Today I got a phone call from my son's case worker from school confirming who would be his teacher come summer. The big switch is now real. I knew it was coming. We talked about it in the IEP but, with the days running on full speed, the end of the year is looming. Extended School Year (ESY) aka "Summer School" will be here in a hop, skip and a jump. Normally I don't mind. Heck, I'm usually looking forward to it. Gives me a chance to rest up after "vacation". (which I think we can all agree vacations are more like military boot camps for parents then they are relaxing) This July the kiddo will start with a new teacher. One he will then go to in the fall as well. This poor caseworker, who probably thought she was going the extra mile by calling me at home instead of sending out a form letter, heard me get so quiet on the phone that she actually thought the line had cut out. Nope, I was still there. I was just busy being speechless and realizing that this change is about to exceed the limits of my medication.
He's switched them before but there was something different about Mrs. M. I knew I liked her right from the start because she wasn't about to hear it that he didn't want to be at school. For the past year, as he finally started to get more and more verbal, he came up with some fantastic excuses for not wanting to go. ("Put away school!" "Want Saturday!! No Monday!!" "Turn off School!") The year prior he had greeted the previous teacher with "NOOOOOO SHE SHE!!!" (which was his way of saying her name) every single morning.
Mrs. M not only wasn't having it and her attitude about how awesome school was caught on. She didn't meet him head on with stubbornness. She helped him learn what his feelings were and how to identify them. For that I am truly and forever grateful. He finally had a name to go with the way he was feeling. I suddenly had a kiddo coming home telling me he felt happy or sad or pissed off! (OK in more age appropriate words but it was getting a little Dr Suess like here with the sad, mad, bad, glad) She helped label and organize those mixed up emotions flying around his brain.
She made him feel pride. Pride in his work. Pride in his actions. Pride in himself. For a kiddo riddled with more anxiety than any one person should have, oh he needed this. To have him tell me "I feel proud of you!" when he was pleased was a delight. He knew that was the best compliment. She gave him trust. She trusted jobs to him. She saw he loved to work and she put him to it. She made him the classroom lackey. He was sent down every morning to the office for attendance. Off to the cafeteria to drop off the lunch orders. Then over to the kindergarten to drop off the milks for the "little kids" as he called them. Needed to get a message to another teacher? Send the kiddo. Through these outings, another great gift arrived. Kiddo started getting more social. Actively engaging and saying "Hi!" to all he encountered.
How did she do all this? Well, the music just flowed through this woman. Singing was a big part of it. She's a big music lover and she saw that with him too. In the two years she has had him, anything new has first been brought to the kiddo in song. It's like she's a walking musical in there! She totally understood his love for it and she ran with it. Telling time, money, order of the months, even writing his name became a song. They may never win a Grammy but they are top hits in this house. I'll probably be singing "Hip Hop O'clock" in the nursing home because of her.
Now the time has come for him to move on though. I know it's a good thing for him too even though the changes are scary. I also know she knows how I feel about it all. You see, this year she told me how her own son is on the spectrum. That the kiddo reminds her a lot of her son at that age. A whole new level of respect washed over me when I found out. I thought "How on earth? All day with autism and go home to MORE AUTISM!?!?!" Seriously, how does she not burn out? I almost want to ask her "Are you on really good meds and if so, can I have some?" She's is aces in my book. I don't know how she does it but damn am I lucky that she does and she did for my kiddo. Think about it. Writing up and teaching a bunch of IEPs to go home and make sure your kid's IEPs are being done. I am in awe.
I'm sure the next teacher is swell. I'm sure she'll do great things. If not, I'm just going to insist Mrs. M be his teacher till he's 21. Perfectly reasonable demand in the IEP no? OK I won't but Mrs. M, you set the bar high. I hope that new gal knows what kind of act she's following. She better rest up on that break we have. Organize dancing poodles for her class for some sort of science experiment. Bring your "A" game newb. The kiddo goes big.
We had some emotional texting last night. That's right folks. Mrs. M and I text each other. How many teachers do you know that do that? So often she would text me a cute picture of my kiddo or even video of him doing something. To see into his little world of school was a gift! She let me know she's got my back and will help with the transitions. She knows what it's like to sit on my side of the IEP table. I love her. Why can't she live with me? I'm sure her family is nice but we got a pool. They could visit.
I told the kiddo last night about the big switch. He immediately laughed it off. However, this morning over breakfast, he repeated to me who his new teacher would be in the summer. He seemed pleased. One more gift she has given him. Helping him learn how to accept big changes even when that change is loosing her as a teacher.
OK, off to write a social story for myself to help accept this change. ;-)