Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Elf Goes to Kindergarten

Comments overheard today in the Children’s House:

·         Black is so boring…can we put stickers on him?

·         I think he just tooted, I wonder if he can burb too…now that would be cool.

·         Don’t let him eat the rock. If he eats the rock, he’ll probably die.

·         I saw an anteater one time at the zoo when I visited my grandpa and I think he looks like the anteater.

·         Why is he licking me—is he going to eat me?

·         My dog looks just like him except he’s white and a poodle. But I think my dog is a girl…how do you know if a dog is a boy or girl?

Yep Elf went to Kindergarten.  I have to say that this is a pretty remarkable group of kids.  If you aren’t familiar with Montessori schools, I should probably explain a few things. First the classrooms are all multi-age so the Children’s House is the 3 and 4 year old program as well as K. E1 is what we call the classroom for 1st-3rd, E2 is the room for 4th-6th, and AP is for 7th and up.  For Caden this approach is amazing because he can excel in areas like math and science that are intuitive for him but there are enough younger children in the classroom that he doesn’t stand out for having a lovey with him at school or being difficult to understand.  Second the kids learn quickly to work hard and independently. I should say that Montessori doesn’t work for every child and certainly wouldn’t work for every child with an asd but for Caden it is a perfect match.  He can choose his work, all lessons are one-on-one instead of mass produced for the entire classroom, and he can work on a project until he is done rather than having to put it away and try to pick it up again later. The living skills and build in fine motor skills are also a definite bonus for him.  The kids also learn a great deal of respect for each other and their community. I can honestly say that Caden has been accepted by children in all of the classrooms and the fact they all know one another (we only have about 70 kids total in the entire school along with 4 teachers and 1 director) and help take care of each other has allowed him to interact with a variety of individuals and generally feel safe at school. Caden loves school and asks almost every weekend and break if it is a school day yet.  

This is a group of students who has anxiously and excitedly waited for Elf to come to school. They are doing an amazing job of asking Caden each and every time if they can pet his dog. They are also trying to remember that they aren’t supposed to be distracted by the dog. The one thing they can’t seem to remember however is that they need to watch out for Elf’s tail---I lost track of the number of times that I went to replace Elf confused by why he was moving so much only to realize that yet again someone was standing on his tail or at least on tail hair—Elf never yipped, squeaked, moaned, or barked. He just patiently moved and tried to find safe places to put his tail. I’m contemplating neon pant for his tail…..

Lest anyone think this fascination is just a “kid’s” thing, I should say that E1 was equally intrigued by having Elf at school and E2 actually worked with Children’s House today on service dog essays.  It was awesome to hear how much all of the kids are learning about service dogs and I can only imagine that they will take all of this new knowledge out into the world with them­­--Can’t wait to hear from the parent whose child was so fascinated with “Elf toots”…..


Most importantly though Elf did great and Caden was thrilled he was there.  He wasn’t however as enthusiastic about our continued presence and assured us many times that we could “just wait in the car.” Elf was starting to listen and respond to the teacher and her assistant (both of whom are very accepting of whatever Caden needs in order to be happy and successful at school) and I’m somewhat sorta almost maybe confident that eventually Elf will just become another piece of the furniture in the room when the novelty wears off.  We are going to continue to work Elf into the classroom with the hope that he’ll be there full time after the start of the new year.  Now someone is going to have to explain this to my husband and I’s colleagues and students who are going to be heartbroken when they find out Elf is officially going to kindergarten!