Today is Jack's first day at a new school. After a few months of steadily worsening behavior problems, Jeff and I, along with the rest of Jack's IEP team, decided to move him to a different placement. It's a newly-created class with a newly-minted teacher at a newly-built school which is close to our house. Jack and I toured the facilities yesterday afternoon. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the teacher in the room next door is one of Jack's former preschool teachers back from when he was little and chubby and had those unruly red curls. This teacher, who was a quiet, gentle, and persistent force for good in Jack's preschool education, embraced him yesterday. She spoke to him the way she always has--like he is just as smart as the rest of us and understands exactly what we are saying, even if he can't articulate a response. Jack, who was quite smiley and making his happy sounds, was unequivocally pleased at this unexpected reunion with a special teacher who "gets" him and who also has a room full of cool toys.
I have a feeling there were probably some gleeful moments this morning when Jack had his first foray into the totally amazing sensory motor room at the school. Yesterday it was locked for the evening and we only got to peek inside the darkened room at the swings, therapy balls, heated water bed, tunnels, and other implements crucial to someone as sensory-seeking as Jack is. The building itself is great. The staff appears to be, as well. As I wait for Jack's new bus to bring him home, I'm hopeful that this change will be positive and the transition itself uneventful.
Okay, Jack is home now and I feel like hugging his new teacher. Her daily note home included specific, happy details, such as, "Jack loved starting the morning in the sensory motor room," and "Jack enjoyed riding the three-wheeled bike in adaptive PE, and was really good at it." Her note was like peeking in a classroom window and seeing the things that Jack can't tell me about when he comes home in the afternoon. As all my mom friends with special kids know, having a special ed teacher who values her students' families and communicates meaningfully with them is priceless.
I am not kidding when I say that I give prayerful thanks every day for the good teachers that my boys have. Between a charter school for H, an evolving special ed placement for Jacky, and a nurturing home-based preschool for Chachi, my boys are all over the map and perfectly situated for their varied needs. I've seen time and again that our family has lucked into some of the most wonderful classes with some of the most fabulous teachers. I consider this most invaluable help from caring, professional sources a tremendous gift that my family has been given. We would be completely snowed without their help.
Chach and I took a Kindermusik class together in our neighborhood last summer. During one class, the pre-instrument-banging banter turned to which schools our older children attended. When I explained that my second son attends a different school every year, depending on where his specialized autism-specific program is located, one young mom looked horrified and exclaimed, "I would hate that--all that moving around. It sounds awful!" But what she didn't understand is that I'm totally NOT inconvenienced by Jack's ever-changing school placements. I'm super grateful that they exist, and in such abundance.
We live in a newer, sort of outlying community which has seen its share of growing pains in the early years, like, for instance, a string of rogue mayors. Seriously, thumbs down. But those crazy-types fortunately are not representative of my terrific neighbors. Despite growing like gangbusters, our town still holds onto a really lovely small town feeling. The sense of community here is pretty Mayberry-like. A few years back, when it was just beginning to see growth with a few businesses, my sister and I walked through my neighborhood on a summer evening. Kate, known for her truthful and sometimes hilarious observations, took it all in and remarked, "This place reminds me of a child's play set. It's like, 'Here's the park. There's the church. This is the gas station and the Chinese restaurant. And these are all the houses.'" She totally nailed the description.
But while it isn't hip or urban, or old or storied, I really love where I live. I love it for my lovable neighbors, for my children's great schools, for the beautiful views in every direction, and for the feeling that people generally care. I love that one Saturday every December, Santa Claus sits atop a blaring fire engine, waving and tossing candy to kids on every street in the city while kids and parents emerge in their pj's to smile and wave back. I love that the only time you ever really hear police sirens are when the city is officially welcoming home a citizen returning from deployment. I love that the beautiful mountain landscape is an inseparable part of this place. It's nice here. It may not be Grover's Corners. But it is our town.
P.S. Thanks for not mentioning the name of my town in the comment section of this public blog, friends ;)