Like most parents, my wife and I had a sense of dread the moment we received our child’s Autism diagnosis… his entire future, as well as ours, quickly became very uncertain. One of the biggest was school.
For 2 years, we contacted the school board back and forth in an effort to ensure that our son would have help, would have programs and get the resources he needed to have a fighting chance at a decent education.
For those of you who may be reading that don’t know what it’s like, even a high functioning child with Autism will have a monstrously huge struggle in school without help. The crowds, loud noises, the fear that any child gets, tons of information bombarded on them, the muscle/coordination issues that many Autistics have…. it’s just all so much to deal with. The biggest is the anxiety.
The end result is a child that regresses, goes no where, constantly gets bullied, has meltdowns and so forth. It’s not pretty.
So we battled for over 2 years against a severely under funded education system and as our child approached pre-kindergarten age, we were losing.
In June of 2009, we found a school in Porcupine Ontario Canada… a little tiny side town of a little tiny city (Timmins) way up in northern Ontario, a school named Golden Avenue Public School that had actually won awards for it’s Autism program… and yet, no one had heard of it!
This little school in the middle of no where literally dedicated it’s entire basement floor to Autistic children, where classes are split between severity level rather than age. Also, my son’s class has 8 children in it, one teacher and 3 teacher’s aides! That’s 2 children per adult. Plus, they work very closely with us, doing as we ask, and they send home daily reports and we send reports each morning so that we can stay in constant contact. They even allowed peanuts and other foods not usually allowed in schools anymore because they recognize the severely limited diets that many children with Autism have.
Sound like heaven? It is. But it comes at a price.
As I said, we found it in June. So, with virtually no money (was a spur of the moment decision), we contacted a realtor, bought some paint and supplies, started doing last minute renovations on our house, gave away almost all our furniture and exercise equipment, sold what ever little we could, packed up the rest and moved…. in August!
On top of that, because it was so sudden and we ended up with less than no money, we moved in with my inlaws (my wife’s parents) from August to April. While it certainly wasn’t terrible, you can imagine how defeated you feel having to move in with the parents because you have no where else to go. We were just lucky that they live in the same place as the school that happened to be perfect for our child otherwise, we have no idea what we would have done.
Cameron started school in September and 2 weeks in, we sold our house without even being there. We sold it at a loss. We’re still paying for it now, a year later.
We’re in a town that I really don’t want to be in, it’s a 3.5 hour drive to next closest city (there are other towns but a real city is far), the movie theater here has 4 screens, 2 of which have Dolby Stereo sound, the other two is just regular stereo (that’s right, no such thing as surround sound) and all the other luxuries of the city that I had become accustomed to… not here.
I don’t mean to make it sound terrible here, just that it’s a huge difference for me. It’s not what I wanted nor where I expected to be.
But it’s worth it because I can’t even begin to imagine what life would be like, what my son would be like, if he had gone into a city school with 30+ other children in his class, a teacher that had no idea what Autism even was and was left to fend for himself.
And this is just a drop in the bucket (as they say)… many others make much larger sacrifices and while it’s terrible that it comes to that, it is truly amazing to see how far a parent can go for their children.
I’m in a rental apartment, still paying for the 3 bedroom house that was the only real home that my boys ever knew, in a little city in the middle of nowhere with almost none of the resources/luxuries I’ve been used to for so long… but the alternative was not acceptable. My boys come first… Autistic or not.
If the education system or the government or society in general can’t do what we need from them, then we’ll have to do what we can on our own, what ever the cost.