Friday, September 5, 2008

Fall Forward

It feels like a long time since I've sat down and written anything.

It's not because I have nothing to report - quite the contrary. Since I last posted, we've gone on a summer vacation (great), Ben has started a new school year (mixed), and I've been caught up in a haze of work and drama of the presidential campaign (not so good).

So today, I've escaped to a local Peet's Coffee to attempt to catch up, blog-wise. It's sort of a 21st century version of "A Room of One's Own," except for all the other people and the sound of the espresso machine.


I was facing the start of this school year with trepidation bordering on anxiety.

Ben goes to two schools: a public special-ed preschool in the a.m. and then a private montessori preschool in the afternoon. He rides a bus (yes, a short bus) from our house in the morning and from one to the other. While the school situation wasn't changing, just about everything else was:

Two new teachers in the morning
Two new teachers in the afternoon
Two new bus drivers
New classmates
New aftercare providers

Ben can be very rigid when it comes to small things, but he's actually very adaptable when it comes to bigger changes, so he's done quite well.

The second day of school, I'm told, he was regaling his morning teachers with the one knock-knock joke he knows at the lunch table, which tells me he feels comfortable enough to work the crowd.

But for us, there are a few wrinkles in the school year that aren't exactly ironed out.

First, the OUSD Department of Transportation experienced some glitch with their computer system (that's the explanation, anyway) such that there is no bus service or incorrect bus service for hundreds of children, including Ben. This means that Chris has to bring him from one school to another every day until this gets resolved.

Luckily for everyone, Chris isn't working right now. I'm not sure what families who have two working parents are doing.

There's another reason that we're lucky that Chris isn't working. He's serving as Ben's 1:1 aide at the Montessori school every afternoon.

Last year, Ben was in a class with ten students and two teachers. If he had an incident or needed extra attention, it was easy for one teacher to take him for a walk or work with him individually.

His new class has 18 children and two teachers: not so conducive to individual attention.

The behavior challenges that Ben had towards the end of the summer left the school feeling that Ben needs an extra adult on hand, and at the moment, they're probably right.

While the school has provided one extra staff person for a few hours during the day to shadow him, she isn't available after 2, so at that point, Chris goes over and acts as a sort of ad hoc volunteer teaching assistant for a few hours.

Will we get a 1:1 aide? Maybe. Can we afford it? Not sure. What will happen when Chris goes back to work? No idea.

We don't want to pull him out of the Montessori program because, despite the expense and the less-than-ideal staffing ratio, he has an amazing opportunity there to interact with typical peers, which has been important for him over the past year.

So we're facing what so many parents of special needs children face: pay out of pocket for services that are good for your kid and risk being on the financial brink, or keep your kid at home and face the opportunity cost of lost income, and the lost opportunity of early intervention.

What about you, dear readers? How has your school year started out? How do you fit the pieces of the school-childcare-work puzzle together?

And how do I hire a private livery service for a 4-and-a-half year old?


jaki said...

I'm glad you had a great vacation! I thought I had it bad with 6 different soccer practice schedules, but your situation is certainly more challenging and it's on a daily, almost hourly basis! I really applaud your efforts to give Ben all that he can absorb and all the time.

Susan said...

Oh this is familiar. I'm thinking commune. We are in the same boat. Bus. Car.

Deirdre said...

christa - this sounds like a big pain in the ___. regarding the livery thing though.... lots of families have this situation, given how spotty after-care can be. A good friend of mine has gotten by for years on running ads in the Cal Daily. sorry you have to deal with this though.

Anonymous said...

Yeesh what a pain in the arse you dealing with here! However, I think it's awesome that Chris can be Ben's aid ... and very special. I'm hopeful for you that the transportation situation improves. Perhaps carpooling??