First of all, thank you to Solodialogue and hooray for henry for the rapid responses to my previous post concerning the drop-off time of my son and the role his paraprofessional plays in that. As always, your insight and the fact that you were “there” means so much to me and Husband. Fortunately, the situation was resolved quite simply. James text-messaged one of the counselors that works with Joel during the school day and filled her in on what happened and our concerns regarding the abrupt changes to Joel’s routine. She completely understood and had already met with Joel’s paraprofessional about the situation. The school agreed with us and we will continue to drop him off at the usual location no matter when we get there. The way I understand it is that she (the PP) was just trying to follow the policy and was not fully aware of how it would affect Joel. It had never once been an issue the whole of the last school year, which makes me think our previous paraprossional just overlooked it if we were ever running late and just “went with the flow” so to speak. Husband told them we would try harder to get Joel to school at a time more conducive to the school’s tardy policy.
When we went to pick him up this afternoon, the paraprofessional was extremely gracious and it went surprisingly well. Joel, for the first time since school has begun, did not cry or fight leaving the school. It might have helped that we wised up and brought a popsicle from home as a bribe to get him into the car seat. Judging by his behavior, I don’t even think it was needed. He gave me the biggest hug (which I really needed) and didn’t fight getting into the car seat. He had a great day, despite the craziness that occurred this morning. He didn’t even meltdown when we got home. I’m crossing my fingers that the transition period of the new school year is coming to an end and that Joel is feeling secure in the routine again.
I am going to chock this up as just one of those stumbling blocks on the road to becoming better aquainted with our new paraprofessional. We have only been interacting with her for the past couple of weeks and, before today, there hadn’t been any issues. Joel seems to like her which also reassures me. I’ve been told by the staff that there are some people he is just more comfortable with than others, and she is one of the ones he is comfortable with. As for her duties, I looked for information on the internet that details what her duties are and found this. Basically, the school has a set amount of paraprofessionals who are assigned to work with the special needs children in the school who need extra attention as per their IEP. Joel’s PP is with him from the time we drop him off to the time we pick him up. She literally does for him what I do all day when he doesn’t have school. The difference between she and I is that she gets a paycheck for her efforts, albeit the paycheck is probably nowhere near what she deserves. She helps him with his school work, takes him to the bathroom and changes his pull-ups, helps him stay seated at lunch, plays with him on the playground, sits with him during storytime, provides him with the affection he needs (he’s pretty cuddly) and all of the other things he requires to make sure he gets through his day.
I know that public schools often get a bad reputation, but I have to say, we have had a very positive experience so far with our community’s school district. The staff members are extremely warm and have been very accomodating to Joel’s needs. I will be looking more into state-funded resources available, but I’m afraid Oklahoma is one of the many states in our nation that have not made Autism-related programs a top priority. Because of this, there are really very few options in my very small town and why I am an Autism advocate.