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A School, A Village, A Family and a Decision

January 14, 2012

Sail on Silver Girl,
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind

Simon & Garfunkel

We had intended to move before Troy started kindergarten. Then he was diagnosed with Aspergers and we started him at the local Catholic school. We talked seriously about moving that following spring after our youngest was born. That was when she was just getting her hearing aids and was starting to present with multiple delays. We very nearly made an offer on a beautiful ranch last spring mainly because the doctors had assured us that Mary had ataxia telangiectasia and would require a wheelchair and would not survive through her teen years. I had always dreamed of a farmhouse with the wraparound porch, but the one-level living design of a ranch appeared necessary. We decided to put off the decision one more year.

So much can happen in a year.

One of our biggest sticking points on moving has always been the school. How do you pick a school for the mix of abilities in our family? How do you find a place where you know that they will not only succeed, but they will thrive? Where the staff and students there cherish your child as a complete person. Where they are treated just like every other kid there, but with the care, structure and patience that a child on the spectrum requires. We don’t take for granted that we have already stumbled upon that place, in the form of an incredible and unassuming small neighborhood Catholic school.

This school has become more than just school for our family. This school has become our family. With all our biological family living at least 600 miles away, the friends we have made at this school have quickly moved into our hearts and have easily filled that void. They are friends who have shared our journey and allowed us to share in theirs. Never has that been more apparent to me than over the last year: A friendly listening ear there when I needed it; a simple anonymous, but oh so meaningful gesture; a gentle nod of understanding- real understanding of an impossible situation; tears of joy and applause from teachers and friends for seemingly small things that would simply go unnoticed to the average passerby; hugs of comfort and of celebration; the knowledge that whatever happens, there is a village, a real community there to back you up every step of the way.

It is so easy to become isolated on this path- to feel like you walk alone… So many times I still feel that way. Last night we were at a fundraising dinner for a dear friend and her family. Her son is being treated for neuroblastoma. You can read a little about that here. She was visibly overwhelmed by the sheer number of people there supporting her family. Her husband mentioned that they had felt for so long that they walked this path alone. Looking around that room last night, a standing-room-only crowd of friends, family, and friends of friends who had waited in line to get through the door on a frigid January night, it was readily apparent to anyone that nothing could have been further from the truth. That is the magic of this “school” that my children go to. You never walk alone, even when it feels so much like you are. This “school” is family.

This brings me to a brief bragging moment: My children made it through two hours in the overcrowded, noisy school cafeteria, crowds of  people bumping into them, complete with a live band with no major meltdowns – Something that would have been completely impossible for for us two years ago. It has been the unwavering kindness and understanding shown to my children from the community at this school that has allowed my children to learn how to manage such extreme sensory overload and to even have some fun, as they did last night.

So, how could we possibly leave? But we need a bigger house. We have outgrown the one we bought when we only had one toddler. Our three little sensory seekers require some space to roam- a country setting with fields to run in and trees to climb. It might reduce or even eliminate so many of their issues. It is what is best for our children. But we couldn’t afford both. Private school isn’t cheap, and they don’t just give out farmhouses for free.

Enter the sign. My husband was just promoted. He will be getting a raise, a modest one for now, but enough to cover tuition.  Wherever we move, I’ll still be driving our youngest into the city for the School for the Deaf. I can just make a detour and drop the older two off at their school on the way. It will mean an hour’s commute to school each day with traffic. It will be difficult, but worth it.

It is settled. The kids are happy. I am at peace. We will buy the farmhouse. We will keep our village.

Now to find a real estate agent. 😉

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