We had our IEP today and spent most of our time taking things from last year off. His teacher said that she had a hard time believing that all of the challenges and supports listed on last year's IEP were real. Just goes to show you something or another.
One thing in particular stuck me when we were talking about how much our guy enjoys gym (two years ago he hated it above all things). What stuck me was how his teacher described the great support MK got from his classmates in gym class. T0 be frank, MK is not good at ball sports. He is probably almost as bad at it as his father. But he gets nothing but encouragement from the kids in his class. It is, apparently, the same in other class activities, and that, I am sure makes a world of difference. It's quite remarkable from kids who are 12 and 13 years old.
I commented on this to the special ed coordinator. She, of course, pointed out that the attitude of a class is very much determined by the teacher. But she also gave some of the credit to a program that they have been running in our school called The Roots of Empathy. They start the program in kindergarten. The other thing that contributes is the school Social Responsibility goal. They talk about sharing and helping and contributing to community and environment at every assembly. The halls are full of social responsibility posters made by the kids, showing things like friendship and inclusiveness and caring and so on. And I think it makes a difference. It seems that when you set out with the deliberate goal of teaching kids to be nice, it works. And and that, in turn, has other payoffs, like allowing very nervous autistic kids to feel relaxed enough to engage in academics and even things like gym.
That's not to say that these programs are a panacea for all things. In the same school, two grades ago, there were teachers who encouraged and rewarded competition above all things and who felt that students who learned differently could not learn together. As our school system gives principals an exceptionally weak role, with almost no input into specific classroom instruction (because the teachers and the principals belong to different unions) we have to count on luck to deliver us good teachers.
That said, the past year and a half have been very good for us, and they have been good because of wonderful teachers. So, though I can't name them by name, and they don't read (or even know about) this blog, let me give props where props are due. Thank you good teachers. Thank you good programs. Thank you good principals.