Tot With Autism Thriving in New School

Cynthia Dermody

child fingerpaintingMany of you know Katie, aka aurorabunny, a Daily Buzz reader and devoted mom to 3 year old Brody, who is on the severe end of the autistic spectrum. He uses sign language to talk, and until recently had been prone to being easily overwhelmed in loud places or when meeting strangers. He would bang his head and pull his hair in moments of frustration.

This year aurorabunny enrolled him an "inclusionary" school for children with developmental disabilities. He's in a class with only four other little boys and twice that many therapists and teachers.

It's not easy. She drives two hours round trip every day to get there. It's costing her a small fortune, she had to sell her house to afford it but ... it's been so worth it.

Brody is doing wonderfully, and I asked her to share this good news to reassure moms that in the right place and with the right teachers, autistic children are indeed capable of incredible things:

Finding the right school  "The school was actually recommended to us by the state provided occupational therapist that saw Brody until he turned 3. These are great people to ask about school recommendations. I also did some Internet research on special needs schools in our area but this particular one was by far the best.

In only a month and a half, most of the fears and worries that I have carried have totally slipped away. His classroom has an parent observation room where I can sit and watch his activities every morning. This completely assuages my fear of how he is being treated (something that is a very real worry to me having a non-verbal child) as I am able to see for myself that he is in a loving, caring environment. "

He has friends! "After watching other children who don't understand his means of communication rebuff him at the local playground, it's a joy for me to watch my son and his classmates hug each other, play together, and just the fact that they seem to understand one another." 

His verbal skills are improving "I was slightly concerned that being in a classroom with only other children with autism might cause Brody to pick up undesirable behaviors, but so far this has not happened. He HAS been attempting more speech as several of the little boys in his classroom do have some language and he also is exposed to the language skills and other skills of typically developing children throughout the day as he interacts with his schools 'peer models.'

I would recommend schools like Brody's and their 'peer model' program to anyone with typically developing children as well. Parents pay only $75 per month (can't really beat that price for preschool) and I think the kids really get a lot out of it."

He looks forward to going new places and seeing new people "The biggest change that I have seen thus far is in Brody's social skills. Not very long ago the face of a stranger was enough to make him burst into tears; now he will wave 'hi' and try to make a new friend.

Last week we took a trip to the pumpkin patch with the teachers and other little boys in Brody's classroom. Brody was excited to be there; he paid attention to the activities going on around him, did not seem bothered by the swarms of people around him (the place was packed!), and generally just had a good old time. He even independently signed "Thank you" to the little old man who drove us on the hayride. :)  I couldn't believe my eyes and for the first time ever I felt like we were a normal family just enjoying a normal family outing. It was a priceless feeling."

Inclusion vs mainstreaming "I know that many parents don't think that inclusion is the way to go with children who have autism or other disabilities, but I have to say that I would recommend special schooling to anyone. I do have friends who started their children with autism in the public school system this year and I'm being truthful in saying that I have heard only negative things from them. All of this put together reaffirms my decision even more that we are doing the right thing by our son. For as hard as we have worked to get my son the school placement that he currently has, seeing the benefits with my own eyes is truly a beautiful thing."


Tell us what amazing things your autistic child has done lately. What type of learning situation works best for him or her?


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