That's just one example of the kind of teachers and staff I've been lucky enough to have involved in Janey's life. And I know it's luck. I think almost all teachers do the best they can, but not all schools have the philosophy and atmosphere to attract people like Janey's school does.
And it's pure luck she's there. It's luck that actually goes back to long before she was born, when Freddy was just two. I was looking for a school for William, and visited the Henderson (then the O'Hearn) I knew it was where I wanted William to be, although they had no openings for a special ed student at his grade level. I found out during that visit, though, that they did have a 3 year old program that I could attempt to get Freddy into, for the fall after he turned three. The odds were LONG. When I went to put him into the lottery, the staff at the assignment center basically said "You know he won't get in, right?" He had no kind of preference---he didn't live in the neighborhood, he didn't have a sibling there, he didn't have any special needs, and he was competing any other 2 year old in our zone that wanted a slot. I still can't believe the moment I opened the letter and saw he had somehow, by some miracle I still don't understand, gotten the slot, a slot that was good through 5th grade! He was there for 8 years! And 2 years after he first got in, we finally also got William in. And at the last possible moment, we found out we were expecting a little sibling for Freddy, just in time for her to get sibling preference for a 3 year old slot. Freddy and Janey overlapped at the school for just one year. It was soon after Janey started there that it became obvious she was regressing very badly, and she got the autism diagnosis December of that year. But unlike so many other kids that have disabilities, she didn't have to change schools. She stayed right there, where her brothers had gone. It means so much to me that she is having teachers they had, that people remember the boys, that I have been associated with the school for 13 years now. If anything in this long chain of events had gone differently, she wouldn't be at that school. The waiting list for a slot there in kindergarten, with no openings available, is currently 700 kids long.
And so, although some days I don't feel lucky in other ways, when it comes to schools, I certainly am. I'm lucky too that I am living in this time, when autism is better understood than in the past.
My wish, my dream, is that every child in America, or actually, every child in the world with autism can also be lucky, lucky to be surrounded by people that care about and love them, that are up to the huge challenges they can bring, that have the patience it takes to care for our special kids, and that they also get the time of respite from that all-consuming care that they need. Thank you, Jen and Christine, for giving me that time today!