Wednesday was open school night. All the parents and some kids crowded into the sweltering all-purpose room, where the principal gave a long-winded Power Point presentation on learning standards and metrics and assessments and standardized whatnots that do not apply to Ryan's education.
We walked out mid-presentation and wandered the halls.
First we wound up in the library - sorry, Media Center. Only a couple of weeks into the school year, the librarian already knew Ryan's name and when his class comes to check out books (or perhaps media.)
Then we asked Ryan to show us to his classroom; he only got us lost once. On the way, a classmate of his waved and said, "Hi, Ryan!" And Ryan addressed her by name. The right name. Blink blink blink.
Ryan's classroom was even hotter than the MP room. While Mrs. M talked to the parents and other assorted relatives in the room, a couple of boys played a loud computer game, while another boy dug his hands into a bucket of little plastic toys. Between the heat and the noises, I had a very hard time following the conversation. I imagine this is what school is like for Ryan under the best of circumstances, but he was happily playing with an alphabet puzzle, so I guess only I was in sensory overload
I was surprised to learn that Ryan's class isn't called Special Ed: now it's Adapted Curriculum. I don't know when this happened. I put my kid on the short bus and it took him to Adapted Curriculum without my having to do anything different.
The Adapted Curriculum classroom consists of six children - three third graders, a fourth grader, and two fifth graders - each of whom has an individual educational program (IEP). Ryan joins an inclusion class for specials (music, art, gym) and works on his reading and math and science in Mrs. M's room.
Open school night is one of those occasions that highlights how different Ryan's school experience is from the average kid's; how different Ryan is from the average kid. I used to leave events like this in tears, stewing in What Ifs and Whys and Why The Hell Nots. Just walking out of the principal's talk would have upset me - the realization that the wizard had nothing in his bag for me - but on this night, it never occurred to me to cry. (Of course, writing about this has resulted in over-thinking, which always ends in tears.)
In that moment, I suppose I had finally reached the Acceptance stage of my grief. In that moment, I truly accepted Ryan for who he is, without my usual internal fantasy of a day when he can mainstream. In that moment, it was obvious that my baby is perfect just the way he is. There's no reason for him to chip away at himself to fit in when the world can bend and stretch to accommodate him. I could see that Ryan is in the right school setting for him.
Intellectually, I've spent years articulating the importance of Acceptance, but the tears always betray me. On open school night, I was walking the talk.