I cried. I knew I would when I said goodbye to Johnny’s teacher. The school and his teachers have done so much for him and showed to us, his parents, how important early intervention is for a child diagnosed with Autism.
One day when his teacher reads this I want her to know how much we really appreciated her guidance, kindness, advice, helping hand and acceptance of Johnny. His big bright smile that lights up a room got her right away and she was determined to help him and she did. He is not the same little boy that she met in November 2010. He is so much more and only needed very experienced people to be in his life to show him the way.
Right away when we all met her at the school we saw how Johnny easily could work with her. We still did not have the diagnosis and were wrestling with the idea “is this place” really where are son is suppose to go? He is a special needs child? What? Would he be better off staying in an environment where he would be with typically developing children and get speech therapy.
As she held me in her arms today as I thanked her between tears of gratitude she kept saying how much she loved him, they all loved him and will miss him. But she wanted me to know what fantastic parents we are for Johnny and that we really really needed to hear this and know this. That meant everything to me. We don’t often get a pat on the back and spend most of our time advocating for Johnny, planning for him and avoiding apologizing for behaviours. People aways ask how Johnny is doing but rarely ask my husband and I how we are doing. This teacher always cared enough to notice and ask.
Serendipity played a part in our son’s life again on how we even discovered this school. We knew we were dealing with a major developmental delay and we were consultations from early childhood education professionals on how to help him before a diagnosis, drop in centres to visit, programs that were available. It was at a drop-in centre that I met one of the school’s outreach interventionist workers who observed Johnny and then wondered if I had applied to her school. The school had a big wait list and it was too late to get him into their preschool program but we should definitely get on the list for their kindergarten program. As luck would have it the school’s director came in the following week and met Johnny as well and said he’d do well at their school to please apply and visit. We visited and observed their kindergarten Autism program and watched as our son who was 3 at the time keep up with the 4-6 year olds (wow). The next day the school called and offered us a spot in their preschool that was opening up in February. We were not sure how to proceed. It’s hard to accept that your child has to go to a different school because you so want them to just go and do what other children are doing. The school said they’d hold a position for Johnny until we got our diagnosis. The developmental peditrician recommended the school and their preschool program because they have something that no other school has. A large contingent of trained volunteers who work one on one with the children and even if he’s higher functioning, where else could you get that kind of intervention for that kind of price. Along with that he’d have access to an occupational therapist, snozelin room and a physiotherapist.
It was the right decision. Before Johnny had been attending a nursery school and everyday I’d drop him off and pick him up and watch the other children interacting with their parents. I was forced to face the stark reality of our situation every single day. He had an amazing teacher there who took a loving interest in him and helped him a lot. Ramona *smiles* you taught him gentle hands and how to show it which he does to this day. When we changed schools 80% of the children had all kinds of developmental challenges but the atmosphere was like an episode of the TV show CHEERS where everyone knows your name and cheers when you come in the door. The jubilant spirit and a loving volunteer being there for him alone everyday one day at a time helped him begin to fight the Autism that can rule him.
You can read here in previous post about how he did at preschool here: A smile that is only meant for them…
Thank you Johnny for trying your best everyday and working to move forward no matter how hard it was. Some of those afternoons when you came home from preschool were really hard because they challenged you and pushed you to be more then you were at the moment and my father and I had to handle the brunt of your frustrations. We weathered it and you made it into regular public school junior kindergarten fully integrated with Educational Support. We decided to keep sending you to the special school so that they could continue the work that they started but in their kindergarten program. He didn’t have the same one on one support but the teacher to student ratio was very low. Johnny exhibited a lot of great cognitive abilities during his past year there and is now trying to talk.
It was sad to say good bye to a school that felt like another home for us and Johnny but it is time to move one. Now we have to close our eyes, take a deep breathe, and prepare to take the next step.