For the September issue of the Capital District Parent Pages, I thanked Wildwood School. I will never be able to repay what they have done for my son and my sanity. Always I felt supported. Always I knew they were doing their best with Jonah, with all the kids, treating each like an individual. The school year has started at Wildwood and Jonah’s not there. It’s surreal.
For those of you who don’t read the magazine, here’s the article I wrote:
Normal is a Dryer Setting
Autism: When your child is diagnosed, you’re abruptly initiated into a fraternity of parents, all asking questions for which there are no straightforward answers. Before you have a chance to fully comprehend what’s happening, you’re hurled into a world of acronyms, specialists, and an array of treatments – most different, some opposed to one another, and none guaranteed to alleviate the symptoms of this mystifying condition. It’s no coincidence that the autism awareness ribbon has an array of colorful puzzle pieces on it. Like a rainbow, the spectrum of autism spreads across the population and manifests itself in a million different ways. If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism. And yet their individual colors are beautiful and bright.
We are lucky; Jonah was diagnosed and received special education intervention services early. Just before he turned three, I visited special education schools all over the Capital District and was especially impressed with Wildwood School. When we enrolled him, we had no idea how lucky we were to snag an opening – oftentimes there’s a waiting list.
In the 6+ years Jonah’s been at Wildwood, we consistently encountered teachers, social workers, and staff with an amazing dedication to the nurturing of each individual’s learning potential. We watched as his speech teachers worked tirelessly to draw language and other communication from him. We loved hearing about his love of rhythm, music, and performing. To this day he can speak only in short phrases, but can sing whole songs – usually Guster (since that’s what mama plays in the car all the time). We laughed as he once stole the mic (and the stage) at an annual concert amid the mild chaos that’s normally the backdrop for these events. Nobody minds. There is solidarity there. We all understand the shrieks, bouncing, flapping, and whatever other mayhem.
Every year Wildwood has a “moving up” ceremony for each class. This year, Jonah’s “moving up“ ceremony was also a “moving out” ceremony; instead of returning in September, he’s moved to residential educational placement an hour and a half away. At first I had no intention of attending the ceremony. For one thing, it’s painful emotionally, and I also figured he’d go all violent on someone/everyone, hurting people, screaming, caught and restrained. But then I decided, if the people at Wildwood are determined to include him, I can’t ignore their efforts. And so I decided to go. Not surprisingly, they had a plan for Jonah. Until it was his turn to walk onto stage, they wheeled him around in the hallway on his “scooter,” keeping him calm. At the last moment they got him off the scooter, opened the auditorium door, ushered him through, and guided him onto the stage, where he was handed a rolled certificate. The MC gave him a verbal accolade, best challenge of the summer or something I don’t remember. I was too nervous.
I’m so glad I went. I got two decent pictures of him accepting his “diploma” with a look of confusion on his face. In one of the pictures he’s looking right at me; I can almost hear him: hey mama?
On the way home from the ceremony, I realized what makes Wildwood such an excellent school. When things seem hopeless, they hope anyway. When there is no way, they find one. If a method doesn’t work, they try another. Determined to nurture the children and young adults in their care, Wildwood School is a place where individuals are guided to reach their greatest potential.
I will always be grateful to Wildwood School for advancing their vision: …”a world that embraces a fundamental respect for ALL people, their strengths, their uniqueness, their creativity and the infinite diversity that we each represent.”
Thank you, Wildwood. May your kindnesses come back to you a thousand fold.
Jonah Krebs and his family