Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hope is on the Horizon (Part 1)

It's official. We have secured kindergarten placement for the Fall. 

No it's not any of the private schools I applied to and it's certainly not the $93,000 Money Bags School.

It's not a District 75 school either.  It's a new program under the NY Board of Education called ASD Horizon* in Public (Community) School. The program is for the kids in the middle. The kids who aren't quite ready for ASD Nest (they take Aspergers/HFA kids) and who are slightly higher functioning than the children in District 75.  (I know, I know, I hate labels but it's the nature of the beast.)

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.

***

You can read Hope is on the Horizon (Part 2) by clicking HERE

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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.

8 comments:

  1. Wow i am so happy for you..thats great..i can understand how tough it can be for you finding a school..working in a school with kids on the spectrum and seeing what my parents have to go thru to find a right school can be tough...i am so glad for you guys!

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  2. Days like that are the type of days where you WANT to dance in the rain! Awesome and wonderful!

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  3. Lisa, I am so happy that you found a school that seems like such a good fit for your son. I look forward to reading about his experiences there next year.

    Great writing, by the way. I really enjoyed reading this post.

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  4. I'm happy that you've found a school that is the right fit for your son. The principal sounds like a very nice and dedicated person. I hope everything works out for him at the school.

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  5. Thanks all! I'm really excited about it - especially after talking to the kindergarten teacher.

    Thanks a lot Yuji :)

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  6. I am so happy for you. I had tears in my eyes reading this. How glad am I to know that there are people still willing to give them a go.
    Simone

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  7. YAY! So happy for both of you! I think this is great! I would have hugged Principal T too! LOL! Fantastic! Great news! Best of luck! *HUGS* :) Heather

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  8. My son will be entering the Horizon program in September. Since its been a year for you & your son how do you like it?

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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.