On Friday, Kevin, Jackson and I went to Roosevelt Elementary School to meet his new teacher, therapists and classroom. I had mixed feelings about this day. I was anxious to see the school and classroom, I was worried it wasn’t going to go well, and I was dreading having to negotiate with Spokane Public Schools about getting Jackson the services he needs. The meeting went better than I could have ever imagined.
The thing about the Spokane Guild School is that you feel so safe there. You enter that school with your little baby, while usually in a state of shock about finding out you have a special needs baby, and they make you feel like things are going to be okay. You get to know your child’s therapists on a professional and personal level. You actually end up looking forward to therapy because it is such a great place to go. You see other parents and children there and you know they are going through the same kind of things as you are. You don’t feel alone. You begin to wonder how you will ever get through life without going to the Guild School a couple of days a week. Then before you know it, your baby is almost 3 years old and you have to leave the school. You feel like you are being kicked to the curb and you are devastated. I’m not exaggerating here, the idea of leaving the place is totally devastating. It is like you have been drifting in the ocean in a blow up raft that is slowly leaking air. When your baby turns 3 that raft will be totally deflated and you don’t know whether you will be able to swim. I really love that school and it has become a huge part of my life. Leaving is going to be very difficult. But as a told the school director a few months back, I will be back someday as an employee. I have a degree in Parenting Education and I plan to spend my life helping and supporting the parents of the Guild School. Jackson has given me yet another purpose in my life.
The idea of Jackson leaving the Guild School and going to a real elementary school, with a real classroom and teacher, and other little kids with disabilities is overwhelming. I’ve spent the last year reading, studying and taking notes on laws, policies, and procedures in special education. I’ve been preparing to fight for Jackson’s right to special services and care. I was ready on Friday. I had my notebook, notes, list of what I wanted for Jackson, and my friendly, polite but firm attitude ready. I didn’t need any of it. The meeting went beautifully. All the therapists were there to evaluate Jackson and they handled him and played with him beautifully. We answered about a 2,000 questions from all the therapists, the school nurse, our caseworker and Jackson’s teacher Matt. I am excited for Jackson to have a male teacher and he is young too so he seemed full of ideas. They seemed genuinely interested in Jackson and how to best help him succeed in the classroom. I felt like this wasn’t going to be the struggle I had feared. They recognized his delays, the need for speech, occupational and physical therapy to continue, and the importance of challenging him.
There are currently 5 other kiddos in the class so Jackson will be the 6th student. He will go to school Monday through Thursday for 2.5 hours a day. He will start school on April 25, 2011. Jackson is going to be the only non-mobile one so he will have an aide assisting him. 3 of the kids are non-verbal so they do a lot of communication work in the class which will be fantastic for Jackson. I also think it will be important that the other kids are mobile. That may motivate Jackson to get more mobile, which would be amazing. In the next few weeks we will go back to the school to see the classroom in action. We will also be meeting again with everyone to finalize Jackson’s IEP and service plan. I feel hopeful that it is going to be alright. So hopeful that I actually went and bought Jackson his first backpack for school this weekend. It is a little monkey backpack. It’s so little and cute, just like the boy who will wear it.