Saturday, June 23, 2007

Stepping Up

Yesterday we spent the morning at a school ceremony for Stella--I haven't posted many details about her new placement, but it's been quite a journey. She has been transferred to District 75, not a geographical district but rather a dedicated special education program that has locations in each borough of NYC.
The first placement notice we received was for the "main site" of Q75 (i.e., the District 75 headquarters for the borough of Queens). We visited, got a thorough tour from Mr. Rose, the Guidance Counselor, and were hooked. Not only did the population seem much more at Stella's level, but they have music, dance, and drama classes in addition to all three types of services (speech, physical, and occupational therapy). A glimpse into the music room, where a ponytailed young man played a guitar and sang with a class of children with autism, told us this was the right place.
We signed the placement, and she was set to start May 21. We put her on the bus, then drove to the school to meet her and help with the transition. Unfortunately, Stella's bus didn't take her to the "main site." Unbeknownst to us, she'd been actually placed in the "annex," located in yet another remote neighborhood of Queens. Worst of all, the school itself did not even know Stella was supposed to be there! Fortunately, by the time we arrived, she had been placed in a classroom and was actually making pancakes (she loves to cook) and having a great old time.
Several weeks on, we are grateful about her new situation although there are minuses (not only is there no music, dance, or drama at this location, but the have NO THERAPY for her), a big plus is her teacher, Ms. Tubbs. They are working with her temper and stubbornness (maybe next they can help her parents with theirs) and bringing out her strengths. And, thank the good lord, they have a SUMMER PROGRAM.
So it seemed a little odd to be going to the main site for this ceremony. She'd only been there a few weeks and here she was in a white baseball cap with "mortarboard" attached. It was a great thing, though, and I only cried a tiny tiny bit. Some images.
I promise I will post photos of Stella in her purple striped halter dress with Snoopy logo as soon as they are downloaded. For now, some word-pictures:
the auditorium with scaled-down stage, ponytailed music teacher guy playing guitar and singing with each class
utter pandemonium--crying, running away, going off in all directions--in short, a normal preK/Kindergarten graduation
after the handing out of certificates: two older students (middle school age) performed a 50s-style dance, complete with twirls, dips, and the Twist
a classmate's family--mother in traditional sari, father in the Queens male uniform: Bluetooth, baseball cap, black camp shirt
Two adorable boys in navy suits
one class (all boys) wearing signs depicting various occupations--firefighter, teacher, elected official (!)
all the parents, some with younger kids in strollers or in tow--none of us set out to do anything but have a "normal" family, we did what our parents did--what went astray?
cake and cookies in the lunchroom--light periwinkle painted walls, colorful posters of the food groups, "Feed Your Brain"
the teachers and paraprofessionals--who are these people and why do they do this amazing work? Infinite patience, more than I have, I must admit--and they get so little compensation financially. Such gratitude.

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