Playin’ Hooky From Summer School

Four weeks into Summer school — aka: Extended School Year (ESY) — and I’ve only brought The Boys in for 2 1/2 days. Bad Mama? OR, Bad Mama!

Our contained class experience this past year included My Boys’ adopting some negative behaviors from a few of their peers with special needs. As such, I’ve been working this Summer to extinguish that unwanted behavior! Our contained class experience this past year excluded significant academic gains as the class was very focused on socialization… something My Boys already excel in. Again, I’ve been working to advance their academic skills at home this Summer. Furthermore, our end-of-year CSE meeting outlined a Summer school program that pseudo-addressed most of my concerns, to the extent that it could. Unfortunately, the REALITY of the program delivered does not, in fact, come anywhere near to meeting their needs, or mine! What’s a Mom to do?

We were told that the half-day class was composed of “higher-functioning” children from the collaborative classes so that we might be better able to avoid exposure to some of the less desireable behaviors. In fact, the half-day Summer school program is the first 3 hours of the full-day program, complete with all of the same “behavioral” children plus others up to a 3-year-range, and including a few with our newly-displayed, undesireable behaviors that I’m already working diligently to extinguish. Last thing I need is additional exposure. Additionally, I was told My Boys could participate in playground and sprinkler time with the “typically-developing” children attending recreation for peer role-modeling. But on day one, I was told that  there’s no opportunity for coordiating or alligning the two different program schedules to allow for this. Further, there’s no aide to facilitate such inclusion. In our meeting, it was explained to me and my husband that decreased speech services–twice weekly rather than 4x/week, 1 1:1 and 1 2:1 (My Boys being the 2)–to  maintain their current level of speech would be provided. Instead, they’ve provided 3 group sessions for the entire contained class of 6-9-year-olds. Effective? I think not! Despite our IEPs indicating tactile prompting (just short of naming PROMPT, the preferred method for treating verbal apraxia), the speech therapist is not trained in Prompt AND group speech does not support individual tactile prompting. Finally, as our CSE chairperson explained, the purpose of ESY is to maintain skills to avoid significant regression caused by the Summer break. So I asked the teacher whether she’d been given The Boys’ Discreet Trial books to establish the baseline for maintaining their skills. NO! She had not seen them, they were not provided, she has no record of what My Boys are specifically able to do. So, I asked, “how are you planning to maintain their skills if you don’t know what their skills are?” Her answer was, effectively, she’s just reinforcing the kindergarten curriculum! So much for individualized teaching, I guess.

Now, perhaps she’s a great special ed teacher. Perhaps My Boys might have maintained their skills or perhaps even made gains in this Summer School program. Perhaps no inclusion and exposure to unwanted behaviors would not have had any negative impact on My Boys. But THIS PROGRAM was NOT what we talked about at our CSE meeting. Sure I feel duped, but I could get over that if I thought it would be effective… productive… a good use of our time. To make matters worse, Summer school starts an hour EARLIER than regular school so there is no rest for the weary! And no sleeping in for My Little Men.

So, instead of Summer school, I bought us an iPad and loaded some educational apps on it. Almost daily, I work with each of My Boys, individually, on letters, numbers, colors, shapes, writing/tracing, talking/articulation, and more. Though they’re not terribly interested in “working” on academics with me, the new tablet — strictly limited to academic programs and absolutely NO GAMING ALLOWED — is new and interesting to them so they humor me. They’re now able to enjoy Summer activities, some of which run a little later than school-year activities, including camping with campfires and s’mores-making, going to concerts in the park, inclusive group swimming lessons, Member Evenings at the Bronx Zoo and so much more including just plain old fun and relaxation! We’re even able to read more at night because I’m not hung up on ensuring they get enough sleep to wake up in time for school! If I had to get them up to be at Summer school by 8:30 am every morning, we couldn’t avail ourselves of many of these opportunities. 

Am I wrong? Is what I’m doing promoting regression or could it possibly be introducing new experiences, information  and skills while maintaining their current level of achievement? Gosh, I sure hope so! But if, by chance, I’m not, is wanting a little more fun and a little less school really that bad for them? After all, My Boys are only SIX-years-old. Having Down syndrome doesn’t make them want to have and enjoy their Summer any less than any other 6-year-old! And I want to enjoy My Boys a little too… instead of sending them off to school, being a slave to the school schedule day-in and day-out. They want to go to the playground and go swimming and camping, just like every other kid in town. They want to go on vacation or just play in the pool with their friends (typically-developing friends!). Still, my mother’s guilt kicks in Monday through Friday at about 8:00 am! I should wake them, bring them, torture them. My Big Man pleading with me, “P L E A S E Mommy, I GO HOME? PLEASE? PPPPLLLEEEAAAASSSSEEE!” (He never minded school like this)!

But I don’t take them there. And I don’t think I’m going to. While I type that with great trepidation… there it is! It’s official, I’ve admitted it. We’re playin’ hooky from Summer school… and we’re having fun doing it! 

Hope it turns out well!

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