My favorite 5th grader will be going to middle school next year. Since she has Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) and I have yet to encounter a local Christian school that will accommodate her disability, it will almost certainly be in the local public school. I think I am resigned to this and even somewhat positive, but it is still a major change. Even though I teach middle school myself -- especially because I teach middle school myself -- I am worried about the challenges ahead for her and for me. Even little things (maybe not so little, since I'm a creature of habit) like the daily schedule will change radically. School will start for her at 9:00 -- for the rest of us it is 8:30. This will mean that either I will spend my life in the car making multiple round trips a day, or I will need to find a carpool for the other three kids and make only one or two round trips to Ridgefield a day. My schedule will have to change from first three periods to something that allows me to see her safely off to school first. That means less time in the afternoon for housekeeping and errand running and otherwise trying to keep all the balls in the air. In other words, much less likelihood of staying sane.
Then there are all the issues with her program itself. We had a preliminary meeting today and the representatives of the school district are never anything but positive and encouraging, but I find myself overwhelmed by the need to choose wisely in a decision that will affect the rest of her life. Life Skills classroom for 1 or 2 periods a day? Learning Support classroom for all the core subjects? Which social and adaptive skills do we need to include in her IEP? Do we dare insist on including her in a General Ed. class at all? Should we push for an aide if we do? And why in the world would any school district forbid prospective parents from visiting a Life Skills classroom, or any classroom for that matter, of a public school? I don't care what they say about student confidentiality concerns and disruption... the more they insist on treating parents as the enemy, the more success they will have in creating that kind of relationship. But of course, since the district reps are never anything but positive and encouraging, you can't really direct any of your parental outrage at them. It's all very passive-aggressive, and I get the feeling we're just supposed to go along with the recommendations and not notice the man behind the curtain.
What's a couple of introverts with a special-needs kid to do?
I do know that if a private Christian school refused to let prospective parents visit actual classrooms, it would be out of business very, very, quickly.