The Power of Observation

I wrote recently about the school district finally coming to their senses, at least a little bit.  I am trying to not get too excited about what the next step means, because I don’t want to run the risk of getting my hopes up that they will come through.  I have my doubts about whoever they will be using to do their evaluation of Kaitlyn, and probably rightly so.  With school districts facing budget crunches and the state goverment slicing education funding even more, the chance of their observer being even remotely as qualified as our clinical psychologist is is pretty slim.  But, I could also be surprised.

One thing they will not be able to do is observe Kaitlyn in her natural learning environment.  No matter how much I try to convince them otherwise, the school district maintains that they would not be allowed to observe her at her current school since they are not directly associated with the district.  Come to think of it, that last little statement may be why she has excelled where she is; she is in a small setting with teachers who recognize she has different needs than most of the other students, and they recognize that Kaitlyn is both academically advanced and socially deficient compared to the other students at the school.  By not observing her in her natural environment, they will miss on seeing how she is on a daily basis, which is something I was able to experience this past week when I went to read to her class (The Cat in the Hat) as part of her “Superstar Week.”

As we arrived at the classroom a few minutes before school started, Kaitlyn went immediately over to the computer, where the aide was setting it up for the day.  Kaitlyn wanted nothing more than to play, and the aide obliged.  I stood off to the side just taking in the scene.  As the other students entered the classroom, Kaitlyn would turn and wave while calling out their names, but did not leave the computer.  Once about a half dozen or so other kids had entered the room, I was fortunate to observe what the school district will miss.  While the rest of the kids began to play with each other and get ready for the day, Kaitlyn’s sole focus was the computer.  She never even gave a second thought to joining them.  This was a perfect example of her social deficiency that comes along with her Asperger’s.  In her mind, waving to the other kids as they entered was enough, and she probably views that as sufficient to establish a friendship with these kids.  The truth is that she really has no desire for the idle chatter and meaningless games; she gets directly to the point and moves on, and is not good at the social part of being in the classroom.  Her teacher has told us of times where she has been waiting to use the computer and would get frustrated with how the other child was playing on the computer and try to help them do it “right.”  Because the way she had used the computer in the past was successful, she felt it was her duty to teach the other child how to do it the same way, not realizing there may be another method to get something done.  The school district will miss out on these important cues by having her observed at their facility.

Kaitlyn also had a moment this week that made us laugh, even though it landed her in timeout at school.  I am not certain of the exact situation, but the comment she made is what we laughed at.  Her teacher had put her in timeout for something, and then went over to ask her if she knew why she was there.  Kaitlyn responded that she did not know why she was there, and the teacher said, “because you are not listening to me.” (We have this problem, too).  Without missing a beat, Kaitlyn responded back, “No, you are not listening to me!”  We had to tell her that was wrong to do while knowing that we would be laughing about it as soon as Kaitlyn walked away.

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