So we pressed on with pursuing residential school for Thomas. The letters and recommendations were written and mailed off certified mail, the educational attorney was on retainer, and meetings were held; Nancy even drove in from Manhattan to attend. Much to both Tommy’s and my surprise the process went relatively smooth and within a couple of weeks we found out Thomas was approved for residential school. I credit retaining the attorney. I had heard from various people “in the know” that the Board of Ed was known for dragging out these cases for months even a year. As a family concerned with safety we couldn’t have that and I was so glad we followed the advice we were given, no questions asked.
The next step was the Board of Ed sending out Thomas’ packet. The “packet” is Thomas’ IQ information, his IEP (individualized education plan), history, diagnosis, therapies received (speech, physical and occupational), etc… Tommy and I had the right to refuse a school. I don’t remember how many schools they sent his packet to. But a week or so later we received our first phone call to visit a school.
The place was way out on Long Island, I remember it took us 2 hours to get there. First impression of the facility was that it looked nice, but there were no kids/residents around. The director said everyone was either in school or on a trip. We both thought that was strange as part of our decision would be based on the population and they knew we were coming. Anyway the director was nice enough. All I remember about that place was seeing the actual residence where the kids sleep. It looked like a dorm setting but it smelled like stale laundry. I figured that was par for the course being that the residence was full of young boys. Maybe they didn’t clean up yet? But, again; they knew we were coming. After we left Tommy told me he was disgusted with the place and felt it was dirty. And we both were still wondering why we were invited when no children were present. Anyway, we declined that facility because of course they accepted our son .
The second school we visited was an hour or so away, not too bad of a distance in our opinions. The cottage where the residents sleep was very small and I personally thought it was crowded. I mean everyone had their own bed of course and there was a kitchen and living room area, it just wasn’t where I wanted my son to live/sleep. It was clean however. I also wasn’t thrilled with the interview process. The director and the chief psychiatrist sat with Tommy and I and went over Thomas’ packet and history. I felt patronized and the psychiatrist also made a comment or two that put me on the defensive. Nope, not a good fit. I don’t recall if they accepted Thomas or not but it didn’t matter anyway as he wasn’t going to attend there.
The third school came highly recommended but is 2 hours away in upstate NY. We went to see it anyway because things were not going well at home at all. Thomas was very unstable. This school was really nice, it was a bit on the rustic side, very “woodsy” and they had a farm and stable and animals( sheep, horses, I think a cow). This facility at the time won awards for its work with pairing special needs kids and animals. The staff was very mellow and one could see they all wanted to be there, they knew every child’s name we passed. The cottage was small but very clean and orderly. I remember the man in charge during that shift was an ex- marine. Perfect!
We had a lengthy tour with the director and another person who’s title I cannot remember and talked about Thomas, his packet and if he would fit in with their population. We all agreed he would, but…we lived 2 hours away. What if there were an emergency, they would take care of things but we would have to drive 2 hours in a worried state. There were also meetings that either Tommy or I were required to attend. I wouldn’t be comfortable doing all these meetings via teleconference. I would want to be there and see these actual people who are in close contact with my son and in my opinion they need to see me as well and know that my son is a person with a family who loves him. After much thought and debate and discussion Tommy and I decided to decline this school as well
At this time I started getting nervous. The person in charge of Thomas’ “case” from the Bd of Education would call and try to encourage me to take a placement that was already offered. I would get so mad at this woman. What did she care it wasn’t her child! All that mattered was the case be settled and closed. Nope, that wasn’t happening yet. I remember yelling at this person that my son wasn’t a dog you just put “somewhere”. Tommy would tell me to calm down but I wasn’t at that place yet, I was so used to fighting and yelling for Thomas that I wasn’t about to stop then.