I’ve been going on and on ad nauseam over the amazing progress Monkey has made lately. We are so proud of him. I’m not sure I’ve given his teachers as much credit as I should because they are the main reason he has progressed so far, so fast.
On paper, the classroom he was in last year and the classroom he is in this year are not that much different. They’re both integrated classrooms, they sit side-by-side in the same hallway in the same school, they have the same flourescent lighting, they’re across from the noisy, smelly school cafeteria. There are 5 fewer kids (2 fewer on IEPs and 3 fewer peer models) and 1 additional staff member in the current class so the ratio is much lower which has made all the difference.
In his previous classroom a lot of effort was spent managing the classroom. The room was always busy and at times it bordered on chaotic. It was not entirely the fault of the staff, they had a challenging group of kids. They were in over their heads and their requests for additional staffing were denied. The lead teacher was also a bit disorganized and it showed. She often looked frazzled and you all know how much our kids pick up on these cues!
His current classroom is so different. There is a picture schedule available in the classroom at eye level. They discuss the schedule daily. They consistently remove the picture of the current activity when they are all done and the kids know what comes next. Every. Single. Day. Every. Single. Transition. There is a consistency that was somewhat lacking in the last classroom. The teacher in this classroom is unflappable. She is calm and warm every time we see her. Even when she is correcting a student her voice is calm and she remains visibly relaxed.
Because of the lower student/staff ratio the kids get a lot more one-on-one time. It frees up a staff member to focus on the sensory needs of the kids in the classroom as needed. Monkey is the only kid with Fragile X in the room but he is not, by far, the only kid who needs a sensory diet. Monkey is consistently wearing a pressure vest. He is getting his brushing and lotion time (basically deep pressure using moisturizer which he loves.) Everything is scheduled and predictable. It took some time to get the right combination but now that they’ve figured it out he’s able to stay calm and regulated all day long.
Another big difference between the two classrooms is the lead teacher’s philosphy. In his last classroom if Monkey was having a difficult time consistently during a portion of his day they put in interventions specifically geared towards him at those times. In this classroom Monkey was showing consistent difficulty during a portion of the schedule because they had two really challenging activities scheduled back-to-back. Instead of pulling Monkey aside between those activities, as we suggested, they changed the schedule. They moved things around just a little bit so that he was not moving from one challenging activity to the next and needing to be pulled aside in between.
The teacher wanted him to remain integrated into the group and not need to be singled out or pulled aside. A few slight alterations allowed him to stay in the group as it moved from activity to activity without being pulled aside for sensory time of some sort. That’s just a basic philosophical difference between teachers. I don’t think either one is “right” or “wrong” necessarily it’s just differnt view points and I can see both POV. As a mama, though, I am very appreciative of this flexibility. Of course the other kids shouldn’t suffer for Monkey’s benefit but if a slight change (modification, to use the lingo) like this is possible without doing harm to the other students while benefitting another…I’m all for it.