"How's Brooks doing at the new school?"
That is the number one question I get these days, and the answer is: "Really, really good."
But it comes with an asterisk: "So far." This necessary clarification has nothing to do with the quality of the new school and everything to do with the déjà vu that I can't seem to shake. The ASD Nest program was "really really good" for him too, until suddenly, it wasn't.
It feels a little like being afraid to trust your new boyfriend when your old one, the one you were madly in love with, broke your heart. To belabor the metaphor, your old boyfriend didn't do anything wrong—he treated you well, he never cheated on you, and looking back on it, you know he wasn't "the one"—you don't even miss him that much anymore! And yet, arms-length feels like the right distance between you and the new guy.
I have to admit, though, that even through our cautiously-optimistic-colored glasses, Learning Spring seems pretty extraordinary. The anxiety Brooks experienced at the PS 178 ASD Nest Program is gone. Totally gone (and we would have been happy with “improved!”). Chalk it up to the new environment of eight children in a class and an approach that values socialization as much as academics.
The teachers and administrators are warm, responsive and nurturing (both to the parents and the kids!), and a very passionate and active PA not only fundraises but also functions as a parent support group.
Our son's tuition to this new private school, which we could not afford on our own, is paid for by the Department of Education. This makes us part of a select group of parents who don't have to pay a lawyer to sue the DOE for a recommendation to "defer to the Central Based Support Team (CBST)," which in layman's terms means they admit they have no appropriate place for your child within the public school system. I suppose we should be thankful for this, but the bureaucracy that is the DOE that has proven to us time and time again that they have little genuine interest in our son's education. Brooks ended up at Learning Spring in spite of their efforts as much as because of them—but that is a subject for a future post.
The most important thing is that Brooks did end up at Learning Spring. As the days and weeks go by, I know that my husband and I will let down our defenses; in fact, there are already cracks in the armor. We couldn’t help but be deeply moved when during curriculum night, a parent broke down when she spoke about how, for the first time in her son’s life, she thought he might actually be able to make a friend.
We know that Brooks was lucky to get a spot here and that we are lucky to be a part of this community. But the truth is that we’re still too damaged right now to fully embrace it.
The good news is it’s only October.