I’ve been to a LOT of school meetings and activities. I’ve been to grueling, all-day marathon, head-scratching, bureaucracy-manipulating, eye bleeding IEP meetings for Tommy. Last night was the very best experience I have EVER had at Tommy’s school. His homeroom teacher asked who my child was and smiled sweetly, “oh, Tommy is so nice. He tells me little jokes and this year he is frequently chatting with the other children.” I thought I might cry right then and there. Tommy was “chatting”? I went to his first period English class. English class has always been a double-edged sword for Tommy who loooves to read but hates to write. “Tommy has been just wonderful this year. He writes such funny stories and essays. He’s really starting to express himself on paper.” I had to grin from ear to ear which looked silly, but was much better than the teary-eyed, runny nosed sniffling I did in homeroom. Second period was math, Tommy’s arch-nemesis. Spending years at a time of elementary school without a textbook has put giant holes in Tommy’s basic math skills. We always hoped that he could develop enough calculator skills to function outside of school. Tommy is passing Algebra and is prepared to take his math Gateway. It is the last test he needs to graduate from a TN high school with a regular diploma instead of a special ed diploma. His math teacher said “the only trouble I have with Tommy is his anxiety about writing his work on the board.” I almost fell out of my seat from the shock of it all. I’m sure that my jaw is still on the classroom floor. I hope nobody trips over it today. Third period was desktop publishing. Tommy lives on the computer but has been struggling with this class. We couldn’t understand the problem. The room is lit only with computer screens and Christmas lights. I don’t have sensory issues and I felt disoriented. The teacher had a four screen Powerpoint about the class on a loop. One screen was the class goals, one was her e-mail address, one was dedicated to her cats and one screen was her resume. She is an accountant who decided to teach business classes. The real problem with this class though, is that they have only one textbook for all the students to share. We can fix this. No more worrying about what should have been an easy class for Tommy. Last period is called study skills and credited as an elective but it’s really a group therapy with Dr. Jennine Estes, MFT and social skills for kids with Asperger’s. With a giant smile, his teacher asked if I realize that Tommy will graduate in 2008. Umm, no, I always thought it would take Tommy the 2-3 extra years allowed children with special needs. I can still recall the day I was told Tommy would never read and all the times I was advised to put him in a group home. Doug and I always planned on Tommy working up to the ability to live in an efficiency apartment we would build next to our house. Suddenly Tommy’s opportunities seem so much brighter, bigger and independent of us.
I don’t even care that I had to park all the way over in Downtown West’s shopping area. I floated all the way back to the car at the end of the evening anyway.