Over on AoA Kim wrote a piece on her experience of a town hall meeting on healthcare reform. It can be found HERE The part of the entry that has prompted me to write this latest blog had more to do with the audience reaction when they found out about Kim and her families circumstances. The description went like this: “Everyone clapped, I got thousands of eyes giving me the, “Oh honey, how DO you do it?” look as I walked back to my seat,”
I remember getting not just that look but people actually asking: “How do you and Rodney (if it was a family member/friend) /your husband (from strangers) do it?” At first I never knew how to respond to that question? I guess I was in shock over the rudeness of it. Over the course of time though I developed an answer that I also left in the comments section of this AoA entry. This is what I say now when (which is rarely anymore) I do get this question: “We do “it” because they are our children. It is no different than if your “perfect” child was in a horrible accident that left them in a wheelchair for life. You do what you must because they are your children and you love them.”
Every parent wants what is best for their child. Every parent wants their children to have a better life (an american dream that seems to be dying a little more each day another topic for another day) Every good parent can and does adjust to the sometimes unfair circumstances of life.
I do wonder though why I don’t get that question much anymore. Could it be that there are a lot more children on the spectrum so more people have been exposed to it? Some living the life themselves? Or is it because JR is so much improved? I think it’s a bit of both. I get knowing looks now from others who see him and understand. The “knowingness” of the look I can usually tell when it comes from a parent; they have a certain look about the eyes. Often times it is tiredness. But if I see that same person a few years later those same eyes have a clarity and acceptance of life. A personal peace if you will. We are finally at that level.
The “knowingness” from a professional is different. It is more their education that surfaces. Followed very quickly by their desire to help. I have often said that when a person makes the conscious decision to work with the special needs community in any capacity that you have been “called”. A calling the like that is experienced by those who are called to serve others in any variety of ways. I put it with the “calling” a person feels when they enter the secular life.
Vista is filled with people like the ones described above. The staff is dedicated to a level that leaves me in awe. Not an easy feat to accomplish I can assure you. And the families; WOW is all I can say about them. A lot of our kids are coming to Vista from a good distance away and in every direction in the central Pa area. Some of our kids ride their respective modes of transportation for going on two hours. We live an hour away from Vista ourselves but JR is on the van for 2 hours as he is the first of a five stop run to be picked up. Is it ideal? Hell no!! But the tradeoff has been well worth it! Besides JR loves to ride in vehicles so it’s a moot issue anyway.
We started this school year with a 10th classroom and 62 students. That is 62 families ranging from chicken farmers to doctors to teachers to attorneys and everything in between. There is no set demographics to our school. This just goes to prove that autism does not discriminate. (But that too is a topic for another blog some other time.) The symbol (found in the upper left corner) that represents the school was very deliberately chosen. As was the name for the school. According to dictionary.com the definition (1 of 3) for VISTA is: a far-reaching mental view: vistas of the future. Even the school’s motto was selected based on the ability to improve: UNIQUE POTENTIAL WITHIN REACH.
Everything about Vista is about the positive. From the programs and staff to the attitudes the school tries to afford the parents. When your child first comes to Vista that last component can be a hard thing to do. However, as the child improves and things get a bit easier that positive attitude becomes contagious. I would like to add to the Vista experience by saying: VISTA IS A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE. You’ll never have this kind of experience in any of the public schools or the IU’s (intermediate units in PA) or any other school that educates children with an ASD.