So it’s the first week of September for Troy’s new school. Unfortunately, we were guaranteed their new room would be ready, but it wasn’t. It shouldn’t really be a surprise because these things never actually happen on time. It was disturbing to me because as we know our kids like routine and since they were moving schools to begin with (as a reminder, the complete opposite direction of my other son’s school), it would have been nice had we considered the children in the process and have it ready in time.
The good news is they did an outstanding job on the room. It was spacious and divided into separate work stations and they had transferred some of the EAs to that program from the previous school, so there would at least be familiarity.
What a difference a school and it’s administration makes. Immediately, this principal cared and Mrs. Coleman, the teacher, wanted to excel with these students. She was open to ideas and suggestions. Three things stick out, she enrolled the children in a Special Needs Horse Program, she set up swimming lessons and she enrolled them in Special Olympics. The teacher of this program ensured I was included at any meeting, was permitted to show up unannounced and included me in every step of the process. I felt I was being heard for the first time and recognized that I knew Troy better than anyone did. This was the beginning of a collaborative team for Troy. I still had hurdles with Speech, but I always have.
Troy actually had friends in this classroom. I mean real friends who liked Troy for Troy and considered him their friend. The teacher also brought in a ‘peer program’. Regular kids who became reading buddies and as well Special Olympic mentors for them. One young woman became Troy’s buddy and she put her heart into everything she did with Troy. I was fortunate to meet her parents before we left Guelph and I thanked them for bringing up such a fine daughter who had compassion.
This was a time when I saw Troy at his happiest. We were just him, his brother and I, so life was new that way and the negativity was left mostly behind. A new school with lots of windows and true inclusion, even though he was in a special needs class. And friends. Troy started to grow and achieve goals that were set out for him. He was happy and we all know when our children our happy, it takes a huge amount of stress off of our lives.
The first year of June Avenue Public School, there was a concert in June. I was invited and had no idea why. There was a photographic presentation of the Special Needs kids attending ‘horse camp”. When it finished, the entire student body cheered, hooted and hollered for my son and his classmates. I broke down crying. Troy was a part of them, all of them and they were just as proud of him on his horse Story, as I was. He was now in a safe and happy environment, both at home and at school. We met a milestone together.
One very significant event happened at that school. One of the EAs that had transferred from Troy’s first school to his new school, died suddenly one evening. She was quite young. I took Troy and his brother to the ‘viewing’ and there was an extremely long line of people wishing to pay their respects that extended well outside the building. Someone who was farther up the line, came outside and saw us and told us to follow them. We were bumped up by about 75 people and I was very grateful. Troy, the person we would all love to be, decided after 30 minutes of standing, would just sit on the floor. It was at that moment, I overheard someone behind me comment on how shameful it was to bring someone so young to such a sad event.
I could feel the rock in my throat and began questioning myself, thinking I had made a poor decision, bringing both my boys to the ‘viewing’. I was agitated and upset and of course, Troy began to feed off this emotion. We continued to patiently wait our turn, and as we entered into the actual room, the teacher of his former class and school came running towards us. She swooped us away from the line and brought Troy up to meet the EAs parents. She told them this was the side of life they never saw of their daughter. This is what she lived and breathed for every day as an EA. I honestly do not remember the rest of her words, but I took the hand of both her mother and father and I thanked them for the gift of their daughter. For being the person she was, she had extended herself to our children and if it wasn’t for individuals like her, a mother like me could never rest peacefully. Both her mother and father embraced me, as we shed tears in silence.
It was due to that moment, I always extend myself to those that care for people like Troy. If it wasn’t for them choosing the profession they do, my son’s life wouldn’t be as full or as happyas it is. (I extend this to Respite Workers I see in my every day functions, not just Troy’s).
It was also due to this event, that I instilled something for the future. I insist upon Troy having two EAs. One for the morning and one for the afternoon. There are several reasons, which I will explain in Part 3.
I have to say that June Avenue Public School and Mrs. Coleman, the teacher at that time, did a brilliant job with starting up a new program and with little direction ran with it to make the program a success.