Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Back to School, or the Happy Case of Narrative Whiplash

Fall is upon us and I have been blog silent for more than a month, running around with a new teaching job and trying to stay on top of the curatorial and consulting contracts that carried us through during time between teaching appointments — commitments that won't wrap up until next fall.

And instead of having a ten-minute walking commute to campus (as I had in my previous teaching job — how spoiled was I?), I found myself with an hour-plus commute that involves three modes of transport. This is unfortunate, as it means that I am far away in case of emergencies, and I'm pretty wiped out at the end of the day.

I've been missing the autism blogosphere, and missing events, such a John Elder Robison's reading at the Union Square Barnes and Noble's last month. I guess you could say that I have found myself seriously, seriously overbooked.

All of this would have been enough to induce a short blog silence, but something more significant stopped me in my blogging tracks — something that I'm calling narrative whiplash. Let me explain.

Those who've visited here over the past year know what a tough time M's had at her school for the past two years. But this fall, in a stunning about-face, M's school decided to do the right thing . . . they decided to work with the Committee of Special Education to get her an aide — someone to help her with the language and social challenges that have become so formidable for her.

Perhaps even more miraculous, the aide they found seems to be genius who has worked with kids all along the spectrum and has a delicate mix of developmental savvy and positive reinforcements.

We are dazzled. She seems to just get Sweet M — she understands her and seems devoted to helping M move forward.

In the first two weeks of school she'd already gotten Sweet M to join the other children at lunch — something that has been a struggle over the past four years since M is averse to the smell and look of other kids' lunches. Instead of sitting by passively and letting M join the crafts club — an object-oriented choice M would typically make — she listened carefully to what M was saying to other adults and kids and realized that M wants to be in the musical theater club. Yes, musical theater. Can you believe that? Sweet M wanted to be "the announcer", aka the narrator. And to help her diversify her eating without getting into power struggles, she's tapped into Sweet M's love of science and launched a "food science" initiative that has M "experiment" with alternate sources of protein.

The entire narrative trajectory over here at Autism's Edge — the narrative in which a small family in a big, big city struggles to hang on and dukes it out with unthinking educators and Dementor psy-professionals has to be revisited and revised.

The change has been so abrupt that I almost feel as though I have conceptual whiplash. Not that I'm complaining — it's just that the double miracle of the school deciding to get an aide and the aide being brilliant is such a stark contrast to the past two years that I've been dumb struck and blog silent.

I guess the takeaway here is that you never know, you really just never know, when your whole world can shift for the better.

Mirabile dictu. Miraculous to say . . .

To cheerful blogging, brilliant educators . . .

. . . and to these psychedelic purple and yellow cauliflowers at the Union Square Green Market that seem, in their wonderful strangeness, to fit in this moment of magic. . .

14 comments:

Steve said...

What a fantastic turnaround - here's to "To cheerful blogging and brilliant educators"!

Brad said...

That's wonderful! Congratulations. My son will be slowly worked into Kindergarten this year and we hope to have that same type of experience.

gettingthere said...

Excellent news. Nothing beats a an aide who "gets" your child.

Sarah said...

I am speechless with happiness! This whole time I have been so concerned that M was having a bad school year. What an unexpected and wonderful turn of events to have her school decide to do the work necessary to help her be more of a part of things. I am so glad for you! Once in a while the good guys do win one.

KathyIggy said...

Great! Having a good aide and/or case manager helps so much. We've been on both sides as well..4th grade was a disaster and 5th was problematic until an incompetent aide left. Megan started middle school this year and we have been pleasantly surprised as well. She also is interested in drama and the drama club moderator has a son with language delays, so the drama club has become a welcoming place for many kids with IEP's.

kyra said...

OH MY!!! I am THRILLED to hear your news. I can't imagine a happier turn this fall for your entire household! Yay for Sweet M! To be so carefully listened to, to have someone be that bridge at school. Can we clone her for Fluffy?

Now, I wish I could wiggle my nose like Samantha Stevens and have your commute to this new job be immediate.

Frogs' mom said...

I'm dancing a happy gig for you over here! What wonderful news!

I feel like working with school districts on special education issues is like panning for gold - lots of mud, lots of cold water, an occasional pay off of shinny dust - We have just climbed out of the stream to warm up for awhile. It sounds like you found the nugget! I'm looking forward to hearing what Sweet M will discover and accomplish this year with such support.

Casdok said...

No you never know do you!
Yes excellent news!

shannonj said...

What a wonderful story.....I would like to invite you to come share your perspective and stories within a new online social community called
Foggyrock.com. You can even link to this blog. We'd love to have you!
Shannon Johnson
Editor And Mom to 12 year old son
with autism
www.foggyrock.com/MyPage/wynnsmom

mumkeepingsane said...

What fantastic news! It's wonderful to have people working with children who actually care about their progress.

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