On the last day of school I found out that John’s teacher is not returning next year. Nor are three out of four para educators. If I hadn’t surprised his teaching staff with an end-of-the-year visit to bestow gifts, I believe I’d still be in the dark.
This information sits in my chest, heavy, the way the oil spill in the Gulf does. Since the spill happened, I can’t read about the cleanup because it makes me physically ill — so much destroyed, all of that innocent wildlife, the tragedy of it — and me here, helpless.
While poolside, Fall seems far away. But it will be here before we know it, and it’s as if I must make myself read about the oil spill and the cleanup efforts every day. Twins dad would say it’s because if I’m not worrying, then by golly, I should find something!
The autism program is growing. Four new programs will open up in schools next year and John’s teaching staff has been tapped to open one of them — lucky for them! But who will take their place? It could be a phenomenal teacher, one with enthusiasm and ideas and love for what she does. New paras could be hired, ones who actually know something about autism…or not.
What happens to their argument that John would be best-served by staying one more year where he is, not the least of which was supposed to be the continuity of the teaching staff? The argument that he wasn’t quite ready for the less-restrictive program we toured, and being such a young five, would only benefit from staying in the smaller, one-on-one program to bolster his skills.
Except, except… the day I surprised his classroom with my visit, the day I heard this news, I was saddened with what I saw: a young girl in a corner screaming and banging her head. A boy hitting a table over and over with a block. Three children sitting in front of their teacher for circle time, uninterested. John next to them, hands clamped over his ears in real distress.
All I could think was, This is what John’s day looks like? This is what’s best for him? What kind of learning could possibly take place in this setting?
We have been enjoying this summer in a way that was not possible before. Maybe they were too young and I was too scared to venture out very often. There is a measure of independence that Sam, especially, has gained which has opened up my world and lets me relax, focus more on the moment. The days have a lovely, lazy quality even though there’s camp and routine around that. We go to the pool every afternoon and lie around in the sun, happy to have no cares other than what’s for dinner. Except I walk in the door and there’s today’s newspaper with the heart-rending job of rescuing pelicans and god, I feel it again in the pit of my stomach.
I think I need to call an IEP meeting for August. I can’t avoid it much longer. Would you?