Just kidding. I don’t have anything against Bob Marley. I just thought it was a funny title since I’m a little bitter that hearing “Three Little Birds” as I dropped Colin off at his new school for the first time turned out *not* to be the sign I had hoped it was.
Colin’s school (which I will call School V) did not work out. We had a conference the week of Thanksgiving, and I left bawling. I don’t know why I had such a visceral reaction, because I knew it was coming, but I just could not stop crying. I tried to go to work afterward, but all I was doing was sitting in my office with the door closed, sobbing. After three hours, I gave up and went home.
There were lots of reasons why we chose School V. It was smaller and more personal. We liked the young energy. It was closer to our house. They offered us financial assistance. But in the end, it was not a good fit. Colin was the first child School V had with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (these schools are traditionally for kids with autism). The other school we had looked at (which I will call school LS) had only had one FAS child, so we didn’t think it was a huge difference. Only it was.
I don’t know if there is such a thing as a “typical” autistic child, but that’s what School V was used to dealing with. They had not had much experience outside of that. They did not know how to modify their program to adapt to Colin’s needs. They sent home reports saying that Colin was making great eye contact and was communicating well. We knew that. Those are not his issues, and we had been clear about that from the start. We had a conference to discuss it. They changed the program for a week, and tried to challenge Colin to elicit some of his inappropriate behaviors. They did see some issues, and we thought they were on the right track. The following week, however, they went back to business as usual. We were concerned.
My concern grew even more when, after Colin had been at this school for eight weeks, the lead therapist asked me if I could print out some information on FAS for her. Um, hello? Colin had been there for *eight weeks* and the whole staff knew his diagnosis the entire time, but had not bothered to research it? Also, she has Google just like I do. I wanted to scream, “Look it up your damn self. That’s your freaking *job*!”
Like I said, Christian and I could see this was coming. The night before we went in for the conference, I said to him, “Do you think we should just come right out and ask if they think they can help him?” We decided to wait and see how the meeting went, and it went pretty much as we thought it would. They were beating around the bush, so I just asked. The executive director said, “Well, you know, that’s an interesting question.” She didn’t end up saying they *couldn’t* help him, but we could read between the lines. They weren’t going to do anything beyond their standard program, and we didn’t think that was in Colin’s best interest. We called the following week and told them Colin’s last day would be right before Christmas.
In the meantime, we weighed our options. Did we send him back to the church pre-school and increase our First Steps therapies, so that the occupational therapist and the developmental therapist could spend some time with him in the classroom? Did we just bide our time and wait until he is three and eligible for our school district’s developmental pre-school in the fall? Should we go back to the other ABA school (School LS) and see if they could help him?
We finally decided to give School LS a call. I felt a little like I was going back with my tail between my legs. They had been really helpful to us when we were looking at ABA schools a few months ago. We told them we were going with them, so they held a spot for Colin and scheduled an assessment date, but then we called back to tell them we were going somewhere else. To my relief, they were wonderful again. They said they were sorry the other school had not worked out, and they hoped they would be a better fit. They told us that the FAS child they had before was a challenge, and that they had to change their typical program a bit for him, but that they were willing and able to do that.
We had Colin’s assessment yesterday. They did their own testing and got feedback from us. We were very clear that Colin will not be their typical student. His problems are behavioral and not communication-related (although they will still do a speech assessment). We were clear that Colin will be far from the “worst” student they have. We were clear that he is charming, but that we don’t want them to be fooled! We were clear that we know he has lots of good skills, but that we want to do everything possible for him now and get this early intervention. We will get a full report in two weeks, but they called today to tell us that they definitely think they can help Colin. They have a spot opening up in January, and Colin can start then.
I am trying not to beat myself up that we chose the “wrong” school, but it is hard. I think my reaction at that conference was so strong because we had really hoped that School V was “the answer.” In reality, nothing is going to be “the answer,” and I’m terrified that this is going to get much harder. We saw Colin’s developmental pediatrician last week (I cried there, too, by the way) and he told us, “It’s not that things are going to get harder, but the challenges are going to be different as he gets older.” In my heart I know that, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to find a “cure” for it now.
It’s been a really rough couple of weeks, but I’m staying hopeful that School LS is a better fit.