Right Around The Corner
The Expensive, Confusing, Random Search for a Good Program for Ian
You can’t tell your boss that he’s stupid! You can’t correct your professor’s grammar! You have to greet your co-workers with a smile and some chit-chat about their weekends.
No matter how often we say those rules to Ian, he still makes mistakes. These niceties just don’t come naturally to autistic people, but are absolutely necessary. Ian won’t be able to finish college or even work a minimum wage job without those skills. By this fall, it became obvious that Ian needed to attend a post-high school program with a focus on kids like Ian — smart, but socially clueless — where he would be completely immersed in an environment that promoted social education.
So, I spent nine months doing an intensive search for this unique school. I traveled to residential programs in Massachusetts and Connecticut. I called all my contacts. I hired lawyers and consultants. I spent weeks and weeks googling “high functioning autism transition school.” But we didn’t find on the right place for Ian, until one day in March while jogging with a friend. (She has a son with autism, but the boys have different profiles.) As I told her about my educational odyssey, she mentioned a program that had not yet come up on my radar.
This program was relatively new, just three or four years old, but it sounded like exactly what I was looking for. I made calls and got a tour. Without going into details, let me just say it was amazing. Just what we were looking for. And strangely enough, this little school is about two blocks from my house. I traveled to Connecticut to find a program for Ian, and the best option turned out to be around the corner from our house. How does that happen?
With more and more programs for autistic people opening up over night, nobody has created one universal directory, website, or book that lists all the names of alternative programs and schools in this country. Instead, all that information is hoarded by high priced consultants and lawyers. One guy wanted us to give him $10,000 before he even met us. And these consultants aren’t even that great. I talked with a lower priced consultant ($800), and she never told me about this program around the corner. And my late night Internet searches never located the program either.
My best source for information about the right program for Ian turned out to be a random friend. Sure, a whole lot of life is random, but my OCD rebels against this kind of anarchy. I like my information neatly lined up and organized. Last night, I wondered if I should create an internet website with crowd-sourced information. Like a disability wikipedia page. Maybe I’ll do it, if someone hands me a nice grant.
At the end of my general newsletter, Apt. 11D, I talk about all the regular stuff that makes me happy at the moment - running, vegetarian salads, vacation plans. It’s super important to keep balanced, when the special ed chores pile up.
I also wrote about the interviews that I’m doing for an article about early childhood education: