Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mapaville State School for the Severely Disabled

Today is a beautiful day. The last time I talked to you I was wondering if I needed a better attitude or a freaking break. I have both. Great things have been happening lately- my work hours were cut (thank you, Jesus), Goofy's area coordinator is working hard to try to work with me, Goofy is getting the Functional Behavior Assessment I requested, the technology lady has awesome ideas to help Goofy with writing (they are already being tried out and as a result, Goofy can already independently navigate the programs he needs at home), and the house my sister is buying has passed all inspections and they are definitely getting it. This means that we will be moving very soon since I am getting her current home and I am getting things ready.

Today I toured Alex's new school. You know they have a shady history and I was very nervous about re-enrolling him there, so I wanted to check them out in person before putting him in a position that risks his safety/education. I called to talk to the principal because I want to know what he is doing in the school to make it better, I have a lot of questions to ask him, and I needed to schedule a tour. He was able to take my call pretty quickly, which is impressive, but he wanted to check a few things out before scheduling the tour. My first thought was oh, shit, what is he covering up before he lets me in? It wasn't long before he called me back to schedule the tour, so it's possible he needed to check me out since I told him I had already talked to the regular school administration about enrolling Alex in their school. That's smart. I like that.

Walking through the parking lot, my mind is on wandering. I'm looking at the wooded areas, the weeds, the proximity to a highway with a 60 MPH speed limit. If you have a wanderer, you know exactly what I mean. No matter where you go, you automatically check escape routes. I'm wondering what their school plan is and I'm worried that I'll be able to walk right in the front door with it being such a small school in such a small town. I'm wondering... if I can just walk in, how easy will it be for Alex to just walk out and what will they do when that happens? I walk up to the door and read the instructions for entering the building. Ring the bell and wait to be admitted. *sigh of relief* security. But then I read on, if there is no answer, call the school. They were nice enough to include their phone number, which makes it a well thought out sign, but it leaves me wondering who's watching the door. The system is great for keeping people out, but seems to suck for keeping people in. I asked about their wandering plan, and they don't have one, don't think they need one. I'll tell you right now, I don't think the school has ever been on fire but I can guarantee they have a plan for that. Here is a great post from Flappiness Is on autism elopement protocol for schools. Honestly, that is my only concern with the school. Considering the concerns I went in with, that's pretty freaking good and easily fixed.

After being buzzed in, I walked to the front desk where I was immediately recognized as Alex's mom. After being gone for 6 years, they still remember him. That is awesome. Within just a few hours of my call, before I even walk in the door, the entire school is aware that Alex is coming back, and they are excited. I had forgotten what a "family atmosphere" this school has. It feels good, it feels like coming home.

The principal came out pretty quickly to greet me and walk me back to what looks like the IEP room, where we are met by the home/school coordinator. Now, anyone who works with me knows that when I have a list of questions, I have a list of questions. Some people are ok with my insanity, others get annoyed fairly quickly. These two were ok with my questions, and happy to answer them even if there were a lot. We're on the same page with staff change, I'm really liking that. He's open to new ideas, I'm really liking that, too. He's working on increasing transparency as much as he can, awesome. And, I get to name his school without the risk of cease and desist orders or other threatening letters from school attorneys, *woot*!

Of course, I asked about the PTA and yes, they do have a PTA...with only one parent participating. What the hell, parents!? Where are you? Why are you not involved? Serious question. I know the last time I asked your answers were the availability of child care, the time of the meetings, coordination with the kids' schedules, not getting notices, and socialization- both wanting and not wanting it- is the answer the same? What can we do to help you be more involved in your child's school?

They have a lot of the things Alex has in his current school, they are working toward some that are missing, and they have some new things going. This lovely man has some big ideas on where he wants the school to go, and he is eager to talk about it. I worry about that a little because I worry that he could be so invested that he burns out. The last lovely man I worked with got quite a bit of his list accomplished before he decided to move on, so I'm not sure that I would need to worry about this one, but I do.

As far as the shady past, it's just history. They have checks and balances, classroom observations, parental involvement (sort of), and a very interested principal. He knew the kids by name, he acknowledged staff, he knew who Alex's kindergarten teacher was, he made an effort to learn what he could about us before meeting with me, and he was not insulted or worried when I asked for the chain of command and where to find district policy. He acts like a man with nothing to hide, and everything to share. One thing that should never be underestimated is the power of a good principal.

I'm feeling pretty good about this. I have hope.