As our super-powered, special needs family settled into our new hometown, school registration was priority number one. After nearly two years of struggling with Big City School Boards, the Smalltown School Board official who told me to ‘just show up on registration day with all your paperwork’ left me very sceptical.
Two kids with special needs?
What do you mean, you don’t need months of planning? Mountains of paperwork? An army of consultants? Endless running around in circles, checking the workplace agreements for lifting and transfers, conferring with the transportation department?
The school board official agreed to email the principal to give her ‘a head’s up’, but assured me that my kids’ new school really does ‘get’ special ed.
So on registration day I called ahead to make an appointment with the principal, I wanted to make sure someone in authority had a clear idea of the issues they would face. She said just show up.
Little Miss Adorable and I brought her Cinderella backpack full of reports and assessments, and all manner of legal documents I thought the school would need to help my kids.
While Little Miss Adorable cruised around her new school in her walker, the principal cleared a stack of books off a chair and invited me to chat. I started to list Mr. Sensitive’s needs – anxiety issues, poor self-esteem, enough tics to cover a dog, a serious stutter, sensory issues, learning disability, and the whooper of diagnosis, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I explained how the sensory issues contributed to poor learning and increased anxiety and how everything else spiralled into a circle of crap.
When I started to describe how his old school wouldn’t allow Mr. Sensitive’s noise cancelling headphones into the classroom, the principal stopped me.
“The first thing you’ll notice here is we get special ed. I don’t know how things were done in the city, but here we do things differently.”
She described the sensory room, open to any student in the school, and an occupational therapist’s delight. Mr. Sensitive would be welcome to spend afternoons there, if he liked.
They really do get it.
For more on the ‘stuff’ we faced in our quest for special needs services, check out the Kindergarten Chronicles