Change and military life are supposed to go hand in hand right? Well, not so much in our family. I expected us to move at some point to another base in another state if not another country. And we were fortunate (sort of) not to have to do that during my husbands' military career. He deployed and trained and did his job day in and day out. Shortly before Ella's first birthday, he deployed again - this time to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. This time for 6 months. That 6 months was some of the worst and best in my life. I learned very quickly what I was actually capable of handling. I moved us into a house that I fell in love with. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms with a HUGE backyard and terrific neighbors. The girls were happy in that house. I was happy in that house.
A few doors down from our house I met an amazing lady who was on the journey that I was on. She had 3 children as well. Her middle child was also diagnosed on the spectrum and while we weren't able to talk as much as we wanted to, we shared alot of glances and brief conversations that meant more to me than she'll ever know. And, we ended up being allies together when the schools decided to uproot our children and switch schools on them. Neither of us were prepared or eager for that change. There were many caffeine fueled conversations, discussions, pro/con lists and shared emails about that misadventure.
Given that we lived on military bases, the school populations were always changing. And, given that our children were bused from one military base to another, our children were considered "Out of Boundary" students. Even though our base didn't offer the early intervention preschools that our kids needed, we were still considered "out of boundary". At the time that they announced they were making this change, neither myself or my friends were ready to tackle this argument. We didn't understand what the school administrators were thinking! Uprooting these children, mid-semester to a new school with teachers they didn't know, to a classroom without adequate facilities - a virtual nightmare for us parents.
And it was a NIGHTMARE! The school playground wasn't fenced in, the classroom didn't have a bathroom, the teacher wasn't trained to handle special kids, the school wasn't equipped, the staff wasn't prepared to have these high need children in their school. All of us were truly terrified of what our children were going to walk into. The school did do what it could, and that was great, but there wasn't anything that they could do that would have made this transition any easier or acceptable to me. I stepped up as did several other parents to go into the classroom to help get it ready for our children. Childproofing things, trying to fix things up so that it would be as adaptable as possible. That wasn't going to be easy. The classroom was located in the 4th and 5th grade building. The school had never had a classroom full of high-need preschool age children.
The teaching staff in that classroom truly wanted to make it work out in that classroom. Most understood that this transition was going to be beyond challenging and terrifying for these kids. I was angry that the school district felt it was appropriate to reshuffle our already fragile kids around like a deck of cards. I won't forget the look on Maggie's face the day that she didn't go to her "school" and she went to "the scary school". The big kids were there and the school had too many different buildings. The whole situation was different and scary for her. Thankfully, she did have one familiar face with her. My friend from down the street, her middle child was in the same class with her.
The first few weeks of the class was terrible. The "lead teacher" became the assistant teacher when she realized she wasn't capable of teaching the class. One of the assistant teachers took over and she was amazing. Lisa was a remarkable teacher and the perfect fit for the kids in the class. In March of 2009, Ella started preschool in the same class as Maggie. The two of them were inseparable. With Lisa as the lead teacher, Cheryl and Jeanie as terrific assistants and a safe and functioning classroom - Maggie and Ella were doing great.
At the end of that academic year, Riley "Graduated" kindergarten and Maggie and Ella finished their preschool year with another year of preschool yet to go. That summer we moved into a 4 bedroom house. I wasn't as in love with it as I was our 3bedroom house, but I had another great neighbor across the street and the girls each had their own rooms. (Which was MUCH needed since Maggie and Ella were together 24/7) That upcoming year was going to be really challenging. In 2009-2010, our entire lives would turn upside down.