Neal and I make up names for people we encounter. We don’t try to make them mean, rather, we like to think they are just aptly descriptive. This is the story of two such people – Rainbow Woman and HIV Guy. And no, this isn’t a story about LGBT rights, which, by the way I fully support. Oddly enough, Rainbow Woman and HIV guy is a story about special education.
Just as our due process suit was being settled, my husband Neal got a job offer at a university in another state.
When he told me the news I looked at him with a “really?” look.
Move? Now? Are you trying to kill me? Seriously.
These were just a few of my initial responses to the idea of moving a second time in three years. Just as I was rebuilding a support system and just as we had our school system working with us… we were going to move?
But what could I do? I wanted to support Neal, so, hesitantly, we went to check out this new town.
The trip however didn’t happen without research and phone calls to the special education director to arrange a meeting and a tour of an elementary school.
Yeah, when I moved to new towns the first person I met was the Special Education Director.
That is the life of a mom with a special needs kid.
And I learned from such meetings that to be a special education director you have to be part PR person, for they paint the prettiest of pictures, filled with the most plentiful of services, performed by the happiest and most thoroughly trained staff.
In other words, it’s all butterflies and unicorns, and in this particular story, rainbows, when first you meet.
But three years, and a lawsuit later, I had learned to look past the smiles and listen past the words such as “Oh, we can do that.” I’d heard it all before and had come quite familiar with how “we can do that” turns into “we don’t do that.” And because of my experience I knew the feeling, you know it too, that nagging feeling that tells you to proceed with caution.
Well, I got that feeling as I sat there in this new school district’s special education office.
And it became more than a feeling (the 1970′s Boston tune now is playing in my head) when the two of us visited their highly recommended school and met the man who could have become Teddy’s special education teacher.
It was a perfectly nice school and the teacher seemed like a perfectly nice man, but at the end of the tour, after 30 minutes of seeing cafeterias and classrooms, I tried to talk specifics.
This is how our very brief conversation went.
After telling the special education teacher Teddy had a full-time aide, I asked if they had any students with aides. He looked straight at me and said, “I am not allowed to reveal that information.”
Puzzled and highly annoyed at feeling like I had just been put off and about to ask why he would not tell me if any special education children had aides in his school, Ms. PR/Special Education Director, maybe sensing my annoyance, (that might be generous of me) stepped up her participation in the conversation and began her final performance of the day.
She, and I kid you not, walked into the middle of the school lobby and with the most magnificent flourish of her arms, and very pleased with herself, proudly pronounced…
We are very open to and very knowledgeable about the ‘Autism Rainbow.’
The Autism Rainbow.
“Good grief,” I thought, “I am surrounded by idiots. There is no way I can start all over teaching these bozos.”
I just didn’t have it in me.
Cordially, I thanked them for their time and ran.
When I got outside, Neal pulled up in the van, I opened the door and never was I more glad to see Teddy, Meg, Neal, and our dog Buffett. Immediately Neal asked how the visit went and when I told him about the special education teacher’s response about an aide, he started laughing and said, “I bet he thought you meant HIV Aids.”
My jaw just dropped. After going on and on about Ted having an aide, he thought I meant HIV Aids?
That’s why he wasn’t allowed to reveal that information?
I didn’t even make the connection because, well, we were talking about AUTISM!
But, sadly, it made sense.
And I joined in the laugher with Neal.
“Rainbow Woman and HIV Guy,” I said.
We looked at each other and simultaneously said, “Looks like we aren’t moving.”
I love my husband and being part of a solid team.
* * *
So you can have the song in your head too…
Photos from Google images.