We're a couple of weeks into school now, after Simon missed the entire first week due to illness, and already, it's like a completely different world. What a difference the principal makes in setting the tone. He switched schools this year because the constant growth had us rezoned to yet another new building.
First off, there isn't any homework. Well, not technically... there is some social studies reading and writing they have to do on Fridays, and if they don't finish it, they can take it home. But that's it. He gets to come home and be a 4th grader and do kid stuff instead of more school stuff. I'm not categorically against homework, but having it every day in grade school strikes me as silly and there's no real proof that it changes outcomes.
More importantly though, there is zero emphasis on standardized testing at this school. It's just not a thing. We were incredibly fortunate that the new principal agreed to attend Simon's IEP at the end of last year, at the previous school, and she was in total advocate mode. In the course of that conversation, we talked about his anxiety, to the extent that he's medicated for it, and how the FSA testing pressure kind of wrecked him for the better part of several weeks. This was not the fault of his teacher, mind you, it was a school-wide thing. The new principal, maybe as a dig to the previous school, said something to the effect of, "We don't use the letters 'FSA.'"
If you're wondering, Simon got a 3 for the reading part of the FSA, the average and the automatic pass beyond having to prove other ways to be promoted. For math, he got the maximum 5. So explain to me again why all of that fucking pressure is necessary and comes at the cost of real learning.
The net result is that he at least seems to be pretty engaged, and even excited to learn. He has his subject preferences, for sure, but we know they're never going to cut science time to teach test taking strategies. He still has his social challenges, as I'm sure he always will given the ASD, but there's little doubt in my mind that hating school the way he did last year, despite having the sweetest, most caring teacher, would do him harm.
Now if we could just find kids that he really identified with. I know it's hard. I had very few friends in school. It's still hard for me to form deep friendships.