Back to School 2013

First day of school 2103
Mason gives two thumbs up to _Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2._ I asked him for two days if he would go to a movie. He said yes. Then when we got there, he wasn't so sure. We've tried movies a couple of times, and he didn't like them. This one, however, is just fabulous and engaging. Even if you can't follow the story, you can enjoy the visually stimulating giant food.(And we all know how much Mason likes food.) Mason did some dancing in the aisle and talking back to the screen. He doesn't care if other people sit in a chair. He's not going to sit when a movie calls for dancing and joyful outbursts.

Mason has been taking horse riding lessons in Eau Claire. We are planning to go every Tuesday night until it gets too cold, which could be any day now. So far he tolerates staying on the horse for 20-30 minutes. The instructor leads the horse and encourages Mason to do things like pet the horse, tell the horse to stop and go, hold the horn, hold the reigns, brush the horse, etc. Mason is willing to do these things. My job is to be the support coach who runs along the side and keep Mason on the horse. So far he is using his legs and has a pretty good sense of balance. My hope is that he can learn to ride alone so that we can each ride a horse together. Mason is not able to take instruction and have the attention span for something like dance classes that most kids his age would do. However, horse riding is something that keeps his interest, and he can follow simple commands with support. I feel that it’s also therapeutic for me to be around horses. The horses and smell of the barn bring back fond memories for me. When I was Mason’s age, I had my own pony named Frosty. My dad used to leave me alone on Frosty while he did yard work. I remember that as soon as my dad was out of sight, Frosty would stop moving. I would have to sit there waiting for my dad to come back and get Frosty moving again. I think my dad bought be some spurs.
Horse riding in the rain. Mason stuck with it even though he was cold and wet and his little hands turned blue!
Mason started kindergarten at Wakanda Elementary. I did not want Mason in kindergarten because he did not go to 4K last year. With his late summer birthday plus Autism, he is way behind the other kids in the class. Then I found out that Wakanda was going to offer a special class for Autistic kids, so I got very excited and thought he would get special instruction. Well, we are over a month into it, and my excitement bubble has burst. Mason is in an inclusion class with 23 other kids. The little class I thought he would be in is like a closet that a few Autistic kids go to for a few minutes of small group work during the day. Mason has an aide with him most of the time, but I’m sure he’s pretty lost and overwhelmed. At night he says, “No school.” He’s even asked to go back to daycare, and that’s unusual because he didn’t like daycare. The worst part of it is-I get very little communication from the sp/ed teacher and none from the regular teacher. The first week of school, I spent a few hours each day trying to help Mason feel supported, and I could see that the teachers and aides were overwhelmed. After a few days of trying to understand the routine, I was frustrated because Mason rides a bus specifically routed for the Autistic kids. He leaves at 7:30 in the morning and school doesn’t start until 8:45. Then, the bus picks up him and other kids in the program an hour before the rest of the school gets out. Mason gets home at 3:00, and school is still running until 3:30. This makes scheduling my work day difficult, and I think it unscrupulous that he’s being shorted instructional minutes. The director of pupil services at the district said that the kids on the morning bus are supposed to be starting class early, but they don’t. They just play outside. The sp/ed teacher says she thinks socializing outside is important. I’m sure Mason is playing outside, but socializing-no. Okay, I’ve been a teacher for a long time. I can tell when people are not telling me the truth. I’m not at all sure what if any experience or special training the sp/ed teacher has. After four or five days of bringing Mason to school and staying until 10:00, the sp/ed teacher rather abruptly told me that Mason does better when I’m not there. Yep. Maybe she does better when I’m not there, but I know that isn’t true for him. He didn’t turn five, start kindergarten, and suddenly become a different child. He still has good and bad days, and the elementary school is not the right placement for him. A small class of no more than eight students where he got a lot of one on one instruction would be the right placement for him. I’m just not sure where to go from here. I’ve been participating in a parent education and support group called Unwinding Autism. I’ve been able to participate in weekly phone calls with specialists. The other callers and experts give me valuable feedback on how to handle behaviors, etc. And they all agree that I need better communication with the teachers at school-who so far have stonewalled me. On one of the Unwinding Autism calls, I confessed to the other callers that every day I have a heavy, sad feeling that I’m not doing the right or best things for Mason, and I don’t even know what else to do. All of them said they feel the same way.
                                                           Mason loves to climb. We go to the park every evening.

School started and that means it was Minnesota State Fair time. We went on a weekend with Suejung, Yvin and Ian. We had a great time eating our way through the day. There were too many people there, but we still had a fun time. We all liked watching the events in the horse arena. I saw team barrel racing for the first time. I remember being at the fair five years ago. It was just a few days before I left to pick up Mason. I was thinking about him, and all the fun things we would do together like go to the state fair. Even though not everything we do turns out to be “fun” or it’s just a lot of work, I still like being with Mason, and I appreciate that he’s willing to try things even though they are difficult for him. Mason is a fun person with a good sense of humor. Sometime anxiety masks his enthusiasm, but he keeps trying. Mason is a tenacious and determined person, and I love that about him.


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