Category Archives: Rebecca School


A couple times a year we are called into Emma’s school to meet with her teachers to go over her progress.  There were a couple of things that stood out this morning during our conference.  The first was a video showing Emma playing with another child in her class.  She says his name and the two of them hug each other and laugh.  This goes on for quite some time, with Emma saying things like – “Hi Charlie!  Say hi.”  Then she waits and when Charlie, who is nonverbal, doesn’t respond, she prompts him by saying, “Say hi Emma.”  She takes his face and gently turns it so he’s looking at her.  Then he says, “Hi Emma!”  and they both start laughing .  It is one of the most uplifting videos I have ever seen.  In another video she negotiates with a different child something that she wants to do with the child and her therapist, but the other child at first does not want Emma to join them.  They go back and forth and eventually Emma says, “Please, please I want to go together.”  The other child relents and the video shows Emma, the other child and the therapist dancing down the stairs with Emma singing, “Together!  Together!”  It is adorable and shows tremendous progress.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:   www.Emma’s Hope Book

Emma’s School Bus

Emma came home this evening and said, “Sad.”  This was in answer to my question, “How are you?”

“Why Emma?  What happened?” I asked.

“Emma have to go on the school bus.  Emma make you sad,” she said, frowning and nodding her head.

“What do you mean?” I asked kneeling down so my eyes were on the same level as hers.

“You have to wait!  You have to sit!  Emma cry.  Emma bite yourself,” Emma looked directly at me as she said this.

“Why do you have to wait, Emma?” I asked.

“Want to go to Becky’s class.”

“Did your bus come to school early?”  I asked trying to piece together what Emma was trying to tell me.

“You have to wait.  Want to go to Becky’s class.”

“Did someone tell you, you had to wait?” I asked.

Emma nodded her head.  Shouting and pointing her finger she said, “I told you! SIT DOWN!”

At this point I was more than a little alarmed.  “Emma, who said that to you?”

Emma didn’t answer at first, then nodded her head.  “Yeah,” she said in a sad voice.

These kinds of responses from Emma only highlight how difficult it can be to communicate with her and understand her.

“Did the bus driver say that to you or the bus matron?” I asked, knowing these were the only two people on the school bus.

“Bus driver said – I told you NO!  Sit down!”  Emma said in a loud stern voice.  Then in a quieter voice she said, “Emma cry.  Emma so upset.”

I think it was at this point in the conversation when I went to the computer and wrote an email to our lawyer, ccing Richard and Emma’s head teacher, the head master and social worker.  I have no idea what kind of recourse is available to us and so we need advice.  What I do know is that we have had to deal with the Office of Public Transportation since Emma began going to school five years ago.  Emma’s bus arrives between 7:20AM and 7:40AM to take her some fourteen blocks to her school, which begins at 8:30AM.  When I called to complain about the early pick up time, insisting that it cannot possibly take an hour to drive fourteen blocks even if three of them are cross town blocks, I was told the bus picks up many other children who go to several nearby special education schools before Emma is eventually dropped off at her school.  In other words, Emma is driven around the city for close to an hour.  For years now I have questioned the logic in this and have been:  hung up on, yelled at or told this is the way the route is mapped out and there’s nothing that can be done.

A few years ago I was determined to have the bus change their pick up time from 7:15AM to something later.  For two months I went back and forth with various people at the Office of Public Transportation, sometimes calling three and four times in a single day.  By the time they finally agreed to change Emma’s pick up time the semester was coming to an end and we started anew with a new bus company and driver after the break.  Which is another bizarre thing.  Are special needs children the only ones who have a new bus company, new bus driver, new bus route every three to four months?  How is it that neuro-typical children in New York City have the same bus for the entire school year, often for several years in a row?

In the past few weeks I have noticed when the bus pulls up that there seem to be only one or two other children on the bus as was the case Thursday morning, no other children.  Emma was the only child.  So unless the bus is picking up children after Emma, it is driving fourteen blocks (which should take about ten minutes depending on traffic.  If the bus arrives early, (picks Emma up at 7:25AM drives ten minutes to her school, getting there by 7:35AM) it sits idling outside the school until the school’s doors open at 8:25AM.  Which means (if I am correct) Emma is waiting in the bus alone for almost an hour.

What makes all of this particularly horrifying to me is we put Emma on the school bus and cross our fingers she will be treated well and with respect, she will arrive safely at her school in a timely manner, but we cannot know what really goes on because Emma cannot tell us.  We have to trust.  And at this moment I no longer trust.

A Tribute To Stanley Greenspan

We first heard of Dr. Stanley Greenspan and his work through another parent who had seen some success using his DIR/floortime methodology with their autistic child.  I read his book:  The Child With Special Needs, which led to our appointment for a floortime training session with Emma.  We drove to Bethesda, checked into the hotel, took Emma swimming and hoped we might all get a good night’s sleep for what we guessed would be an exhausting day.  In preparation for the meeting, Richard and I watched some of Stanley’s training videos.  We felt we had a vague idea of what was expected of us.  Whether we would be able to engage and interact with Emma in the DIR way or not, we were not so sure.

So it was with some trepidation that we were ushered into Stanley’s office – a small dingy room with some toys, a few broken, Stanley’s desk and piles of papers and books.  Stanley asked us a number of questions, all the while watching Emma intently.  “Okay.  Mom, why don’t we start with you?” He said, still watching Emma.

“Hey Emma!” I said, huge smile, high affect.  “What should we play with?!”

Emma ignored me and wandered over to the couch where Richard was sitting.  I ran over to her, tried again to engage her, “What do you want to do?  Do you want to play with this,” I asked, thrusting an armless doll at her.

The office was hot. I could feel perspiration beading on my upper lip.  After about twenty minutes Stanley said, “Okay Mom.  That’s fine.  Now I need you to take that energy and up it by about 100%.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” I exclaimed.

Stanley smiled at me,  “You have a nice connection with her. “

As he spoke, Emma was busy trying to open the door to leave the office.  I tried to pull her away.  “No, no Emmy, we can’t leave yet, “ I said.

Emma resisted me and continued to turn the door’s handle.

“Em, it’s not time to go yet.  We have to stay here,” I said, pulling on her arm to come with me.

“Block her!  What will she do if you put yourself in the way?” Stanley asked.

I wedged my body between the door and Emma.

Emma tried to reach around me.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked.

Emma tried to push me out of her way.

“Oh!  You want me to move?”

“Don’t make it so easy for her.  Make her tell you what she wants!” Stanley coached.

“Emma, what do you want?” I asked, sure that this was leading to a melt down.

“Open it!” Emma said.

Richard and I gasped.  WOW!  We hadn’t heard Emma say that since she was 13 months old.

Stanley was brilliant.  Keenly observant, unfailing in his critique, he encouraged us to follow Emma into her world.  To interact with her, “playfully obstruct”, “entice her”, were a few of the things he encouraged us to do.  “The worst thing you can do is nothing at all,” he said, as our session came to a close.

When we returned home his insight and words stayed with us. We enrolled Emma in the Rebecca School in New York, which uses the Greenspan DIR approach. It is the only school in New York City using this model.  Richard and I undertook additional floortime training sessions at the Rebecca school and hired their DIR training specialist to work with us at home.  Alex trained Emma’s therapist, Joe as well.  Hence the “Zen Master of DIR” label in the last post.

Dr. Greenspan had a consulting relationship with the Rebecca School and we were privileged to have two sessions with him over the last three years. The entire school faculty was in attendance and Stanley was conferenced in by telephone. Richard and I began each session by updating everyone on Emma’s home life, her progress and problems and our questions on what we could do to help her.  This was followed by her teachers’ review of how Emma was doing at school. Whenever they addressed an area of difficulty, such as Emma’s self-injurious behaviors like biting herself, instead of giving his recommendations immediately, he asked the faculty for their ideas. He listened patiently and then offered his own suggestions, which were always so intelligent and insightful that Richard and I would look at each other with an expression of awe – and gratitude.

Dr. Stanley Greenspan’s ideas and methodology changed everything for us.  His belief in the intelligence and abilities of each and every child were a profound change from the kind of rote “training” we had heard and received in the past. To say that his presence and guidance in our lives will be missed is a vast understatement. It is a great loss for us and for all the parents and children who will never have the opportunity to experience his keen analysis and problem solving ability on an individual basis.  Yet his legacy will live on through his books and videotapes, his DIR Support Services under the brilliant stewardship of his son Jake, a floortime genius in his own right – and with schools like Rebecca School, which have adopted his teachings as their principle therapeutic model, helping countless autistic children and their families like ours move forward one day at a time.

For more information on Stanley Greenspan and his work with Autism read:  Engaging Autism & The Child With Special Needs and go to his web site: