Friday, May 11, 2012

Kindergarten Orientation

Yesterday, I took Ballerina to our local school's Kindergarten Orientation.  This is intended for the children entering a typical classroom, but since we still don't know the plan for her, it was suggested that she attend.  I have made myself reasonably well known at the school and most of the teachers and administrators who were there know me and of Ballerina's situation (diagnosis and questionable placement).  But we all needed to see what was going to happen.

I started the morning with an experiment.  She was assigned (at my request) to the first group so orientation was at 9am.  School starts here at 8:50.  So, instead of Big Brother going to school with his friend and his mother, I drove him to school so we would be there (and a little early).  Normally, the kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade kids get together with their classmates in the "All Purpose Room" (aka cafeteria) and then the teachers take them directly to their classroom as an entire class (on this day there was no kindergarten because of orientation day).  It gets VERY loud.  And I took Ballerina in to the All Purpose Room.

She walked in, looked around, and started to scream and pull away from me.  I wasn't going to let her run around there with all those kids so I held fast.  We had the tantrum.  We stayed in there for a minute or so and then I brought her out into the hallway.  I had my answer.  This first "experiment" was a fail, but an important piece of information for me.  You see, I planned to do this.  I wanted to see what she would do when she walked into the All Purpose Room because that's what she would be expected to do if she was to be placed in a typical classroom.  I won't be there to help her every day.  I wanted to see what would happen.  And I got to see it.  For myself.  First hand.

The Special Education Coordinator saw this whole thing.  She saw Ballerina's reaction when we were in the All Purpose Room.  She saw her still tantrumming while we were sitting in the hallway.  And she sprung into action.  She found the principal and arranged for the Occupational Therapy office to be opened so we could find some sensory tools to help calm her down.  First she was looking for a trampoline, but she didn't see one so she came out with a large textured ball,  Ballerina knew what she was supposed to do....she laid on it on her belly and rocked.  She fell off of it, which made her laugh and that really halted the tantrum.  It was still there, but it had fallen beneath the surface.  While she was doing this, I mentioned that THIS was why I was concerned about a typical classroom.  She does tantrum (not as often as she used to, but it does happen....even at school) and I need to know what will happen with her when that happens.

After she was mostly calm, I gave her my iPhone.  She found her games and was playing them quietly and we headed over to where the other parents were congregating.  She didn't want to stand still, so we walked up and down the kindergarten corridor (since they had no school, there were no students to disturb).  When they gave her a nametag sticker, she refused to put it on but kept it on her fingers (it ended up on her back at some point while we were separated).  She went with most of the kindergarten teachers to "play" (general testing to determine what these kids CAN do as an aid to helping them form classes for next year).  In the meantime, I went with the parents to the next room (and Big Brother's former kindergarten teacher) to discuss what kindergarten was all about.  I was pulled aside briefly to ask if Ballerina should stay with the rest of the kids or do these assessments in the Learning Center (special education classroom).  I told them to use their judgment, but it would be most helpful if they at least started with the typical set-up and they could transition her if it was necessary.  The moment she walked into the classroom and saw what work she had to do, she was fine.  THIS is what she's used to.  Standing around.......not so much!

When I spoke to the teachers at the end, they told me that she did very well.  She didn't cry and she went through every station and even had planted a pumpkin seed to take home (which is currently sitting in the kitchen window).  She was given homework every day, Monday through Friday, from June 1 until the first day of school (August 27).  Simple things.....writing her name one day.....jumping up and down five times on another......just to get her into the swing of things.  Overall, once the actual orientation began, things seemed to go VERY smoothly.

So, this really didn't show us much.  It didn't show us whether a typical classroom was right or if it was wrong.  But she got the experience.  She got to see what her new school will look like.  And, if she is in a typical classroom, we can work out a plan for her to get her to her class since, as of right now, going to the All Purpose Room doesn't look like the best option for her.  I am VERY happy she went.  And I hope it showed them what they needed to see.

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