Real Moms Share: Why Lola Won’t Be Going to School This Year
Today is the first day of school for kids going to school at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI). Normally, Lola would be waking up at 5:45 a.m. and I’d be trying to get her to eat a little something before her long ride to ISBVI. She’d wait patiently outside for her bus driver, Terri, and bus monitor, Toshua, to sing to her. She’d be greeted at school by familiar faces and welcoming voices. She’d know she was back to her pre-summer routine.
But, today Lola is sleeping in. We will still rush around; we will get her excited for the day, but not for the same reasons. The bus will be near and her friend, Jeremy, will be confused when they continue on past Lola’s house. Jeremy really began to take to Lola last year. Terri may cry a few tears. Toshua will shed more. That bus will pull up to her old school and one little girl will be missing this year — Lola.
As a parent of a child with multiple disabilities, you carry a great deal of weight on your shoulders when it comes to school placement. We don’t worry about how students are performing on their ISTEP tests (Indiana’s form of testing children’s aptitude in school that was recently discontinued). We don’t let words like “Magnet” and “Charter” influence our decision. We have a different set of criteria: Is my child safe? Do I feel comfortable with the staff? Is there open communication? Is my child included? Are they making the proper accommodations? How are the therapists? Does my child (with limited language) squeal with happiness when we talk about school or does she make a fuss? We don’t have the luxury of hearing about the day from Lola. We need to trust. We need to feel confident and comfortable with where she’s going for eight plus hours a day. And with ISBVI, we felt we had found a good match for our family. This made the decision to pull her out that much harder. Rob and I debated; we weighed the pros and cons. It wasn’t easy, but, a couple of weeks ago, we withdrew her from school (with the door left open to return) to continue on the path with full-time applied behavior analysis (ABA) at Access Behavior Analysis.
Since Lola began attending Access’ clinic over the summer, we have seen incredible (and I mean incredible) changes. They focus on increasing Lola’s communication and expanding her language so that her problem behaviors will be eliminated. Once those problem behaviors can dissipate, then she will be more capable of succeeding in an academic setting. Once they began to figure out how she learned, she started responding in miraculous ways. They understand not all children learn the same and they modify their program to match the child. We have witnessed a bright and curious little soul emerge as she is no longer stricken with the inability to make her own choices.
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