A little recap: Gabriel has ASD (Autism Spectrum disorder) and 2 years ago we had to pull him out of the public school and enroll him in a private school specialized for autistic children, the Emerald Coast Autism Center. After a year in this school and with intensive ABA therapy, Gabriel was able to graduate from the center last December and was ready to get back in the public school system. The joy of such major accomplishment was soon drained by the sense of dread that we received by dealing with the Okaloosa County school district. No matter how we asked and to whom we talked too, it was decided that my son was "not ready" and "unfit" to go to his home school and was instead sent to a school in another town (the same school we had so many problems with that we ended up pulling him out and go to the private one) for a "90 school days probation time" to prove that he was indeed ready to get back to his home school.
I don't have enough words to describe how that felt to us. A slap in the face? A blow in the groin? Doesn't really cover the feeling.
I personally felt like I failed my boy while once again we were bullied in sending me in a school where he didn't want to be.
But May 29th 2012 something magical happened. Gabriel receiving the award was just the beginning of it. In a new IEP meeting was finally decided that Gabriel showed some major improvements and progress and he is finally allowed to go to his home school next fall.
So here are my thank yous, and I hope I don't forget anybody. I probably said them already in person, but I thought to put them in writing as well.
- To the Emerald Coast Autism Center staff: without your therapies and the love from everyone, this story will never be written.
- To my neighbors, Aggie and Eva, for entertaining my on Friday evenings, let me vent, bringing me out of the house and giving me laugh when all I wanted to do was hide under the bed and cry.
- My fierce and unstoppable friend, Brandi Marino, for showering me with her strength and all the legal tools I needed to fight this battle. Thanks to you, I can now inform other parents about the things I learned, the gift that keeps on giving.
- All the POMs (pissed off Moms): all the meetings with you on Wednesday mornings are things that I looked (and still do) forward too. Talking with people with my same struggles that don't open their eyes big with judgement at the things I say, it's a blessing that I count every day. Jodi Vetter in particular, I fell so close to you as our experience are so painfully similar. I wish that you can see the end of it, as I am today.
- From CARD, the sweet and classy Debbie Gunter that stood beside me at IEP meetings while everybody was telling me "NO", squeezing my hand to change that to a "YES": we did it!
- To my daughter teacher, the friends and school personnel that I have at my daughter school and the parents that heard of my predicament and gathered around me, giving me words of love and encouraging me to keep my chin up.
- To Mrs. Hart, the teacher that welcomed Gabriel is her classroom and loved him for what he is, showed him better ways and giving him the confidence that he can accomplish things.
- To Miss Dana, the bus driver that every morning for 4 years now? Blessed both my children with her smile and easy going attitude.
- To Mrs. Cadena, the staffing specialist of Lewis school that heard my complaints and concerns and helped me reach the solution I wanted and that my son deserved.
- And to the nay sayers, the people that looked at me and told me that it's wasn't possible, it's wasn't doable and put obstacles on this journey rather that listen to my words. I thank you too, because with your closed minded stubbornness you taught me and my son the amazing lesson that no matter how difficult something is, it can be archived if you put your back into it. Thanks to you, the taste of this victory is sweeter, the proud in our hearts is 10 times more over whelming and we stand a little taller of our believes.
- To you, that for months read my words, offering hugs and prayers, enduring my sufferings as they were your own.
- And finally, to Gabriel: you did it, son. You put a goal in your mind and you archive it. Don't you ever forget, that no matter what everyone says, you CAN DO whatever you want to do. I hope you can use this lesson in the future wisely and don't get too cocky, please :)