Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Refugee, Part 1 (Oppression that drove us from our 'country')

I was inspired by the Mother'sVox post AUTISM MIGRATIONS to recount my exodus from the oppressive, conservative-minded viewpoints of the northernmost part of the NJ to the more centerist leanings (more leftist in its taxation and spending of revenues) of of my new home in Monmouth County NJ. I gauged it out, and it looks like I can have a blockbuster and a sequel. There's just too much to cover on one post.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. We had a house that we adored and a 40 minute commute I loved. It was 'God's Country' up in the northwest corner of the state. We had been working for the past 10 months with early intervention for our daughter who had been diagnosed autistic just under a year ago. We had a very good team for Livie; but it was to be swept away at the age of 3.

Our first meeting with the township social worker was not exactly reassuring. He had reluctantly confided in us that this was his first transition from an early intervention into a preschool setting for an autistic child. Great, maybe we mold this township into a model of autistic services (no, really, I wasn't being sarcastic at the TIME!). We had done our homework finding various districts who we agreed with their processes. We were mostly looking for the Verbal Behavior method of ABA and had about 5 schools within a 45 minute radius that we wanted to look at and another 5 we had as a backup to appease the budget gods in the town before we backed them into a corner and forced into our way of thinking.

We gave the social worker the list, all ten. He said he would contact them and see if we can arrange a look-see at them. He got back to us about a week later with a much MUCH shorter list. This one was not accepting any new ones, that one we couldn't get etc etc. We were down to 4...ALL from our 'backup' list. We dutifully went through three of those and had one that had basically 'play therapy and one that focused on the Miller method. Neither was even close to what we were looking/hoping for (preference was for a Carbone-type ABA).

The one we finally chose was the Miller location. It was a 35-45 minute bus ride for Liv, but the people seemed genuine, the parental support seemed OK and the program somewhat promising. We signed on the dotted line.

We got out of the IEP with decision in hand, we were somewhat celebrating, my mother-in-law was watching the kids, we went out to lunch. We had navigated the IEP process and we had Liv enrolled in a school. We talked positively about the outcome through lunch, mostly the ins and outs of the meeting itself. We left the restaurant and headed down the highway toward home. I had an overwhelming sense of impending, not doom, but mediocrity. I finally said "We settled, didn't we.... remember all the things we wanted? Remember the schools and the ideas we REALLY wanted? Remember the schools that we were going to look at 'just for comparison'? Well, those were the schools we were CHOOSING from."

"Where can we go though?" Linda said in desperate realization.

We had paperwork upon paperwork on autism, and we were accumulating a large 'Favorites' folders of things to read on the internet whenever we had the chance. One of the things we had was a COSAC of NJ list of recommended schools. Great little piece of info telling what method each school system followed. Linda was browsing through this list and asked me how far down Monmouth County was. I cringed, most of my experiences with Monmouth were in the southern half and my commute would have been a minimum of an hour and a half. "They follow CARBONE in this town!" she sad excitedly. So, I looked up the town, just to appease her, she knew the outer limits of commute time would have been an hour (no traffic). Luckily, it was in the northern part of the county, just under an hour commute with a tailwind, if no traffic, and if no state troopers!

We began looking to fit this very large square peg into the small round 'holes' of houses in the neighborhoods serviced by this school.

OK, good breaking point. Stay tuned for Exodus II- The Search for Services coming to a blog near you ....

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