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  1. We have been blessed with a steady recovery, starting at Severe Autism and proceeding forward one baby-step at a time for 12 years. This year, at 14, K’s therapists and I were making the plan for her classroom education for next year; she came upon our discussion, as we discussed another year at the local Montessori. With horror, she looked at us, “NO! I am going into 9th grade, I need to go to High School!!!”

    Understanding her need to be like the other kids in the class she has been with for 9 years, we explored the local public high school (not surprisingly, found they have no desire to support her high level of need for 1:1 support, and determined she would be at high risk of assault due to open campus and lack of supervision between buildings), and the one local private option (extraordinarily religious, no science taught here, just creationalism). She was quite insistent, though, so I explored an hour from home (where I work), and found a wonderful private religious high school; but they require the students to sit-for an entrance exam (4 hours long).

    I explained this to her, and undaunted, she sat for this exam! (My child, who could not even sit at a table for 3 seconds, just 9 years ago!) From experience, we know she will be lucky to score in the 60% range (her vocabulary is entirely limited to what has been directly-taught through planned, discrete trials – making understanding questions sometimes extremely difficult and the same for some answers). After she completed the exam (they gave her extra time, so she sat for over five hours), I explained that she might not get into the school, as more children tested than there are available seats in the Freshman class; that it is OK because her current school will have a seat for her, either way.

    With an intense and earnest expression on her face, she said, “I know, but it would be so great to go HERE.” I am so proud of her sustained effort to join our world. She has spent over 18,000 hours undergoing 1:1 therapy, just to learn to learn. She has gone from “get a place in line at the local institution because she will never speak with intent or toilet train” to “tells me her plan for next year, then takes action to make her plan happen!” Of course, she continues to need intense services to learn (we will make these available to whatever school she attends) , and she has a long way to go to become an independent adult, but I marvel at her willingness to spend every spare moment with her therapists, working hard and developing the skills so that one day this might happen.

    This year, I pray the stars align just right, that this one school, at this one moment in time, will open its heart to this one young lady. That, for once in her life, her life happens as she has planned. That, at this moment, this door is opened to her (even if only for a trial opportunity — this is how we found our local Montessori would work for our severely impaired, mostly non-verbal, not toilet-trained 5 year old with significant behaviors)..

    So many opportunities have been lost to her severe disability; I pray this one, which she has chosen, becomes the next step in her recovery. I can see it – surrounded by a community of teachers who encourage even the least competitive teens to be part of the swim team, foster respect between students, and spend hours after school helping their students master the day’s classroom topics, her self-confidence will blossom!

    May the New Year bring each and every child struggling with this challenging disorder the words to communicate and the neurologic organization to make their wishes known!