It’s comical that I’m feeling recharged right now. I have been traveling for work all week long and laying in the same hotel room I was in 36 hours earlier. I’m not complaining though; I have an incredible career that allows me to work in the field of education and collaborate with school districts daily, but traveling from one district to the next in this grand state of Texas literally can mean that I am flying from one city to the next in a single day. Technically, I should be falling fast asleep in this amazing Embassy Suites king size bed, but today was a GREAT day and I am not ready to clock out just yet.
I have begun my hunt for Nico’s elementary school for next school year. This has been a journey I have been silently dreading for quite some time now. Nico has been so insulated with support and advocacy at his current school, which services all children on the spectrum, that I have become spoiled by the notion that every teacher Nico has is also his therapist and has chosen to work with kiddos like him. Moving him into a traditional elementary school doesn’t come with the same guarantee that the teachers who work with Nico are ready, willing, and able to work with kids on the Autism spectrum.
I woke up today with nervous anticipation and a preconceived notion of what I would learn from these school visits: NO school would be good enough for my son and his needs. But, I can honestly say that I have never felt so hopeful and excited for what next year has in store for Nico. Our local public elementary school has recharged me completely! First off, having 15 years of public education under my career belt and being a product of public school have always been the driving forces in my desire to place my child in a public school. We are beyond fortunate to have this national luxury and I believe it’s something all children should be privy to. However, the state of special education in our public school system has left much to be desired so I was not 100% sold on the idea that Nico could get what he needed from such an environment.
But, after touring our local elementary school and speaking with the guidance counselor, special education coordinator, encountering some of the most darling and polite students, and learning that the school teaches empathy and awareness everyday (they employ a “buddy” program between 5th graders and Kindergartners, I mean…that’s awesome), I am able to breath just a bit easier about this precarious transition.
I went in armed with my questions and I encourage all of you, regardless if you have a special needs child or not, to do the same. I made my list ahead of time, but also researched other questions that should be asked of a special needs program and this school had a thoughtful answer for each one! Here is the set of questions I used if you’re interested. No question was left unanswered and I was able to observe all Kindergarten classroom environments up close and personal. They even have a sensory classroom which is KEY for kids on the spectrum; they sometimes need a place to decompress and recharge if they are struggling with sensory processing. Many children and adults on the Autism spectrum have sensory processing issues and this can make it very difficult for them to learn effectively.
I left the school with a pep in my step and a renewed sense of hope! I saw Nico thriving in that environment, laughing with friends who saw him and not just his Autism. I saw him smiling ear to ear while on the school bus heading to a field trip and could envision him strutting down the hallway to his favorite special, Library time. I mean, their library is to die for! Nico will be in hog heaven surrounded by all those books. It melts my heart just thinking about it.
Today I had infinite hope for Nico’s future and it was an inclusive one! I know Nico will have his struggles and his off days. I may even be a bit overzealous with my excitement, but for the first time in a long time my mental and emotional and physical batteries are recharged!
And speaking of being recharged, I must recommend an amazing soundtrack that resonates so deeply in my home: The Greatest Showman. This film and its soundtrack speak volumes regarding diversity, inclusion, and realized dreams. There is one song in particular that has quickly evolved into my personal anthem for Nico. The song is titled, This is Me and it fires me up every time I listen to it. I might even be secretly performing it in my car or in the shower when no one is looking…just saying. Hell, who am I fooling, my secret wish in life (besides wanting to be a marine biologist) has always been to perform on Broadway so this song is being performed practically anywhere I can belt it out (privately, of course).
If you’re in need of some recharging yourself, check it out. Or, just quiet your thoughts and remember this: no one will ever know your kids as well as you, so you will always steer the ship in the right direction when it comes to them. We truly are the GREATEST showmen and women in our very own family circuses…mic drop!