It has been nearly 2 months since I have written. I have been afraid- afraid to say out loud that things have turned a corner. I am still afraid, as I know we are likely still in the honeymoon phase at Jack's new private school. But you know what?? What the hell!?
Our bright cheery boy is coming back to us. I really don't know how else to describe it. We are three weeks into Jack's new placement, and while I expected to feel a bit of relief in knowing that the staff at this school was better equipped to handle Jack's challenges, I hardly expected to see him feeling so.... EMBRACED. There is really no better word to describe it. And HE feels it.
Today both dad and I were waiting at the front door when he got off the bus. I asked him how his day was. He said "amazing". It hit me- he used to say that ALL THE TIME. I haven't heard it in a good two years. I am no fool, I know I won't hear it everyday, but today it brought tears to my eyes.
It's sad that it took what it did to finally get my son into a setting where he is accepted. I had so much anxiety putting him on the bus the first day that I sat on our doorstep and cried for a good 20 minutes after he was gone, and he's in 4th grade- not kindergarten! It was a release for me though, of all the tension of getting him to this place, of all the fear I have had over the last year. It was the beginning of all of that just melting away. He has an hour bus ride each way now, which was a big concern for us- he has a lot of anxiety regarding the bus and changes in routine. The other day I told him it was time to get on the bus and he said, "oh man!" and then he said "oh wait, I like the bus!". His bus driver is great with him, and other than the fact that he has picked up continuously singing "bird is the word" from one of the older kids on the bus, it has been a very positive experience. In fact, one day a week ago the bus driver literally forgot Jack- it's a new stop on his route this year and after he made one of his old stops, he just kept going. He did turn around and come back and get him- but amazingly, Jack completely kept his cool. I don't know how to explain it, but it's like he just KNOWS that this is his place. There is no other way I can explain the rapid changes we are seeing.
Some of the differences at this school are so simple, they are not for "special needs" kids so much as best practices for all kids that have gone by the wayside in public school- everyone has a snack time, everyone works on a token system, everyone gets breaks. I remember when I first moved to NJ in 5th grade, one of the classes there worked on a token system- everyone wanted to be in that class- all kids can benefit from a reward system- it makes me wonder why it isn't more common (other than the amount of work involved in doing this for HUGE class sizes in public schools). All kids can benefit from all of these changes frankly- my kid just really needs them in order to be successful at this point in his life. Because everyone in the school is operating on the same system, he doesn't feel singled out, he doesn't feel "special", he just feels like another student, and that is what he has always wanted. Frankly, we "sell" school to kids as their jobs- why shouldn't they earn money for it??? Jack earns money on his "debit" card every day for behavior, which he can spend in the school's stores (all run by students, he is an employee at a store as well) on Fridays. I get a "balance sheet" every day showing how he did, how many dollars he earned, where he didn't earn, etc. I have to say that there has not been any mention of any aggressive verbiage or behavior since I believe his second day. It didn't take long. He just needed this.
This came from one of his teachers:
He is more and more comfortable with us, which is allowing his wonderful personality to come out. I have really enjoyed talking to him about planes and animals, he is always surprising me with fun facts about his favorite things! We are still getting to know Jack, but this week I have seen him more interested and willing to work with me. In math, while he might get frustrated, he is quick to use a suggested strategy and then try again. He is really impressing us with how willing he is to try these new and more difficult things. I have really enjoyed our time with Jack so far, I look forward to getting to know him better this year! Thank you for sharing him with us! Have a wonderful Wednesday.
After last year's constant worry and negative feedback, yes, I did indeed cry. My baby is in a good place. And all 9 IEP meetings were absolutely worth it for even one day of him experiencing this!!!!
If I could trust him not to internalize only the swear words in this at this point in his life, I would absolutely share this with Jack right now. I have spent so much of my life trying to "make" other people like me, and so much of my life as a mom trying to help my kids fit in. I am realizing that neither are likely to be effective. I am at peace with that. Happiness- that's what we're going for.