It is somewhat fashionable to complain about the shortcomings of one's children's school districts, and while I am generally happy with ours, I have certainly been guilty of this offense.
At this point, however, I can offer nothing but the highest praise for the Montclair Public Schools.
At age four, Sacha has left a small eddy of destruction at preschools throughout town. When he was three, we had to move him from his first school because they found him so exasperating that in a half-day preschool, where twelve children were supervised by three adults, they wanted us to hire, at our expense, his own personal aide. This seemed absurd, but we got the distinct impression that if we did not comply he would be expelled; it was not the auspicious beginning to his formal education that I had hoped for.
Since then, his experience has been far more positive, but there is no denying that there are things about his nature that we observe both at home and in school, that make him stand out.
He often strikes me as childhood distilled to its essence. There is little middle range in the way he experiences, and processes things, and so his reactions tend to be intense. His joy is infectious, but so is his anger. He is funny, charming, wildly imaginative and charismatic, but also loud, willful, impulsive, and rarely still.
To say he has a large personality is something of an understatement; David and I began to strongly suspect that Sacha has ADHD.
At the urging of his teachers at his current, wonderful preschool, at the end of last year I contacted the Board of Education to request that Sacha be evaluated. In less than 24 hours, I received a return phone call, and an initial meeting was scheduled for the following week. When we left that meeting, we had five additional meetings on the calendar at roughly one week intervals; four for testing, and a final meeting to discuss findings, as well as promises that arrangements would be made for Sacha to see a neurologist. Again, within 24 hours an appointment was scheduled with a pediatric specialist at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital.
We received a detailed written report far enough in advance of our final meeting to have time to review it. Because it is a catalog of weaknesses, not strengths, reading it required a strong stomach, and a sense of humor. A friend likened it to a home inspection, where the goal is to compile a record of areas of concern.
We had our meeting yesterday, and, as the Magic Eight ball is fond of saying, signs point to yes. Although ADHD is legally classified as a learning disability, and not cause for celebration, when we learned that Sacha does indeed qualify for services, I couldn't have been happier if you'd told me he'd been accepted at Harvard.
We left the meeting with that holy grail, the IEP, and beginning March 1, Sacha will spend his afternoons at the Developmental Learning Center, in a small classroom environment, where he will receive services intended to help him function at his peak in school. He will be bussed from his current preschool to the DLC, and home from there at the end of the day.
The entire process has been extremely smooth and efficient, and I have been impressed with every educator we have had contact with. I am grateful to the Montclair Public Schools for helping us to help our son acquire the skills that he will need to succeed.
I am also extremely happy that come March 1, Sacha will be on a path to get what he needs, and, as a happy consequence, that I will also gain three hours a day of child care. Win-win.