“When u come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen; either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”
~ Edward Teller
“But if you try sometimes
You just might find
You get what you need
You get what you need”
~ The Rolling Stones, You can’t always get what you want
Ah, back to school time. Time to shop for those adorable little first day outfits. Time to see which backpacks can be recycled, which lunchboxes and snack packs need to be replaced. Time to stock up on folders and crayons and pencils and paints.
And – sigh- time to pass the torch (and the big book of data) from the safe bubble of Brooke’s miraculously integrated preschool to the big open field of elementary school.
In three weeks, Brooke will be entering a typical kindergarten class in our neighborhood elementary school. It is the same school that her big sister attends. She knows the place well. She’s spent a lot of time there. Which helps. A lot.
But I am terrified.
We met her aide yesterday. This is the young woman who will be Brooke’s lifeline in kindergarten. She will be her guide - her conduit - to the entire school experience. She will be with her where we cannot go.
The young woman’s name is T, but I’m tempted to call her Atlas. Right now – to us – it feels like she will be carrying our little version of the world on her petite shoulders.
She seemed capable. Sweet. Eager. Genuine. Energetic. Everything that we could hope that she would be.
But I am still terrified.
So I called a meeting. That’s what I do. Get the troops together. Hash out the plan. Make sure we’re all on the same page.
We asked Atlas to come to Brooke’s current (or, to be more precise – as of yesterday afternoon, former – sniff sniff) school along with K, who will be the consulting BCBA managing Brooke’s programs next year. We all sat down with C, who has been Brooke’s ABA team leader for the past two years.
Since we had called the meeting, I fully expected to kick it off. But it was C who launched right in.
C led the meeting with a touching sense of ownership. You can’t miss how much she cares about our daughter. She had an obvious and well earned sense of pride in all that Brooke has accomplished this past year. So much of it is due to her expertise and experience. Even more of it is due to her dedication. She always believed in Brooke. She never, ever gave up on her. We will forever be in her debt.
Like us, she has been a student of our daughter. She has taken reams of data and patiently analyzed its meaning. She has seen the patterns that we sometimes missed and in so doing she has unlocked doors for our baby.
She was eager to share some of the secrets of her success with those who would take Brooke on the the next leg of her journey.
K was wonderful. She scribbled notes while we spoke. She asked questions. Intelligent, meaningful, thoughtful questions. She brought up things I hadn’t thought of. She thought outside the box. She allowed me to be cautiously hopeful.
I was so touched when I heard K refer to something that I had told C yesterday. They have been talking. That MATTERS.
I started to talk about my worries. Would Brooke’s overtures to the other kids put them off? Would she alienate them by asking one of her five or so opening questions again and again?
“What is your name?
“Where do you live?”
“Are you a boy or a girl?”
“How old are you?”
She asks me these questions all day long. The answers are irrelevant. She knows the answers.
“Here with you.”
“Thirty none of your business.” (She knows. I mean none of your business. No offense.)
The questions are not meant to elicit information. They are a means to interact. Five year olds might not get that.
As I told them this I started to cry. I couldn’t help it.
I am still terrified.
They cried too.
That means they GET IT.
I felt a little better.
We talked some more. We got into the specifics: manifestations of anxiety, common triggers, recognizing the first signs of escalation, heading off meltdowns, handling transitions, changes, expectations and routines.
We talked about motivation: favorite colors, shapes, characters, letters, numbers and foods. (Red. Star, Dora. Y. 2. Rice)
We talked about the importance of pre-teaching and Brooke’s success in her small social pragmatics group this year.
And then C said something to K and Atlas that I will never forget.
“I didn’t think she was ready for the social prags group. But Jess and Luau pushed for it. They knew she could handle it. I was worried. And she had a tough time at first. It wasn’t easy.”
I shook my head slowly as she spoke. No, it hadn’t been easy.
She continued, ”But Brooke rose to the occasion. She did it. Jess and Luau knew she had the skill set to make it through. I’m so glad they pushed for it.”
And suddenly I felt just a little less terrified.
A tiny part of the weight was lifted.
We had pushed. We had given her what we knew she needed.
I didn’t know then if it was the right thing to do, but I pushed because Brooke had shown me hints of her readiness.
C pushed her along. And it all came together.
Brooke pushed herself. And she did it.
Maybe, just maybe, we have some vague idea of how to get through this. Our instincts hadn’t let us down. They didn’t let Brooke down. We’re getting the hang of this.
I left a little more empowered.
And just a tiny little bit less terrified.