This blog is the ninth in a series about a Lake Elsinore mom's personal challenges and triumphs ...
The transition to middle school was so hard..Luckily, my son's team knew that we needed to do this slowly. Brandon started visiting his new school months before he actually attended. He needed that time to adjust to his surroundings. He also needed to get to know his new teacher.
I was so happy that the new teacher was very educated in the field of Autism. I was also so grateful that my son's one on one aide would be going on to middle school with him. I felt confident that although this wasn't going to be easy, at least someone that knew him would be with him.
Another plus was that one of my dear friends and fellow PTA mom worked at the middle school and knew my son very well. Things seemed to be going smoothly or were they?
The first few months went really well. My son adjusted to the new teacher and she collaborated with his elementary teacher every week. Unfortunately this perfect situation was short lived when after two months, the teacher told me she was leaving to open an Autism school in another county. This was quite a blow to everyone. The classroom didn't get another permanent teacher for almost two years! We had so many substitute teachers in this class it seemed like we would never have a permanent one. This was really hard on the students and the classroom aides.
Another obstacle my son had a problem dealing with was entering new buildings , so we used pictures to practice. It worked well after a few tries but he wouldn't enter the main office for almost his entire middle school years. The office had reflective glass on the outside, which really scared him. I remember the day he finally got brave enough to go in. I got a phone call and it scared me! The office staff was so excited for my son, they were screaming in the phone! Talk about almost having a heart attack!! I thought something horrible had happened. It was a real monumental day for the staff and my son. It was so nice that they cared so much.
Besides the transition to middle school, something else was going on.....Puberty had arrived. The thing I think most people don't understand about our kids with disabilities is that they go through the same feelings as our regular adolescents. They start showing interests in things they didn't seem to care about before! Their voices change, they grow hair and in my son' s case, he just kept growing and growing. He experienced a very unusual growth spurt. He grew so much in a year that it alarmed his doctor. He was also gaining weight at a rapid speed. The food didn't justify the weight gain. We found out he had a hormonal abnormality. This caused him to grow in height and weight rapidly. Once he stopped growing he was 6'6" tall and weighed over 250 lbs. It really frustrated me that people just assumed he was overfed or didn't do anything but sit around, both of which aren't true. Unfortunately, even some of the people that worked with my son in the schools felt the same about him. It made it very difficult in certain situations to trust some of those people. I found out the discrimination that not only the disabled person deals with, but how the overweight person is treated as well. My son's size would cause more problems later on in his life too. Unfortunately this happens because people are so quick to judge someone by their looks.
My son was at the middle school for three years before we faced the next transition: High School! I found myself faced with another obstacle, there was no appropriate high school program that would address our young teens with Autism. What would this mean for my son and others like him? Would they be placed out of the district once again? Next: Making An Autism High School Classroom