I knew Ashton was doing so much better at his current school, but I really had no idea how much better he was doing. We have not had a single bad report since school started nearly 4 weeks ago, not. a. single. one! Most of them have said he’s been having great days and is really buckling down and settling in and doing his work, unattended! (not 1:1…..). Today, we got a phone call from school. It was Ashton and his teacher and Ashton said (and I quote) “Will you please buy me Lorax because I am doing such a good job in school?” – HOW freaking awesome is that?!?! HIS OWN WORDS!! She gave him the idea to call mommy and daddy and ask but he DID IT ON HIS OWN! 🙂 SO INCREDIBLE!!!
I think I’m still somewhat emotionally scarred from his last school placement, though as time goes by, it lessens greatly. At this time last year, I’d been called at least 6-7 times to pick Ashton up and he had already been served his first suspension of the school year (yes, in week 3 last year he got served his first suspension of the year, notice the key word *first*!). Things were already in a downward spiral (as I had told staff/administration they would be) and I wasn’t seeing a way out.
It was then, that I made the decision, I was going to do whatever I had to do to get Ashton out of there. I was unwilling to work with administration and staff anymore (as they had proven they were unwilling to listen to me and work with me). After around 25+ hours of meetings (all meetings were FULL IEP meetings with special ed administration and all personnel included) over the course of 4 weeks, we finally made the determination that this placement wasn’t suitable for Ashton (duuuuh!). However, the school district was pushing me to move him into a SECEP placement. Now, we’ve done the whole SECEP thing (ACP, autistic childrens program) before. Ashton did wonderfully in that placement and in fact, did so well we were able to reintegrate him back into the public school system. I wasn’t looking to take two steps backwards just to make it easier for the school district. I felt he needed a fair shake at a lateral placement with a new school, teachers, administration and classmates. That move took place in November of last year and I was scared out of my mind with worry that we would send him further into his downward spiral he was heading into.
But then something amazing happened…… 🙂 He met his new teacher, his new classmates and new administration……. and amazing things occurred!
Since then, things have been on a steady, upward climb ever since. The weird, erratic behaviors stopped. The non-compliance stopped and he’s an absolute joy to be around most of the time. He was able to attend his first (and subsequent) CBI trips without me just a few weeks after starting the class. HE WAS COMPLETING HIS WORK (not all the time…. but some of the time was better than none of the time) Of course, he’s a teenager and gets mouthy and all attitude-y (yes, that’s a real word … a real word *I* made up! lol) but he’s overall a joy. He’s been on a VERY STEEP upward climb since school started. It’s an absolutely AMAZING turn-around! One I could have NEVER imagined in my wildest dreams. I am keeping my fingers, legs, toes, and eyes (everything I possible can!) crossed that this trend continues.
We made our first trip to Busch Gardens as a family this summer. We’ve never been with the kids! They both had a blast (Holden went last year during Howl-o-scream with a cousin) and enjoyed the roller coasters, the water rides, etc. But Ashton? He far surpassed my every expectation. He didn’t complain about all the walking, didn’t whine about the waiting around in lines (though truth be told, none of the lines we waited in were very long) and he just behaved much better than I had expected. He was just a totally different kid going into this summer and coming out of the summer when school started. More calm, more verbal, way more social, and interested and connected. I don’t know if it’s just the teacher and school, or if it’s all the fresh air from all the outside activities this summer (surfing, racing with Team Hoyt, camping, etc) or if it’s just plain ol’ maturity.
But, I can tell you this. He’s made real and lasting emotional connections with people that he never would have before. With Marc, he’s got the connection of running with him. He gets to feel the rush of crossing over the finish line and saying “I win!” (even if he didn’t, ha!). Marc has been an incredible influence on not only Ashton, but Holden as well. Marc, I know we tell you this all the time, but you’re a super great guy and Ashton LOVES running with you! Marc, Andrea and Ernie are an incredible family. I’m sure Marc’s brother, David, is just as nice and incredible, but I’ve not met him yet 🙂 They’ve welcomed Ashton with open arms and treat him with an amazing amount of respect, compassion and friendship. He’s not just “some kid” to them…. he’s kind of like the honorary younger “brother” that Marc doesn’t have. They have some great times together, giving high 5s and connecting over YouTube videos when I aim to please Ashton by handing over my iPhone 🙂 Marc has learned a lot about Ashton in the last few months; Ashton hates to hear the word “no”, will say the opposite if you ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do, Ashton loves YouTube, Ashton loves to read, Ashton LOVES pretzels, and Ashton is a really cool kid! 🙂
Ashton’s made connections with kids in his class, that has never really happened before. He’s got a “best friend!” A friend that I really need to make more of an effort that he gets to see after school hours to cultivate the friendship. He’s also made connections with his teacher, who truly recognizes there is a potential for some incredibly awesome things. I mean, Ashton’s awesome anyways, but he’s showing glimpses that he’s really “in there” and aware. Many times, children with Autism are passed over as being “not connected, not paying attention and not caring”. That’s far from the truth, at least in Ashton’s case. He’s such a sweet, loving and caring kid. One who ADORES babies! LOVES THEM TO PIECES actually! “We were all born as a baby mommy! Mommy, MOMMY where you born as a baby too?” LOL! Love that sweet mess!
I’m not sure if it’s maturity, new friends, the new activity of running/riding with Team Hoyt (though I must admit that since he started riding with Team Hoyt, that’s when the incredible transformations have been taking place!!!!!), or what the deal is BUT I WILL TAKE IT! I am forever grateful for the people who helped me see what needed to be done to get Ashton what he needed. I’m also forever grateful for the people who have come into our lives and changed them for the better 🙂
THANK YOU EVERYONE and most of all, thank you God for the amazing transformation we’ve gotten to see Ashton!
———– edited 9/29/12 …. I wanted to add in some “stuff”
the bad experiences that Ashton went through, are all a part of what’s made him who he is TODAY. While I wouldn’t wish what happened on ANYONE, if we hadn’t, he wouldn’t be doing SO well now. I am saying right now, a lot of what will be posted below is not for the faint of heart. DO NOT KEEP READING if you will get upset about the incidences or be judgemental. I don’t want judgement. I am posting what I am getting ready to post in a way to show what an amazing difference there is. Keeping in mind that he had NEVER displayed these tendencies before and has not since he’s been removed from that placement.
I want to also say that the very first thing I would do after an incident at school, was take Ashton to the doctor. To ensure that nothing was wrong (since they were very atypical behaviors) and to kind of have a record. Luckily, nothing was ever medically wrong, but I should have pushed more to do what needed to be done much sooner.
.. He became a classic “runner” – he would dart out of the classroom and away from classroom staff, multiple times a day. It was to the point where he was running out of the classroom 4-5times PER bell! He, at one point, earned a 2 day out of school suspension because he ran out of the classroom and around the building and ran laps! This was extremely scary (and exactly what I told the school would happen given the darting/escaping/running he was doing to get out of the classroom and away from staff). Even scarier? After this happened, I found out the school had absolutely no protocol in place for if a child was to run out of the building! Even worse? They didn’t even have any ideas of what they SHOULD if a child was to do this. A suspension though? When I TOLD them that it was coming? (frankly, I was surprised it took as long as it did…..) Heart-breaking, and I’m only glad that nothing happened. His old school was smack dab in the middle of a busy neighborhood. What was the school going to do if he got off school grounds and got kidnapped or hit by a car? I never got an answer and I lived on pins and needles the entire rest of the school year.
.. He actually disrobed in the classroom. Completely. Absolutely nothing on. 6 students and 3 teachers/assistants/personal aide and nobody noticed until he was completely naked. I still don’t get how this happened. Then, a couple of days later he completely disrobed in the boy’s bathroom in the main hallway and went out into the hallway. THAT offense, he got suspended for. It was his first suspension no less. Similar incidences happened but nothing that led to completely disrobing. This was extremely abnormal behavior and luckily, it stopped immediately upon the end of that school year.
.. He supposedly peed into a cup and then drank it. This was never actually confirmed one way or the other for sure, but when I first heard about this, I was like WHAT?!?!?! INSANE!! He’d NEVER done ANYTHING like that before?? I was absolutely furious! Again, it never happened again. What frustrated me more than anything was that at this point, he was supposed to have adult supervision 100% of the time. Also, he was using a private bathroom (nurse’s clinic bathroom) so it wasn’t like the teacher couldn’t keep a closer eye on him without invading other kids’ privacy. If he was being watched, HOW COULD THIS OF HAPPENED?! Luckily, he never got sick, but it was a major breaking point. I was furious but wasn’t sure where to go from here. I was even MORE upset to find that the asst principal in charge of special ed NEVER heard about the incident, until *I* told her!
.. Upon the beginning of his 7th grade year, he started poking holes in his shirts! HOLES! with pencils! Where was the supervision I asked? He was supposed to be kept in sight of an adult at all times. It happened at least 3-4 times and I was furious. Because it was happening with brand new clothes!
.. The very last straw was the 2 suspensions Ashton received within the first month and a half of last school year (7th grade). The first was for kicking the teacher in the head. As I was told, it was more than likely an accident (Ashton did something, the teacher fussed at him, he got mad and threw himself to the floor and was kicking and screaming, and when she went to pick up something he dropped/threw, her head got a swift kick) but, he did do wrong. But it was a symptom of what was wrong and something I knew would likely happen. The second suspension was because he literally put his hands around a teacher’s throat. I was done at that point.
What made all of this so hard to deal with was, I kept getting told “oh, it’s just middle school. He’s having a hard time adjusting.” I heard that his ENTIRE 6th grade year. He did summer school and ESY services that summer following and did GREAT! I knew then that the problem was NOT Ashton, the middle school transition or anything else, it was the school, teachers and placement. Sadly, he was placed back into the same exact placement and I told them (school administration) that nothing was going to change and that you couldn’t compare summer school to the normal school year. Well, when things started cropping up again WITHIN THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL (he immediately went back to darting/running out of the classroom) I knew I was right.
So – you see what Ashton went through. A LOT. MORE than he should of had to. He overcame all of that, and came out on top is an amazing and it was a wonderful thing to behold.THANK YOU TO EVERYONE who made this possible!!! We love you all and are very grateful!!!