The Next Step

Everybody Learns

With the sun shining bright, Rob and I, and Theo’s teacher Tammy, all visited the program at E.A. McAllister in Sherrill. McAllister, although part of the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill school district, is home to the K-9 Autism Program administered by Madison-Oneida BOCES. You can see the technical info here. Canastota is a member of Madison-Oneida BOCES.

Overwhelming is one way to describe it. After all, I still can’t believe we’re getting ready for kindergarten! I know the girls are more than ready but would Theo handle such an environment? Everything sounds great to me but we all know how much change upsets his routine.

I just want to do what’s right for Theo, keep him active and interested and learning, instead of having to play catch up later in life.

Sounds Good, But I’m no Expert

Having a special needs kid, actually three kids who have needed IEPs, has given me a whole new perspective on what happens in our district, and what our various teachers, educators, therapists, and aides do every day. I had worked for BOCES eons ago in the public relations office. I knew they had outstanding high school programs. But I didn’t know much about the elementary levels.

But this program is geared specifically for children like Theo, and the classes are small, and I think he will get the time and attention that he needs and that is specified on his IEP (individualized educational program).

I was so pleased that Tammy was able to come with us, and ask questions. They explained the structure — instruction is broken down in 15 minute intervals, with breaks for therapy or sensory activities scheduled in, working with what works best for the particular student. And, as the student becomes more comfortable with the school or more willing to participate in activities, the children in this class will be integrated in activities such as art, music, physical education, using the cafeteria, etc.

Let’s go for it. Let’s give it a try. I think I felt the same way before we embarked on our education at UCP. And, I figure, we can always go back to the table if this program is not meeting Theo’s needs.

Not the Only One

As we were leaving the school I asked Tammy what she thought. She didn’t say too much. (She had seen the program years ago when it first opened and a lot has changed for the better since then.) What she said next surprised me. She said it’s hard for her to comment because she did not want to let Theo go.

I wish he could stay too Tammy! Since he does love school so much, and he’s making good strides, but it’s time to move on.

And I thought only mommy and daddy wouldn’t be ready to let go. Tammy’s comments were very comforting, and sweet, and certainly an indication on how much Theo has touched her and his current class.

Louder than Words

The day carried on as normal. Theo had another excellent day at school (even with Tammy out in the morning). Olena won a book as part of the Parents as Reading Partners Program. Gretchen was her happy self…

Gathering the kids in the car, our sitter, Lee Leggett, asked about our tentative plans for the fall. She was surprised to hear that Theo would be moving on to kindergarten. Her daughter Tracy (our former nanny) told her the news yesterday… She was itching to ask me about it.

As I explained to her what Theo would be doing and described the way the class is structured. I assured her that the plan was to have Theo go to this school, and return to her house in the afternoon until I could pick everyone up after work. Just the same schedule as it has been, just a shorter ride for Theo.

They say that actions speak louder than words. The look on Lee’s face? I’d say proud, happy. I just hope the tears in her eyes were for joy for how far we have ALL come.

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