Susan's Blog

Friday, May 29, 2009

When You Wish Upon a School

Nat is home. I just got the weekly update from his teacher and I learned that his school is making a prom for the high school age kids there! They are even going to get a tuxedo store to come to the school and fit the guys. The guys can pick out their own colors. There are girls at the school, too, so I guess they will all be getting dresses. Nat’s teacher Terese is so excited that she is going to chaperone; she said, “It gives me an excuse to buy a new dress!” But she added that, “This is something we have been trying to do for two years!” It takes Nat’s school a very long time to do anything that is off the well-worn ABA path. They are always mindful of safety issues, and that makes them very conservative with trying new things.

But lately this is changing, for the better. They now have a basketball team (the one Nat is on); they had an all-school rally to celebrate the four basketball champs (Nat and the other three); they have a new building mainly for job-training. The kids go on picnics and into the community, even to the mall to pick out their own iPod shuffles (courtesy of the Parent Advisory Council). Plus, the teachers stay far longer than they used to. I am very happy with that place.

We had his IEP meeting last week, in fact, and that room was full! Probably fifteen people around the table, because there are Residence staff there to make goals for Nat while he’s at The House. The House and the school are pretty well synced up, so now we have a real shot at enabling Nat to generalize skills he has learned in the school. That was the primary reason for having him live there, after all.

Everyone around that table was enthusiastic and full of ideas. The IEP is very comprehensive: pages and pages of goals, covering all aspects of Nat’s needs, from vocational experiences like how you enter your workplace (greet people, punch your time clock, look for your work load, using the bathroom) to self-care at home (making his own lunch everyday, making a shopping list, using the shopping list, laundry) to practical math (estimating what is “some” and “enough” money for something he wants to buy, waiting for change, and eventually, using an ATM machine).

I love those people. And they love Nat. And now, the next phase of his life begins, as his teacher creates a social story to teach him how to ask a girl for a dance and how to behave with her. If anyone can teach him that, Terese can.

My heart is in my throat. Once again, I learn that I should never let go of any dreams if I want them badly enough.


I talked to someone very much “in the know” a couple of years ago who said, “I wouldn’t put my cat in that place.” Glad to hear it’s changing.

— added by Anonymous on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Even a couple of years ago Nat’s school was first rate. And he went there in an even earlier incarnation, when he was five. It was and is the best thing that ever happened to him. Not an ounce of cruelty, never an aversive practice, always the gentlest most compassionate and understanding teachers.

I wouldn’t put a cat in pretty much any school, because they would not do well in those chairs.

— added by Susan Senator on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 5:53 pm

There is an interesting parallel you may find when your second son is researching colleges. For every five people who tell you it is a “party school” another five will tell you it is something else, etc.
Residential community placements evoke different impressions.
So happy for you!

Linda (Your) Anon

— added by Anonymous on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 6:47 pm

Susan, I feel the exact same way about this school as you do! I am absolutely thrilled that my son is a student there. I have seen the school evolve for the better in many ways. J’s class has become much more focused on building social skills with staff and peers. They are cautious, but I have learned that they want to be very sure before they move forward that something will have positive results. I feel very safe knowing J is in such caring, capable and professional hands, not only now, but also in the future. Thanks for sharing such a positive story. I’m going to visualize J now in a tux. He’ll look awesome…and so will Nat, I’m sure! I saw him today and he looked very happy. Please let us know how the Prom goes, and take lots of pictures.

— added by Candy on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 10:54 pm

You know I will!!!

— added by Susan Senator on Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 5:44 am

My daughter recently went to a prom as well. Her school had a “prom” for her grade (8th) and I was so impressed that they did this…and she had a ball…

This was her first year in a residential school and she has made great strides. She does more than she would have at our local schools, and has friends.. She has every advantage that a good school has to offer…No comparison, and the best future possible, so you are right!

Put it this way, she would never have been able to attend a dance had it not been for her school and the opportunities/services they offer.

— added by Holly Nappi Collins on Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 8:37 am

My son has a prom at his residential school, too. He loves it. He hangs out with the DJ, gets dressed up, loves the decorations, the music and the dancing.

— added by Anonymous on Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Can I tell you how much I love this!!! Can’t wait for the photos. I’m smiling from the inside out..

— added by Judith U. on Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 12:29 pm

This is so awesome!!! If they need dress donations please let me know, I have a closet full of old dresses that are just gathering dust that I would gladly send.

— added by cameramom on Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 4:16 pm