Just Another Day

Filed Under (Adam) by Estee on 07-10-2010

Adam is clearly settling into his new school. He is happy when he returns home. He comes with a journal telling me what he has done as well as a day-timer for scheduling and organizing. I’m sure liking this new school. Prior to this one, I had Adam in an integrated setting where I didn’t get much feedback on what he was doing. I put him there in Kindergarten because it was a Montessori school and at the time he needed to be calm with others in a school setting. It was good for him at the time and I’m grateful he went there.

Here in Toronto, however, I haven’t found a truly “Inclusive” scholastic setting. We have integrative settings where an autistic child is segregated for part of the day and reintegrated into a “regular” classroom for another part of it, if I can describe it swiftly. The problem with these settings is that the onus is always on the autistic or special needs child to conform to the “regular” or “normal” setting. That setting usually has one curriculum and is rarely adapted. The work is usually completed in the same way by all the students.

The Inclusive setting, ideally, would not only adapt and accommodate a program to the needs and capabilities of the child but also teach the “normal” students the innate value of the “special” students. Ideally, we would regard everyone as different, but equal — not ghetto-ize, or make them “terminally unique,” if I may reuse a term from Amanda Baggs that she used a few years ago at M.I.T in Boston. A subject can be taught uniformly (about, say, Volcanoes), but the students might manifest their comprehension of the subject in different formats depending on their interests, talents and capabilities. All these manifestations or expressions would be highly valued.

This doesn’t exist here in Toronto (to my knowledge). So, I’ve put Adam in a school where he is with a variety of different kids, not just autistic kids. There are kids who are mentors there to him (he really likes that and looks up to the older boys), has social skills and life skills classes in addition to his academics that are built to suit his needs. Like many other special needs kids, he now has an I.E.P. (Independent Education Plan).

A year of big transitions, including a change of schools, has definitely taken its toll on Adam, but he is still a gentle child. He can become frustrated, but he doesn’t act out on others. When he is anxious it is very difficult for him to communicate his needs.

As I often say, because little things are major around here (although we don’t overdo it with fanfare), I have to tell the story of driving Adam home today, when the language was easier. It is an indication that he is making sense of things again.

“How was your day, Adam?”

“Goud,” he said in an almost Swedish-sounding accent.

“What did you do today.”

“Walk.” He did go on a nature walk today.

“That’s great,” I said smiling, giggling a little, trying to keep my eye on the road while turning my head slightly to see him from the corner of my eye as he was sitting in the back seat. “What else did you do?”

“Art.” Indeed he did that too. He made me a Thanksgiving turkey out of construction paper that is now taped on our kitchen window.

“Why don’t you ask me what mommy did today?” I suggested, thinking that he has a right to ask me questions — our kids get so “grilled” by them. “Say, Mommy what did you do?”

“Mommy what didyoudo?” he said it so quickly that the last three words sounded as if they were one. He said it without hesitation, looking straight at me.

“I went grocery shopping and did some work today at my computer,” I replied.

And so it was. Just another day.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (www.taaproject.com), and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.