April 2, 2021

Hi there and thanks for checking in. Clearly this blog has not been maintaining its former glory of a thousand new words a week. I squarely blame the pandemic. In so so SO many ways, that has been challenging for Darwin and for us and I do not have anywhere near the strength to fully explain all that right this minute.

However, I want to honor Autism Awareness Day with a little update and some good news. Dar has an amended IEP; I have brand new paperwork!

There was a time we thought that Dar would temporarily attend a special-needs school in Contra Costa County while we all waited for Alameda County to get its act together. As it happened, this school had its own problems getting enough staff together. After alotta agitations and aggravations, the Director of BUSD’s Special Needs Department finally offered me…Thousand Oaks. Darwin is returning to Thousand Oaks on April 12! (That is the day after the BUSD’s Spring Break ends.)

This is somewhat surreal for us. Dar left TO because they couldn’t serve him, even if it took them years and many failed experiments to admit that. I will never forget the day of the IEP, two years ago, when the school’s lead on special needs, A, went back on what she’d said two months before, and said words that meant (to me) “yes, fine, okay, this is one of the very few times the BUSD will arrange to facilitate his education elsewhere.” The heavens parted on that day my friend!

And then Dar went to Via, a school of no more than 20 kids, which has been mostly great. And then the pandemic happened. And now Via is hoping to open on April 26 but they’re not sure. And even if they do open on April 26, they may not provide full-time services for at least a few weeks. And so Dar’s new paperwork specifies that he’ll have a 1-on-1 aide at TO for as long as it takes for Via to retake him at five days a week. Via, for its part, will be happy to take Dar at the same time (or sooner).

Yesterday, Dar returned to Thousand Oaks for the first time in two years. We had a meet-and-greet with his support staff before the official restart on April 12. I don’t think I ever told the blog about the first day that I took Dar’s brother there while Dar was forced to remain in the car (on his way to Via). I could kinda see Dar’s little heart breaking as his brother got to go off and have all the fun and leave him behind. Impressing me, Dar got used to that drop-off and stopped trying to get out of the car. But I always felt a little bad about it.

Now he’s baaaaaaaack. Yesterday at 2:15 Dar had Thousand Oaks all to himself, just the way he likes it, free to roam the swings and slides and structure. Certainly, real school days will be nothing like that, and I warned the new team to expect meltdowns if he has to wait for swing time.

Actually, I spent much of the meet-and-greet predicting plenty of problems. Dar has never been great at adjustment periods. The new team had all kinds of questions about what to do when he fails to self-regulate. I said, oh just do what you usually do, and had to remind myself that none of them had ever met Dar or worked at TO until recently. Here’s what’s going to happen: they’re going to try a lot of strategies with water and balls and such, but eventually, they’ll walk him around campus to equally distribute his distracting noises throughout the school. I had to laugh as the team tried to show us around Thousand Oaks; my wife and I have so many more years of experience at the place.

A was a little late to the meeting but she did arrive, marking the first time we’d seen her in two years. I hardly knew what to say. Thanks? Oops? Hope this doesn’t last forever? She means well. I believe she was truly impressed with Dar’s physical growth. I could see she sincerely wanted to hug Dar and only held back out of Covid protocol.

A said what was on my mind: the best thing about this arrangement is that these fifth-graders know Dar and he knows them. (God knows if that last part is true, but yes, he did share classroom space with them for years.) I’m sure there will be a lot of “Hey Darwin!!”s. And also chaos as usual. In this particular case, the chaos may overlap with some inevitably post-covid chaos anyway.

I didn’t get to meet the actual fifth-grade teacher that will be managing the larger classroom that Dar is now nominally part of. And I’m not sure when or if I ever will, because parents literally aren’t allowed on campus in the new protocols. I drop off Darwin with the aide (whom I first-time met yesterday) in front of the school. He gets class from 8-11 the first week, 8-12 the second week, and 8-1 the third week and 8-2 going forward if indeed his time at TO stretches that far.

Amidst all the pandemic uncertainty, it seems fairly certain that Via will be full-time at least by June, which would be nice, because it normally offers Dar school through July.

You say, but Daniel, why do you need Dar in school so much? Ah, sweet summer child, you must not have spent the last year locked up with your kids. Or at least not with Darwin. He needs as much of a change in routine as he can get. And we in turn need that for him and for ourselves.

My God, to see Dar swinging his belly on a swing at Thousand Oaks again. Two years is a short time by geologic standards, but by Trump-Biden-Covid standards, it seems like an eternity. Today I listen to U2’s “A Sort of Homecoming” to give me all the feels. Oh, and this blog entry just hit 1000 words for the first time in way too long. Emily Dickinson said hope is the thing with feathers. Well, feathers are back, baby.