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Thriving in Middle School

We are in the midst of the last week of school here in the KnowitAll household. This means lots of fun activity days, (do I get a pj day too?) the cleaning out of desks and lockers, and the wrapping up of big projects. While we are in the midst of all of this, I want to stop and say thank you to my son’s school for an amazing year–Camp Ernst Middle School.

Many of you know that JD has Asperger’s, along with Sensory issues, ADHD and Central Auditory Processing Disorder. Mix in a good bit of ODD–Oppositional Defiant Disorder–and you have a good picture of my son. He did not do well with the last two years of elementary school. In fact he did so poorly that at one point in the middle of fifth grade that we seriously considered pulling him out and homeschooling him–a last resort for us. JD is the ultimate challenge–he has a lot of social and processing issues, but he is also gifted, with a high IQ. He is a challenge for any teacher.

So we were very nervous about middle school. We fretted and considered homeschooling again. We worried about the type of teachers he would get. How would a child that hated transitions survive the changing of classes every hour? JD is horrible at staying on task–how would that be worked out in middle school? His organizational skills are even worse than mine–how would we ever survive a year of constant changes and being responsible for six different teachers? And then the social skills…oh, how we were nervous about that! Middle school opened up a whole can of worms about bullying and social situations. To say we were nervous is an understatement. We were downright terrified.

We prayed and we prayed and we met with teachers and hoped for the best. God promised us he had him, and that we were going to love this year. Looking back now, you know what I see? The best school year JD has ever had. Seriously. We started out with a kid who couldn’t remember to turn in homework, couldn’t remember where he’d put things, and was constantly battling with the teachers. At Halloween he had almost all F’s in his classes. He was doing homework at home–a huge battle every night–and then not turning it in the next day. The teachers loved him, and were doing all they could to help. At Halloween we met and began a new discipline and rewards system, and what came out of it is nothing short of miraculous.

JD now is one point away from the Honor Roll, a first in his life. In January the teachers called us and said that he didn’t need to bring books home anymore for homework–he was getting his homework done in class. Every day. His grades shot up. He was organized, because he could do the homework and turn it in right away. He began to gain confidence, and along with that confidence came rewards of responsibility. The more responsibility he showed, the more freedoms he gained. Eventually he realized that if he just did the work in the beginning, he could be in control the rest of the day. (LOL, my little control freak!) His grades soared, he began engaging in class, and began making friends. He started to serve as a Teacher’s Aide one period of the day. Since December he has had zero homework. Zero. He’s getting it all done in school–there’s no need to bring it home. The teachers couldn’t believe what they were seeing. This kid they’d been trying to reach since day one, who had battled with them and refused to do anything that wasn’t on his own terms (he really is my little Sheldon), is now their most improved student. He is excelling, thriving, growing and learning. I give 100% of the credit to the teachers he had this year. From day one it has been clear to me that his team of teachers not only know about Aspergers, but that they “get” it as well. They don’t see these kids as a problem to be handled in the classroom–they see children who should be loved, who can be reached, who can be encouraged and brought out of their shell, with the goal of reaching their full potential. As a parent who has fought with well-meaning but not always well trained teachers for five years, let me tell you what a blessing it is. The culture at Camp Ernst is different. Every child succeeds–that is their goal. Every Child. Not just those who are good at sports. Not just those brainiacs who can recite odd facts at a moment’s notice. No, they mean EVERY child. Every child is important. Every child is integrated. Every child matters. That, my friends, is priceless. JD wanted to succeed, not only for himself, but as an act of loyalty and respect to the teachers who had respected him. That makes my heart swell with thanks and pride!

Here are a few photos lately that left me in tears of joy:

 

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Most Improved Student 2012--A Very Proud JD!

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Showing off his Culture Fair Project

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Aspie moms, you know why this photo brings tears to my eyes--a friend. An honest-to-goodness friend at school!

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Showing off one of his favorite classrooms--the technology room. Can't imagine where he got that gene from...

 

So to Mrs Estenfelder, Mrs Crow-Carney, Mr Floyd, Mrs Aguinaldo, Ms Bishop, Ms Howard, Mr Rabe, Ms Meyer, Ms Walborn, Ms Grayson and Mr Coburn–thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are miracle workers!

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Comments

  1. How awesome is that! Congrats.

  2. It is amazing. Be ready–I’ve given JD the assignment to blog this summer, and his own space here to do so. It could be really interesting!