Dar’s third-grade teacher has been an angel. Her name is not Ms. Starr, but I’ll call her that here. Ms. Starr is one of those relentlessly cheerful people who seem like they were born to handle a room of elementary-school kids.
Per Ms. Starr’s instructions, on Monday wifey and I arrived at about noon at Thousand Oaks. It was a gorgeous, warm spring day. We found Ms. Starr’s third-grade class sitting outside on the grass field near the play structure. The kids were enjoying their lunches. Dar was not having any of it. He was screaming and frustrated, not because of the attention, not because it was his party, but because he’s Dar and antecedents aren’t his thing so stop asking, mmmkay?
Ms. Starr got up, greeted wifey and I, told us how much Dar had taught the students. I said I appreciated that; privately I doubted it. Ms. Starr only really met Dar in September; many of these kids have known Dar for about four years.
I wouldn’t be surprised if his name comes up in a few of their college application essays. But what did they really learn from him? Empathy? They might have figured that out anyway. How to tolerate random screaming? Not sure about that.
Maybe I’ll find out soon, because Dar’s third-grade class created a book for him which…might be about what he taught them? Whatever’s in it is probably more for us than for him, cause he’ll never look at it and he’s likely to cry if I make him do so. As of this writing, I don’t have it, because a few students were missing on Monday. Maybe the book will be a major part of next week’s blog post. Or maybe I’ll discuss his first week at his new school! You don’t know!
The truth is it’s hard to get to know Dar, even after years. And Monday brought more evidence of that. When he was tantruming, some of the kids tried to throw him a basketball. Yeah, Dar can’t catch a basketball. He can sometimes catch a softer ball, like a (preferably deflated) red kickball or nerf or something. I found such a ball and brought it over, and the aide had more success throwing it to him. By that time the kids had moved on to doing something else.
The principal of the school came over to say hi to wifey and me. She asked if there was anything else she could do. I said, well, maybe find a way for Dar to go to a school that would also include neuro-typical children? So I explained that every…single…other…district…in…this…area (namely Albany, Oakland, El Cerrito, Alameda, etc) has Special Day Classes in the “regular” schools, meaning the kids like Dar see neuro-typical kids every day (perhaps only at P.E. or art).
It’s a huge transition, whether I fully realize it or not. It’s the end of one kind of school for Dar and the beginning of another kind of school that is all-special-needs, all-the-time. Part of it does feel like a surrender.
Ms. Starr is a lovely person. I’m fairly sure she spent her own money on goodbye cupcakes for Dar (and, obviously, for the class to also enjoy). I watched as Ms. Starr fended off many minutes of kids saying “when can we eat the cupcakes?” Finally she offered one to Dar…and he ate it! Okay fine, he ate half of it! I was more than half-thrilled. He doesn’t always eat these sorts of things, and he certainly doesn’t always appreciate someone doing him a kindness.
Wifey and I went around the school collecting Dar’s changes of clothes and other assorted items (that your neurotypical kid doesn’t need to have at school). Upon arriving at Dar’s classroom we saw that the third-grade class next to Ms. Starr’s had made Dar a banner. (Most of them had been in a room with Dar at one point or another; all of them had no doubt heard his caterwauling on the regular.) The banner was very, very sweet. And is a good place to end this post. So there you go.