“The Tribe Has Spoken,” about how IEP Teams can work together successfully, I thought I would share a happy story about the Prince’s “village.” After last week, I think the autism community blogosphere could use a little good news.
Friday was The Prince’s kindergarten “graduation.” He is included in a mainstream kindergarten class along with 3 other children who are also on IEP’s for various reasons. He is the only ASD child in the group, but some of the others have sensory and attention challenges too. There are three teachers. Two are general education teachers, with no previous experience working with ESE students until this year. The ESE teacher comes to the class to help with academics and he is also at the start of his teaching career, young and enthusiastic. They were a great team, open-minded, inventive, and always eager to learn themselves. We know we are very lucky. I am so grateful to the Prince’s teachers for their patience and creativity.
When it came time for graduation, the teachers wondered how to best do a “ceremony” that would be comfortable for all the students, even those like the Prince, yet meaningful for all the children and their parents. They felt that the “cap and gown” kind of event in an auditorium with all the other kindergarten classes (over 100 kids) would be a bit intimidating. So they took a hint from “Autism the Musical” and asked the children what THEY would like to do. They had done a small holiday performance just for the parents in their classroom in December that was intimate and enjoyable. According to my son, all the kids remembered that and wanted to do “a big show” for graduation. They wanted to do it on stage. Oy Vey! I said to myself, when I heard the plan, but I was hopeful that it could be accomplished.
A Hawaiian theme was chosen and several lively songs selected, including “Rock-A-Hula,” pictured here. The teachers and students worked very hard for several months to put this together, and until I saw it, I would not have believed it could be done! Here are some of the “accommodations” that were made for the children with special needs:
1. Only parents were invited, to keep the audience small
2. Various sensory accommodations were made: sunglasses to lower visual distractions, lowered sound system & ear plugs for those sensitive to sound, calming dive/surf-shirts (which provide similar input to weighted vests)
3. Lots of movement was incorporated, with very little sitting-still required, and for those children who tend to have “busy hands” instruments like drums, maracas, etc. were supplied. (The Prince was a drummer!)
4. Lots of practice, more than you might think!
And best of all, these accommodations fit right into the theme of the show. It was much more fun than any “pomp and circumstance” kind of event. The teachers also put together a power point slide show featuring each of the children individually. The kids all cheered for each other and they ALL FELT SPECIAL.