How many students are in your class now?"
Grace Anne:  "Seven."
Aimee:  "How many teachers are in your class now?"
Grace Anne:  "Eight."  (then she named six)
Aimee:  "Does Ryan speak well or is he still learning to speak?"
Grace Anne:  "He speaks well, just like (names another kid in the classroom whom I would not peg as the star talker)."
Aimee:  "What does he like?"
Grace Anne:  "Letters."
Aimee:  "What does he say?"
Grace Anne:  "He says 'Let's say the alphabet'."

Yeah, we don't need a peer model to teach us to be obsessed with the alphabet, Bud.  Unless you're talking about Arabic or Cyrillic, you are no good to me.  OK, OK...as much as I love Grace Anne, and as iron clad as this assessment seems, perhaps I shouldn't base my opinion on it alone.  What I won't do to avoid scheduling another classroom observation...

14 comments:

  1. Hey, kids don't lie at this age, they call it like they see it!

    I think you have to wait a while longer with Ryan. In about two weeks I bet you'll have a totally different assessment of him!

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  2. We just had a meeting yesterday...a long, long meeting...trying to figure out this very thing.

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  3. A smacked his peer model last week. Did I mention its a girl? Yeah, good times.

    Teacher said the girl bosses him constantly. She's surprised it took him this long to respond. I feel a little better. A little.

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  4. Woohoo! You made 200 followers! Congrats!

    Now that my daughter has graduated from ABA, I need to find a social skills class, and so I face this dilemma. I really want to find a class where the kids are pretty evenly matched. I'm checking out a class tomorrow. Wish me luck!

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  5. ok. so there are only two kids in Owen's grade. I wonder if he's first or second... oh, who am I kidding... he's second...the other kid is a girl, she's definitely smarter.

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  6. Where's Grace Anne in the hierarchy of things? I like her reporting skills, accuracy is over-rated. I really like the Ryan quote. Girl's got a future.

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  7. My kid's always been at the bottom.

    That wasn't a very funny comment, was it?

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  8. At least Audrey will accurately confirm the existence of new class mates. We are never sure with Griffin. For months we thought a new kid was in his class named Nick. Griffin kept talking about his new friend Nick Walker. Came to find out Mr. Walker is on air personality at the Weather Channel.

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  9. I think everyone strives for being the middle in whatever they do :) So you're not alone!!

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  10. I don't know--I think Grace Anne may have a future career with an intelligence agency. She sounds like pretty good scout to me.

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  11. WANTED: Small to medium size classroom for 8 year old girl with HFA. Must have female typical peers approx 6-9 years old. Must have SpEd teacher with extensive Autism-training (variety of methodologies) and well trained aides. Must be completely paid for by local school district, busing and ESY included. Must be close to home.
    While I'm still in fantasy-land about finding the perfect "Middle" placement for GA.....Art Education, Musical instrument lessons, and a second language(the window is closing you know!) would wrap it up nicely.

    ALSO MUST HAVE AUDREY!!!!!!

    That's what we want, anyone seen it?

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  12. It's funny. Dave and I were having this same conversation about Willow, our "neurotypical" child, this week re: preschool.

    Me: Willow's in the "Mouse" class (18mos) and I'm not sure she's going to be challenged enough. She knows all her letters, she's counting and she's talking in sentences.

    Dave: I think she should stay with her age group. Better to be at the top of your class than feel like you're struggling to keep up with an older class. I was promoted a year and felt like I never caught up in school.

    At this point we heard a noise, turned around and found our little "genius" eating dirt out of the house plant.

    Willow: Yum!

    I guess we have few years before we have to worry about her getting bored and joining a gang.

    The Mouse class it is.

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  13. The special educator in me finds your assessment dead accurate. :-)
    Had placement issues of my own yesterday. The politics of placement from the district's point of view would be hysterical if they weren't so freaking infuriating.

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