When the team in Max's IEP meeting mentioned getting a camera and laptop in the classroom for him to get to visit with his classmates, I thought it was a nice gesture.
I didn't see how it would make that big of a difference. Max is usually pretty aloof when we Skype with family and friends, so I thought if anything, he would tolerate it and listen to the story time.
(Max's first Skype School in November 2010)
But, like so many other times when we think we've got Max figure out, he showed us differently.
In the early days of Skype School, as we termed it, he would cry and cry on the weekend because he didn't get to see his friends. I tried to give him a taste of school by giving him story time with me and we would take "field trips" to be able to get out of the house for an hour or so on a Saturday. When Steve installed a program on the computer to record the Skype sessions, we had a better option...re-runs!
All through the winter, and into the early spring, the visits with the kids on Skype were some days the only interaction with the outside world Max, and I had. A couple of times a classmate would ask to Skype after school, or on the weekends.
Needless to say, I was very wrong about the benefit for Max, and indeed for all of his classmates, of being able to have peer to peer interaction. Even by way of the internet.
This morning, the last day of first grade, I woke to an email from Max's teacher. "Skype Today" was the title.
Usually when I have an email from her in the morning, she'll be telling me that they have an assembly, or she has a meeting, so no Skype. My heart sunk thinking we wouldn't get to say good-bye to his friends today. Then I read the email.
No Skype today, because they would be having an extended recess, and then yearbook signing, and if we could make it, we could bring Max up for that.
Absolutely! We got up and around, and instead of calling up over the computer on the last day of first grade, we went to the school.
When we got there, we met his class outside to sign yearbooks. They all had a piece of paper and started queuing for Max to sign theirs. His class had already signed his yearbook before he got it, and it's a good thing! We spent the entire time signing every little first grader's autograph page. I brought a yellow pen and one of Max's special writing tools.
And then kept coming, "Can Max sign mine?"...
I was even asked for an autograph..."Max's mom, will you sign mine?". :)
I heard one little girl say to another little girl, "That's the famous Max...go have him sign your paper!".
After autographs were done, and Max said good-bye to his classmates, he and Steve went on to the van, and went in to get Max's report card. A formality more than anything, but, he has made improvements through-out the year, and it's been documented.
As I was leaving the classroom, one of his friends came up and said, "Mrs. Watson, this is for Max.". She handed me a yellow picture with a butterfly on it, and she drew a tulip like they saw on their field trip.
I thanked her and said good-bye to the class, and we headed home.
This afternoon, we signed on one last time to be with them for the end of the day. They read, and shared otter-pops while chatting with Max.
At the end of the time, they all got their report cards, with a pencil from their teacher that said, "Second Grade is #1!". One of the girls in his class came back to show Max before getting her back-pack and lining up...
"Look Max at my pencil, it's yellow! Welcome to 2nd grade, Max!"
We said good-bye to his teacher, and his friends one last time, and shut the computer.
We decided to take a "school's out walk" this early evening. As we were headed back towards the house we pointed out a 'big yellow car' as we do nearly anything yellow while we're out to keep Max's attention on things he likes. The yellow car stopped and all the windows rolled down,
"MAX!!! MAX!!!! HI MAX!!!!"
One of his classmates and his family were on their way to get dinner out to celebrate school being out. We visited for a minute, and told them we would see them around this summer. As we walked away, I couldn't help but think about my skepticism on having interaction over the computer as a real means of inclusion and interaction.
But, the truth of it is, my boy has friends. Real friends, in real life. That make their moms stop their cars on busy roads so they can say hi when they see him. Real friends who ask their parents if they can come to see Max if he's missed a few days. Real friends that are excited for Max to get his bike so they can go on rides together this summer.
All because a teacher had an idea...and didn't see why it couldn't work.
Max and his teacher:
Now, time for summer! Hopefully he'll see some friends in the next couple of months, and he'll make new ones when school starts back up, and we sign in again for Skype with his new teacher!