6th Sep, 2008

Educating Seth

Seth has been attending a small private alternative school for the last twelve months.  We chose the school for its small class sizes, individualised teaching and thematic and engaging approach to the curriculum.

I worried that it didn’t fit the recommended criteria for a classroom suited to kids with FASD, being fairly open and stimulating with a busy, flexible time table but I hoped that the very experienced and creative teaching would make up for that.  And in some ways it has.

Seth was homeschooled for half a year before attending this school after we pulled him from a state school. The state school just wasn’t meeting his needs and his self esteem and interest in school were definitely affected, but at that stage we didn’t have a diagnosis of FASD  (specifically ARND)  so we didn’t even understand what his needs were.

Our six months homeschooling was not all that successful as I had a lot of difficulty motivating Seth, keeping him on task and providing him with the peer socialisation he craved back at his old school with all the mates he’d known for five years. So this little school which two of our older children had attended happily for a few years seemed the answer to our problem. Seth settled in fairly happily, made friends, and started to develop a more positive self image and attitude to school.

But there have been some problems, mostly of a behavioural nature, and I’ve occasionally blogged about them. Seth, typically, is impulsive and not very aware of the appropriate nature of his actions. He’s not aggressive or violent, but he is a dare devil and an adventurer. He doesn’t see why he shouldn’t do things that are exciting even if they are inappropriate.  Being out-of-bounds, taking art supplies from the classroom, buying his friends drinks with money he shouldn’t have had, are just a few of the incidents he’s been involved with lately.

Nothing he did was done alone.  He always had other kids happy to join him, and maybe sometimes they even instigated the activities, but it seemed Seth was a common denominator.  What is more, once he was caught out Seth became quite angry and defensive and, if overwhelmed, he’d simply run.

The final straw occurred while he was away on a two night school camp.  We received a phone call on the second day asking us to come and pick up Seth as he’d got into a bit of trouble. He and another kid had been reported to “joke” about getting up in the night to damage a teacher’s car because she’d yelled at them.

Hubby picked him up.  Seth was upset and wouldn’t get out of the car once he arrived home, but I talked him round and he came inside but refused to talk about what had happened.  Over the next few days I tried to have quiet little discussions with Seth about all the incidents of the past few weeks. Some he told me about, others he denied, and some he just seemed to have forgotten!

On the Monday we had a lunchtime appointment with Seth’s teacher and the principal. It wasn’t good.

They won’t have Seth back as they feel his behaviours require too much teacher supervision and intervention and impacts on the other kids too much. In a very democratic and free school like this Seth is not a good fit.  I understood but I was devastated anyway.  Where to now?

We had hoped that Seth, who is actually due to move up to secondary school next year, might have had one extra year at primary school to help him learn a little more and be a little better prepared for the transition to a new school.  Given that is no longer an option we’ve decided to enrol him at our local secondary college for next year and fill in the next term and a half with homeschooling again.  There seems no point in searching out another school for just four months, so again I face the daunting task of teaching a child with significant learning difficulties, this time with a distracting toddler running around.

The local secondary college he will be attending has to apply for educational funding for Seth on the basis of the various assessments he’s had in the past eight months.  The more funding he gets, the more time he’ll have allocated with a teacher aide.  I know he can only work with the constant attendance of a patient adult, so I’m hoping our application gets a good response.

The school will also modify the program for Seth. Instead of a second language he will be in a small group for remedial English.  He will have his own maths curriculum to follow (probably based on the grade four program) and he will not be expected to participate in the whole grade activities, although he’ll still be in the classroom. I will put together a kit about Seth specifically, and FASD in general, and have been promised all teachers in contact with Seth will be advised to read and learn from these, so I hope that does really happen.

I’ve also asked that they build in some structure to his recess times, explaining that such free time is when he gets into strife.  They talk about directing him into the optional lunchtime activities, such as roller skating in the gym, juggling class, handball competitions, and library sessions.  They will also keep an eye on him and monitor the kids he hangs out with, knowing how easily influenced he is.

Seth himself knows that unstructured time is a danger to him.  He admits that having unsupervised time goes to his head, that he looks for interesting things to do and that he gives no thought to what will happen afterwards. On that basis I hope he is co-operative about having his time structured for him.

Meanwhile, he is home with me all day with twenty four hour supervision, so he isn’t getting into any trouble at all.  We run our classroom fairly loosely, basing our time table on Angel’s sleep times and access visits (for which he is picked up and returned home, so I don’t have to leave the house) .  During these times I give Seth specific instruction in language and maths while we are both able to focus (I’m certainly a lot more focused than he is!) and then the rest of the day while the toddler’s roaming about the place we do cooking, crafts, reading, board games, walking and some shopping and cleaning. On Wednesdays he comes to Playgroup with me and either reads in the car or plays with all the little kids.

He takes regular breaks throughout the day to do a bit of gymnastics (the mattresses from his bed stay permanently on the family room floor) or skateboarding out in the driveway.  We are renovating at the moment and his latest fun game is to skip about on top of the joists of the unfinished deck, throwing in the occasional handstand. He is happy and contented, relatively co-operative and enjoying his days with Angel and I. I don’t know if this relaxed school style will make it harder for him to transition to high school in five months time, but I’m not going to worry too much.  I’ll just relax too, and enjoy this extra time with my sweet boy.


Wow, what a challenge!

It sounds like you are doing what the school needs to be doing for Seth to be successful. Needing the physical breaks, shorter work periods, this is what my Andrew has in his school. But he is in all special ed with an aide going with him and 3-4 others when in social mainstream classes. Who knows what the break from school will do for him. Maybe it’ll give him the break he needs to build up his self-esteem. It sounds as though he is very successful with you. It sounds like you are in a tough place to be as far as school goes–you know what he needs. Keep fighting for his rights. You know him best! You’ve done a wonderful job!

Just wondering how you are?

How are you doing? It’s been a long time since you’ve written, hope everything is ok-

How are things? Hope you had a Merry Christmas!

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