Today, Zach and I had a meeting at Nati's school with his teacher, Y, the class psychologist, one of the therapists, and a school administrator. I will admit to a certain amount of trepidation, since Y was rather insistent on having this meeting, and I was worried they were going to tell us that they feel he should switch to the school for autistic children (which deals with children who have much more severe cases of autism) rather than keeping him in a class for higher functioning kids in a mainstream school. I don't know why I immediately went negative, it just seems to be reflexive for me.
Nati will be turning 12 in May, and if things had worked out better for him scholastically, he'd be in the 6th grade now. But he spent an extra year in preschool, and repeated second grade, which means he's actually only in the 4th grade. Now, I'm not giving this information because I'm embarrassed by/for him; I know he does the best he can, I know he's a smart kid, and I know he's come a long way. This is just information for context, and part of the reason Zach and I had a meeting today.
Nati is the oldest in his class. If he were in 6th grade, we'd be discussing middle schools for him. And that's actually what this meeting was about. Beginning dialog and starting to weigh the pros and cons of keeping Nati on the track he's been on (meaning 5th grade next school year, and being the oldest in his class by far), or moving him up to middle school, to be with his peers for the next school year instead.
His teacher and the therapists have noticed that during recess, Nati does seek out the 6th graders to play with (in my head, I call them the older kids, but in reality, they're Nati's age), which is rather telling. He seems to instinctively be seeking out his peers. Being older means his physical hygiene class (which they get) will be different than those of the 9 and 10 year olds; he'd be learning about puberty, the various changes in his body, the need for deodorant, etc. And as a Jewish boy, they'll be discussing turning 13 years old and the all important bar mitzvah.
Which has been a red line for him for nearly 2 years now. He doesn't want the chaos of a party or of a being around a lot of people. Which I completely understand. We would cater anything we'd do around HIS needs and sensitivities. Instead of having him read a portion from the Torah scrolls, he'd just say the blessing. Instead of having it on Shabbat in a full synagogue, we'd do it during the week for family only. Instead of having a big party... heck, we'll have a BBQ and he can have all the hot dogs and onion rings he wants. No music, no flashing lights.
And if he's in a class of peers, where all the boys are planning a bar mitzvah of some kind, maybe he'll come around.
As far as his actual education, we're told that at a certain point, classes often become a mix of different grades (and in classes for ASD kids, the class size is 8-9 children), but same age. The kids all have their own IEP (Individualized Education Program, called TALA here in Israel), so Nati wouldn't suffer scholastically by finishing 4th grade and going into 7th.
Once we were all in agreement that getting things started to move Nati up to middle school for September 2019, Y and the therapist both said that at the beginning of the meeting, they each felt that having Nati go to 5th grade was the right move for him, but after talking things out, and seeing how he's already seeking/needing peers rather than just classmates, making this move this year rather than next year is the best solution for Nati. There are three possible schools in Be'er Sheva that will suit Nati, but we won't know until closer to the 2019-2020 school year where he'll be exactly. And before anyone asks, no, I don't think any of the three schools are religious.