Now that the summer is half over, we now finally have the official letter in hand that tells us what Ben's kindergarden placement will be.
I actually knew several weeks ago when I made an under-the-radar call to the most likely elementary school on the list of possibilities and asked the school secretary if she could confirm that his name was on their Kindergarden roster.
(Note: I'm beginning to collect many bureaucracy survival techniques and one of them is being really, really nice to school secretaries.)
He'll be in an inclusion program, which means that he'll be in a regular kindergarden classroom, sharing an instructional aide with one other child. The inclusion program at this particular school focuses on students who are on the mild end of the the autism spectrum. It's known in our district as the Asperger's Inclusion Program, or ASIP.
We're pretty optimistic at this point that it's going to be a good place for Ben.
What's been interesting is that when I've explained where we're going next year, I got a couple questions like, "Oh, so that's what Ben has now - Asperger's?"
Implicit in the question is that Ben has changed somehow. That he now officially has Asperger's, whereas before he was hyperlexic or "on the spectrum" or autistic. Has he changed? Has he graduated?
What's happened is that he's developed to the point where he meets the school district's very loose criteria for this program: 1) on the spectrum but with typical to above-average academic and verbal skills and 2) no severe behavior problems.
In other words, he'd be bored in a special day class, but he's not ready to be thrown into the general ed wilderness without support.
For the school district, that's Asperger's.
They don't have the resources to split hairs over Asperger's and high functioning autism or PDD-NOS or non-verbal learning disorder or sensory integration disorder.
And that's fine with me right now.
I don't know if Ben "has" Asperger's or autism or hyperlexia with or without a side order of autism. There's no antibody test or MRI or CT scan to pinpoint these things.
I'm just hopeful that the people who run the inclusion program are skilled when it comes to the specific kinds of support Ben needs to be successful in the long run. And I'm grateful that professionals in our school district will sign pieces of paper saying that we get this stuff for free.
But as ambivalent as I am of the labels, as much as I think of the categories as subjective and arbitrary and insufficient for describing a person, there's something strangely satisfying about adopting, even embracing, the Asperger's label.
After all, it's more specific than "on the spectrum" and most people actually seem to have heard of it, as opposed to hyperlexia. And it seems to almost become fashionable (have you noticed how anyone who has ever felt uncomfortable at a party claims these days to have "a bit of Asperger's?")
So, we're still a hyperlexia family. But I'm happy to also fly our new Aspie flag high and proud.
Pre-school graduate looks to the future.