A School Story

by Anne Ladd

I was very reluctant to send my child to public school. We had a wonderful experience
in the Babies Can’t Wait program and had found a great inclusive daycare where my
son received all of his therapies. So when it came time to “transition” at age 3, we
simply stayed at the private setting and continued private therapies.

When his fifth birthday rolled around my son aged out of the program and we then turned
to the school system to see what would be offered. We were actually given two options
to choose from. The first was a placement at a center school that served strictly
children with special needs. Well, this was not going to work for us.

My husband and I were convinced that a regular elementary school was the right setting
and we wanted our son to attend our neighborhood school. Unfortunately, we were told
there was not an appropriate program at our home school and, in fact, the closest school
with a place for our son was 23 miles away. We were not happy with the location but
we wanted to start on the right track so we opted for the regular elementary school with
the long commute.

I purchased a little neck pillow for my son who has low muscle tone and uses a wheel
chair and put him on a bus with a driver and an attendant . Off they went on that first day,
door to door, the three of them. I, of course, was only two car lengths away on that first
day and again the second day. By the end of the week,I stayed behind as they chug-a-
lugged down the street.My fear that the bus ride would be too long and stressful for my
son proved not to be the reality. In fact, he enjoyed the ride and the driver soon became
one of his good friends.

So what about the other part? How was the school and the teacher? In those first
couple of weeks I did stop by his school a number of times. There was not one
teacher but 2 teachers who job shared. Two fabulous teachers who both gave more
than their 50% and each had great energy and ideas they brought to the class.

On one of those early visits, I was signing in and a un-assuming woman greeted me and
asked who my child was. When I told her his name she enthusiastically repeated it and
said how excited they were to have him at their school. She had spent some time with him
in his new class and she had really enjoyed getting to know him. “I am the principal” she said.

Fortunately, the year continued to be good and we were pleased with our child’s progress.
All the things we assumed would not be good ended up being great. Then Spring
arrived and we got a call from the Special Education Department “Guess what?  We are
opening a class at your home school and your son will be in that class next fall. You’re
getting what you wanted”. “Oh great” I said only half heartedly. 

What was the new class going to be like?  Would the teachers be as good would the
administration be as welcoming? That next year was different but good in different ways.
My son is 16 now and I have asked these questions many more times. But I have learned
to be open to new things and address the problems when they actually arise and not to
anticipate the worst. It is impossible to be certain of what will happen but it is possible to
have a vision for your child and each year to allow that vision to guide the decisions that
are made on your child’s behalf.