Everyone is asking me: “how is Dar’s new school?” Answer: It’s kinda great!

I think it’s really early to make any big judgments. Nonetheless, we have an IEP in a few weeks as a sort of a check-in. What will we be talking about?

If this was your nine-year-old, we’d ask him what he thinks of the place. Since this is Dar and he can’t tell us, we have to go by other metrics.

One of those is my experiences at the school. They’ve been great. I like the staff and I like the program. I’ve been hanging out at the new school a little bit more than I had planned to. One reason for this is that we had the usual rocky first week of transportation. Dar’s IEP specifies that he gets driven to and from school. To get to Thousand Oaks, he was one of many kids picked up by a bus. Now that he’s going to a school with less than 20 kids, a car comes to get him. The first day, the driver didn’t show up. After driving Dar to school myself, I eventually reached the BUSD (who are in charge of this), who eventually told me that they forgot to provide a booster seat. I told them we had a booster seat ready to loan the driver. Oh well.

The next morning, the driver came in his car. That afternoon, he told me he wouldn’t be driving Dar again. I asked why. He said that Dar was behaving badly in the back seat. Not sure what that meant. I finally reached someone at the BUSD…too late. We had no driver the next day either. So I drove him again. (Did I mention I teach five college classes this semester? Not a lot of free time.) Had to call BUSD again. They told me that the previous driver had no right to cancel things. They promised a new “permanent” driver the next day. And sure enough he has been coming every day since. I ask “is Dar behaving?” He says, “Dar is my friend!” A positive attitude helps many things. By the way, the driver situation is NOT Dar’s new school’s fault.

Where was I? Dar’s school is fine. It’s cozy. It’s mostly a huge house. There are about 20 kids, most (all?) of them older and bigger than Dar. He’s the new kid on the block. We do worry a little about that, because…well, there’s no easy way to say this, but many of Dar’s beautiful school-mates have behavior management issues. Have you ever wondered where kids go if they can’t stop, ah, having moments of violence? I mean, the buck has to stop somewhere. I think Dar’s new school is such a place, at least for kids with serious intellectual disabilities. (I presume others wind up in juvie.) I don’t know how Dar gets kicked out of this one. Although…as comic books have taught me, “famous last words.”

But this is a long way of saying I love Dar’s new school! The school is SO attentive to Dar. Their paperwork feels very…like, they really GET kids like Dar.

I love his star chart. Behold.

For your third-grader, most of these would come easily. For Dar, they ain’t. So it’s nice to see affirming, hand-written stars next to most of them at the end of every day. I know, I know, they may be taking advantage of my lowered expectations. I can live with that. In fact, I may even live better with that.

He IS doing academics, you know, like writing his name and showing that he knows things. That feels like a future blog post. Baby steps, people.

For now, I also love the activity report. I like that there are so many easy-check boxes. Like, they are USED to kids like my kid. I like that!

In the old days, uh, last month, we would receive information of this sort from Thousand Oaks, but always hand-scrawled, in a handwriting that suggested the desperate scrawls of an inmate. Here, it’s routinized.

Here, Dar is normal. I’m going to let that sink in, because it has never, ever, EVER been true before. Here, at this lovely school, for five hours a day every weekday, here, Dar is normal.

On some level, that’s a big, big relief.