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 oft he 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 y our child and, each year, to allow that vision to guide the decisions that are made on your child’s behalf.