Thursday, July 7, 2011

Back to School – but which one?

The school supply section appearing at Target right after July 4th has always bothered me, but this year more than ever.  Part of this, of course, is because summer just arrived here weather-wise, but there is a bigger reason.  William just finished elementary school in June, so middle school looms.  Last spring I made what I thought was a decision to have him go to The Whole Learning School, a wonderful and very small private school for kids with disabilities.  Since that time, I’ve had many second, and even third, thoughts about it.  William desperately wants to go to his assigned middle school, with his sixth grade peers.  What he thinks that will be like and why he wants it so badly, I don’t really know.  (I do know it speaks volumes about the community he felt in his elementary school.)  My struggle is that I have doubts that the public system can provide the individualized academic support he needs, but that the private school option has very limited social opportunities for him, which he craves.  So, what is middle school about?  Is it for social or academic enhancement? Will he even have any friends at the public middle school?  Are “neuro-typical” peers overrated when they’re adolescents? How much does the child’s own desire play into the decision?  There are no answers now, only more questions, and the hunt for the solution that feels like the best fit.


  1. Laura, I love the blog idea, and feel I can be pretty open in this forum.
    Well, at least you are asking exactly the right questions. What is the purpose of middle school? I think at least in part it is to prepare for the transition years. For children with disabilities, in Minnesota, preparing for transition to adulthood must begin when the child turns 14. What path will help William (and you, and his educators) identify his strengths and build positive experiences which will encourage him to develop those strengths? And then, what are the trade offs? I know you have put a huge amount of effort into considering this from so many angles. I do think the child's desires play a big role, because it is no fun to have an angry and resentful teen. Of course it is not simple with a child on the spectrum to identify exactly how to find the reality which will meet the desire.
    I love that you're throwing open the doors on your processing. And the water park photo is a gem too.

  2. We've wrestled with the same question. We have even considered home schooling. I know both of my boys would thrive academically if they were home schooled, but I also want them to be able to survive the "real" world (whatever that is). I can't really provide them tools they need to navigate the social side of things as well as the school can. I'm just relieved that we have a diagnosis now and supports in place for Derek now, as well as for Aaron. I'm much more comfortable with the thought of middle school now that I was 6 months ago.

  3. Thanks, Elizabeth and Janet. I've been back and forth in the last couple days like a racquetball bouncing off the court walls! My neighbor at the cabin asked me what my gut says and I said "That's the problem, it doesnt'!" Elizabeth, I went to a breakout session at the autism conference about homeschooling. Super interesting. I can give you the contact info of the presenter if you want. And, "real world" may be an awesome blog post in and of itself.