October 28, 2013
Thirty Day Review
I wait patiently to be buzzed in, one hand making the straps of my purse stable on my shoulder, the other rummaging through its contents to make sure my piece of paper with my important questions on it remains inside. In a few moments I pass the necessary inquisition and am ushered through, signed in and seated, waiting to be escorted to a room where Zach’s teachers will be awaiting my arrival.
Soon the school counselor comes to collect me, and we make small talk as we follow the meandering hallways of my son’s school, and finally reach our destination. I take a deep breath and cross the threshold, a bit nervous as this is a pivotal day in Zach’s life.
Today is my son’s thirty day review.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, the thirty day review examines a student’s special education placement, in our case, a placement in a full-day inclusion class. Zach is part of a community of a number of neurotypical peers as well as children with individualized education plans (IEP), and is fortunate to receive instruction from both a special education teacher and a regular education teacher as well.
I am anticipating that things are going well primarily due to the absence of any negative notes home, coupled with a daily glowing report from my son regarding his teachers, classmates and school activities. I want to hear he’s successful here, that the impulsivity that renders him a challenge has been contained enough to make this a great fit for him. I regard both teachers’ faces and exhale slightly- both are smiling, always a good sign.
I unclench my hands and return their grins, thanking them profusely for making my boy feel so welcome, for all their hard work. I ask how he’s doing, followed with a “is this the right fit” chaser. I am rewarded with a positive response, which allows me to unclench my hands even further. I am told he is bright, seems to be fitting in socially, and still retains the impulsivity/stubbornness that at times makes him difficult to reach.
Together we hash out a plan to conquer one class where he is experiencing challenges, and before I know it the meeting is concluded, truly a stellar start for a boy with a dual diagnosis who often struggles to harness his boundless energy and inquisitive nature. I thank his teachers again and take my leave, proud I sort of remember how to find the exit, relieved the meeting has gone so well and is concluded. I sit for a moment in my steamy car and reflect on what has just transpired, elated that my boy is doing so well. He is thriving in his classroom, finding his niche, his unique self celebrated and embraced.
As I wait for my air conditioning to finally kick in I think about how far he’s come in his continuum of learning, and how I’ve evolved with my perspective regarding his education as well. Five years ago when sickness claimed him and left a mostly speechless, often physically suffering toddler in its wake, I used to lay awake at night and pray for a day such as this. I asked for a day where my youngest son would thrive academically in a mostly typical school environment, a day where he was no longer suffering.
During those dark months after Zach’s regression my goals seemed impossible to attain as we watched him struggle to regain milestones he had once achieved with ease. He was a shadow of his former ebullient self then, a wisp of what he had once been.
I wish I could go back in time and tell my former, scattered self that while a half decade later he would still have an autism diagnosis, I would one day perceive his type of autism as a gift. I would share with that overwhelmed and sometimes distraught mom that while there would be many hurdles to conquer, that his unique self would once again shine through, lighting up our days.
I would assure her that her son’s affectionate disposition would again resurface, that his coveted hugs and kisses would once more become a staple of her day. I would tell her that getting him into that inclusion classroom with its trappings of the “typical life” would not matter so much to her anymore- that his happiness, his ability to achieve the life he wants, would take precedence over his mother’s desires.
Finally I would hug her, give her some chocolate, and tell her it really would be okay.
At last my air conditioning kicks in, and I back out gingerly into the school parking lot elated at what has just occurred, but mostly elated by how it’s all turned out. My boy has his challenges, and like most of us, will likely have them throughout his lifespan. There will be further hurdles to conquer, and chasms to cross. There will be days it will all seem untenable, chased with days of unlimited joy.
But today, there is just a brave little boy with an indomitable spirit who loves his school, and is loved in return. And today, that is enough.