Alejandro will turn 4 years old this September, so “it’s time” to enter the school system in Canada. Even though he has been diagnosed with autism, we always offer him exactly the same opportunities as we do with Emily. We understand that some things are challenging for him, but we are always there to prompt him and give him a hand. His doctor set up a meeting this past January, to discuss about school options, and as usual, we prepared ourselves and did our own research in advance. With time, we have learnt to go to these meetings to ask questions, instead of just listening to their suggestions.
It has been more than 3 months of asking other parents about their experience, researching in each of the school boards available in the city, learning about more assessments, IEPs, money allocation for special needs, English programs, French immersion, after school services, daycare options, transportation … etc. Wow! No wonder mama has been feeling so overwhelmed since we started this journey! If you ever think about the special needs parent’s world (behind the scenes), reflect on this words: appointments, therapies, research, forms, applications, assessments, more research, more paper work and repeat consistently every time a need for more services, new therapies or more resources appears.
I remember four years ago when Emily was ready for kindergarten; it was the end of July and we had just moved to Ottawa. We discussed and decided that it was a good opportunity for her to learn French, so we did a quick search on the Internet about the French schools available in our neighborhood; and after a couple of phone calls, a form and one interview, she was ready to take her first bus trip to school that September… it took no more than a week; everything was so smooth and easy!
Now back in 2015… After a preliminary phone screening, two appointments were set up to identify the best options for Alejandro. After these meetings it was clear that one of these schools surpassed the other one in services and accessibility. At this point we had to decide between what we wanted, and what was offered to us. We had to choose between the public and the catholic school, and considering that we always wanted to raise our kids in a religion-free environment; this was a transcendental choice to make. Papo seems calm with our selection, but even though I understand it as the best option, I am still fighting with my feelings; wishing for a world in which Alejandro doesn’t need extra support while I try to understand the puzzle of his diagnosis, a world in which I don’t need to compromise the way I want to raise my kids in order to access more convenient services and a world in which we are less lonely. It is an internal war that I cannot avoid, and I’m preparing myself to win.
Life is so ironic!
Anyway, here we are, with a wonderful boy full of potential who struggles with verbal language, who is not toilet trained yet and still needs assistance with his food and clothing; but who tries to play the guitar like papo, counts numbers to 20 in English and Spanish, recognizes the whole alphabet and works everyday really hard to communicate his needs and feelings the best he can. He is the sweetest boy in the world with the most contagious smile and a strong personality that I am sure will help him to succeed in school and in life.
Their registration was submitted today. Soon Emily will say goodbye to her current friends and Alejandro will face a new set of assessments while we learn to deal with other struggles, more personal, maybe not relevant to you, but necessary to prepare our children for this new load of information.