Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fresh Start

So, here’s a new one:

Last week, mere hours before we’d planned to leave for Big Family Final Beach Weekend of the Summer, I had a meeting at The Boy’s new school. (I know, what a great way to get psyched for a beach trip. Pass the tanning butter.)

So, I gathered up The Boy’s IEP and behavior plan, the handout they gave me back in June, my list of concerns – oops, I mean, “questions” –  about this program and its appropriateness for him, and marched into that school ready to advocate.

Except…I didn’t really need to.

Somehow, over the summer – maybe thanks to the tireless advocacy of pioneer parents before me, or because school district lawyers successfully managed to explain “least restrictive means” to the administrators, or perhaps a rare alignment between school district politics and my child’s best interests, or maybe just plain dumb luck – the program changed. For the better.
  • It is no longer a behavior intervention program.
  • Enrollment in the program is now 80% autism/Aspergers students.
  • The Boy is in a regular 2nd grade “gifted” classroom with support from an instructional aide  
  • The old self-contained classroom is now a "learning center" where special ed students have access to pull-outs for extra support, as needed.

If I could have designed a program for him myself, this is pretty much what I would have done. Well…I’d have the day be a little shorter, the class size a little smaller, include a big block of time for Lego-building in the afternoon, and tell the parents about it in freaking JUNE so they wouldn’t have worried about it all summer long! But otherwise, it’s pretty darn close to ideal.

So, now what? There’s plenty more to worry about, of course. How will the pearl-clutching “not fair to the other kids!” anti-inclusion parents react to his presence? What if the “gifted” curriculum is too hard? What if the other kids exclude, or tease, or bully? What if he lashes out at them? What if this simply…doesn’t work?

But now, with the long-anticipated first day of school finally behind us, there’s a lot to feel optimistic about, too. The Boy was so excited to walk to his new school this morning. He’s so proud to be a second grader. His classroom teacher is a guy who seems to genuinely love teaching and was positively glowing when I picked The Boy up at school today. He’s happy to have The Boy in his class. The special ed teacher actually called me at home to tell me The Boy was having a great first day. (After I recovered from the shock and panic of seeing SEATTLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS on my caller ID, I was delighted with the news.) 

I know it could all go terribly wrong tomorrow, or next week, or months from now. All the more reason to savor it today, I suppose. And keep hoping for the best.  
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