Friday, October 5, 2012

Tardy

GL's school personnel may not be good at communicating with each other, much less with parents, but they try. For one thing, whenever a student is absent or tardy, the attendance office sends his or her parents an email. Otherwise, I would never have known anything happened yesterday. I'm still not sure what happened.

Usually I can ignore these emails. Occasionally they reveal some quirk of school policy. (Did you know that if the entire class takes an all-day educational field trip on the school bus with the teacher and all the classroom aides, it counts as an excused absence?) If he was sick or had to come late or leave early for a doctor's appointment or something, I already know about it because I called him in. I suppose if a kid decided to cut class or ditch school entirely after leaving for school or being dropped off at school, or just didn't bother going after his or her parents left for work, this would alert the parents. But GL is in the same classroom all day, and has staff walk him to and from lunch, so it would be hard for him to cut class or be tardy even if he wanted to. He can't cross the street by himself, so even if he left the building, there isn't much of any place he could go. And he loves school. He is disappointed or even angry when he has a day off. So imagine my surprise when I got an email last night that he had unexcused tardies for first and second period yesterday.

One thing we are doing differently is breakfast. He never likes to eat breakfast, and tends to put off eating as long as he can in the morning, and sometimes into the afternoon. This makes him grumpy, and his behavior deteriorates. We tried last year to get him to eat something every morning before school, knowing it would make his day go more smoothly. Sometimes he would eat, and sometimes he wouldn't. About halfway through the school year, he decided he wasn't going to eat breakfast any more. If you know autism, you know how stubborn he can be once he makes his mind up like this. But he loved lunches in the school cafeteria. Since he has a limited number of foods he will eat, we checked to be sure there was always something available that was on his list. They have pizza available every day. He was thrilled. At first he ate pizza every day, but he gradually started trying other foods on the menu, even foods he won't eat at home. Since the cafeteria also serves breakfast, we decided to try it this year. We prepaid his meal plan with enough money for breakfast and lunch for the first six weeks.

As a sophomore, he already knew his way around the school, but I wasn't sure if he would walk from the cafeteria to the classroom after breakfast without someone prompting him, so the first day, I dropped him off at the cafeteria and let his teacher and aides know where he was in case he didn't show up for class. For the first month, I dropped him off each morning, he got his breakfast, ate it, and went to class. When I got the email last night, I asked him if he went to class after breakfast. He said that an aide came and told him to go to class, but he wasn't finished drinking his milk, so he said no.  He didn't have an explanation for the second period.

Since I'd dropped him off on time or early, couldn't imagine why he took longer eating than usual. So this morning, I followed him to see his routine. He walked to the cafeteria, got a scrambled egg and cheese bagel (he never eats eggs at home) and a carton of milk. He sat down, ate quickly, and threw his trash away. Then he walked to his classroom. No one was there, so he got a schedule sheet and started filling it out for the day. When his teacher arrived, I asked her about his tardies, relating his story about the aides coming to get him, and his refusal. She said that he had been getting himself to class on time every day, and they did not have enough staff to send anyone too look for him if he didn't show up in the classroom. He had just walked in with no explanation after she had already taken attendance and marked him absent, so she assumed we had dropped him off after class started. She said she had not marked him tardy for second period, so that must have been an error in the attendance office.

I don't know where he was during the ten minutes or so he should have been in class. The story about his refusal may well be a fabrication, but questioning him further is pointless. When we question him about events, he assumes he is in trouble, and his stories keep changing, getting further and further from reality. Maybe he needed to make an extra-long trip to the restroom. He is extremely private about that, to the extreme of denying that he had a bowel movement, recently or ever. Maybe it was something else. Since he has been so reliable until yesterday, I hope this was a one-time event. Tracking down what actually happened would be difficult to impossible.

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