Monday, November 30, 2009

too much spice

I've often wondered why certain things end: the novel Infinite Jest, the Clinique bonus bag period, and vacation. I'm back from Thanksgiving vacation and am a little bitter that it is over. There are a couple of good reasons for this feeling. First, we are still struggling to find Martin a tutor with whom we feel comfortable. Second, I visited the public schools today.

Now, let me beg forgiveness for some of the classist remarks you are about to read. Can I offer a treasury of merits that includes lots of service at food pantries, friendships with inmates, and even a year-long stint living with people people transitioning out of homelessness? Believe me, I'm not a total snob and feel completely convicted about my emotional response to the public schools earlier today. But here goes....

Wow, public school is a total assault to the eyes and ears. And I'm not even autistic. Everywhere I looked there was too much stuff: on the walls, on desks and tables. There were unmatching colors. There were mohawks (the hairdos, not the Indians). It was so loud. The cafeteria was like an echo chamber with 100 kids trying to be heard inside it. Even though the school district's new autism classroom instructor seemed terrific and even though the kindergarten teacher seemed perfectly competent, I simply could not imagine putting my sensory-sensitive kid in that loud, garish place. I might as well put him down in the middle of an Egyptian spice market and say, "Here, Martin, why don't you learn some more subtraction."

When I get this kind of feeling, I don't get the fight instinct. I get the flight one. I want to pack my bags for some state, any state that provides something better than this. It doesn't help that a friend sent us a recent op-ed from West Virginia on a similar subject:

Unlike us, the family in the article has no voucher option. When the public sector proved unhelpful, they paid out of pocket. Thankfully, we haven't had to do too much of that. But I live with the same anxiety the columnist expresses. You know how much an autistic kid needs and you know how much good it will do - and then you struggle to achieve even a portion of what you dream of. Makes me want to dive into the other worlds that novels present us or a pile of miniature cosmetic goodies. Or at least go back on vacation.


  1. I would also suggest any left-over pie you might have brought home from Thanksgiving!

  2. Jen,

    I laughed at your line about dropping Martin in an Egyptian spice market--how true that description is. You voice so well the struggle of parents with autistic children--there is always something more we could/should be doing. The guilt is never-ending. "If only he'd been diagnosed at 12 months instead of three years, we'd be so far ahead," is the thought I have to fight constantly.

    I also love that Jenny Macarthy presents a problem for you in conversations. I can't believe how many people have asked me if I've read her book about "curing" her son with autism, and I've had to shut my mouth and keep it shut so I wouldn't say something I'd regret.

    Are you sizing up the public school for next year or for second semester of this year? I was thinking Martin was set with his school in your home, but maybe not. My son is currently in a special education classroom for K-3. There are 10 students, one main teacher and three aides. I am o.k. with the set up for this year, but I wish there were something in between his current classroom and a regular classroom for kids on the spectrum in our district. He's not ready to be mainstreamed--the spice market analogy comes to mind, but I am not ready to home school least not yet.

    I'm glad you had a nice vacation--maybe just getting a taste of a true break just makes you rightly hungry for some more. And you deserve all you can get.


  3. I think your heightened awareness to the noise and chaos of schools is something we can all learn from. I avoid visiting Joe during the day, because it is complete overload for me. I cannot imagine what it is doing to the poor souls who live amongst it all day. I wonder if this is why the world is so loud--we're conditioning kids to expect that? Poor Martin. I totally feel his pain and yours. Next time you get the flight instinct, give me a buzz, and I'll helicopter in to pluck you out of the situation. How do you think that chaos would be received?