Having had a downright, dreadful experience at our daughter’s ABA based preschool that was publicly funded and had come highly recommended, we were determined not to make the same mistake twice. We found a private school, the only non-ABA based school around at that time and for the next six years she went to it. She was loved, she was well taken care of and she learned almost nothing. It wasn’t that no one tried to teach her, it was that the way she was being taught was not a way she was able to learn. So we hired a private literacy specialist and over the next two years, Emma learned to read and write. But there was a “behavioral” piece to this person’s program that came at a cost. I don’t mean a financial cost, though there was that too, I mean a different sort of cost, the kind you can’t completely assess or gauge until years later. It was the cost that comes with being put into an emotional strait jacket. So, at a certain point, as I learned more about autism from Autistic people I realized we could not continue, despite her terrific gains in learning to read, write and type.
A year ago we found a public school (most no longer adhere to any one methodology, thankfully) where Emma is loved and well taken care of AND is learning. Her teacher is wonderful. The kind of teacher all parents dream of for their child. Loving, patient, kind, observant, respectful, presumes competence of all the children in her class, smart, has a sense of humor and open to anything that may prove helpful in teaching. The sort of teacher who takes time out of a Sunday afternoon to sit in on a session with Soma Mukhopadhyay and Emma and takes notes and then asks to borrow books written by Soma on her method. The sort of teacher who then comes over to our house to do a strategy session and begins to incorporate what she saw and has learned into her teaching. Suddenly Em’s backpack is filled with material from a grade level curriculum she is now doing at school with this amazing teacher. The sort of teacher who seems too good to be true. The sort of teacher you wish you could clone… The sort of teacher who is better than Xanax, Wellbutrin and Prozac without any of the side effects. Except that the school year is almost over and this amazing teacher is leaving to teach somewhere else and Emma is entering middle school, so we must say goodbye to her wonderful school and her incredible teacher.
This morning we toured a middle school. And guess what? It emphasizes the performing arts AND it looks wonderful, with a fantastic sensory gym and a “theatre room” with photos lining the hallways of the children performing their own musical that they wrote and performed in. Could we have created such a place more perfectly suited to Emma? It could be a little closer to where we live, but that would be nit-picky of me. So come this September, Emma will go to yet another school. That’s three different schools in three years. For any kid, that’s a lot of change. For Em, who was such a trooper about her “new” school last September, I am keeping my fingers crossed the transition will be as positive. Anyone have a cloning machine perfected? Because if her current teacher could just be cloned and her head teacher in this newer new school, I’d have no stress at all!
In the meantime, Em will visit her “new” school a couple of times over the summer months. From what we’ve seen so far, we are filled with hope!