Every day in various autism blogs and e-mail lists/groups are stories of people fighting the system, trying to get the best for their kids. This on top of learning to cope with the autism in general. As if parents of autistic children needed it, local school districts seem to feel compelled to provide additional challenges. For us, that was Zeke’s kindergarten year.
The “program” (if you could call it that) went under the name of Kindergarten for Neurologically Impaired (NI). This was a separate classroom in the regular neighbor elementary school. If I remember right there were 6 or 7 kids in the classroom, along with the teacher and an aide.
It didn’t take long before things went bad. Increasingly, Zeke was acting out in class. He was miserable in the mornings: he didn’t want to get on the bus to go to school. This had never happened before, so it obviously stressed us out. My job had me away from home more than I was there, so Julie was doubly stressed having to deal with this.
“What in the world is the problem?” we asked ourselves, because we’d not experienced this before. One trip to the classroom and all was revealed.
Zeke was hyperlexic. He has been able to read (decode) words since he was about 2 years old or so. The alphabet is old, old hat to him. So imagine my shock distress HORROR when I went in to observe one day and saw the following:
- All of the kids and the teacher were sitting quietly around a table
- They were going around the table, each kid taking a turn at sounding out every letter in the alphabet. It took some of the kids up to a minute to sound out a letter.
- Zeke, 5 years old and bored, confused and getting very upset at the other kids inability to say the letters.
- Zeke, acting out.
So we tried to explain a few things about Zeke that they obviously hadn’t figured out. To no avail.
Eventually, they put Zeke into a regular Kindergarten class. No aide. No support of any kind. The teacher was clueless, I don’t think she even knew what autism was. Zeke ended up being put at a desk isolated in a corner of the room so he wouldn’t disturb the other kids.
Fortunately, we had access to the internet and the various support forums available. One of the key ones we used was the American Hyperlexia Association. Through AHA, we found another parent at the Jersey Shore in similar circumstances. It was through her that we discovered School for Children, where we successfully petitioned to have Zeke place.