No it's not any of the private schools I applied to and it's certainly not the $93,000 Money Bags School.
I actually heard about the program months ago through a friend but was reminded of it during The Big One. I'll admit, I was skeptical. After so many rejections I thought it was a waste of time. But on a whim, I sent my email inquiring about the program. Within hours, I got a response. The next week - The Boy had been observed at his school and I was invited to tour the Horizon progrom. They even said I could bring The Boy with me.
I met with Principal T and instantly her passion and dedication were clear. She showed me the kindergarten classroom. My initial reaction was: could The Boy fit in here? But I told myself, these kids were a year older and they were used to the routine. Because the work that they were doing - The Boy could do. The class of consisted three boys and one girl. They followed the teachers instructions. They were wearing uniforms and at a quick glance, they looked "typical." I never would have guessed any of these kids had an IEP.
And then there was me and The Boy. Me holding The Boy's hand tightly. Him pulling me in every direction trying to grab the toys. Going for the computer. And anything else within his reach. A new room. A new place. It was sensory overload. Thank goodness for Laura Numeroff's "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie!" Because The Boy started reading: If you give a mouse a cookie. Written by Laura Joffe Numeroff. Illustrated by Felicia Bond.
The Boy made eye contact with the teacher - Mrs. P. The Boy was answering her questions. And I felt proud. I could tell that by the looks on the teacher and principal's face that they were surprised. Most people are. At first glance it's easy to assume The Boy has no language. Easier to assume that he cannot make that social connection.
The Boy and I walked out of the classroom and continued with the tour. I was pleasantly surprised by the school, staff and resources. The more I walked around, the more I wanted The Boy to be accepted. When we were done, we returned to the Principal T's office. I spoke to her honestly about everything we had been through in the last year. The applications, the tours, the rejections, the acceptance to the school we could never afford. I told her I wasn't sure about District 75. That I didn't want The Boy to be the highest functioning kid in the class.
"He's bright. He's a sponge. He wants to learn. He has the capacity to learn - it's his behaviors, they get in the way. But once you get him to focus - he'll do the work." I told her.
I told her my frustrations with the private schools - the schools that accepted the autism classification but accepted children who didn't have behaviors. "How do you have a program for children on the spectrum and refuse to address the behaviors?" I felt the crack in my voice. The crack that comes before the cry. Because I get emotional talking about him. Because I'm tired and stressed out and frantic. And when it comes to him and getting the things that he needs - pride and humility sort of fly out the window.
And then Principal T said something I haven't heard in a while: It's up to you. If you want him to come here, it's up to you. We'll give him a chance.
Just like that.
I stood up and asked if I could give her a hug. I apologized if it was inappropriate. Bu how could I not? No one had given me option before. And here was Principal T - meeting us for the first time and giving me a choice.
More importantly - giving The Boy a chance. And that's all that I really wanted. It's all any parent wants for their children - atypical or otherwise.
* The ASD Horizon program is a 6:1:1 program in a community school for children on the autism spectrum. This program is a collaboration with the New England Center for Children and utilizes the ACE (Autism Curriculum Encyclopedia) curriculum. ACE is an interactive database whereby students benefit from individualized instructional plans. Instruction is based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis.