Yesterday was my daughter’s fourth birthday and she had a fun party at her pre-school. My daughter was diagnosed with autism right around her second birthday and having to deal with autism in a child can be a struggle. I have to say that the City and County of San Francisco did it right this time. We received early intervention assistance through the Golden Gate Regional Center until she was three. They came daily and worked with her to help her with her speech and behavior and they did a great job.
When she turned three she moved away from GGRC services to the San Francisco Unified School District’s pre-school for children with special needs. This is more than just autistic children, but some who are mentally retarded or physically handicapped so it can be difficult for the teachers let alone with them having to deal with the wide spectrum that covers autism. In looking at the choices that were available to us we finally chose Grattan Elementary School because they seemed to have the best people for the job there.
Well, I have to say that Becca’s teacher Kara is THE super cool pre-school teacher. She is very similar to the teacher’s I had as child with the exception that she’s not a few years from retirement and prune-faced like my teachers were. She’s young and energetic and has the assistance of a few aides to help with some of the more problematic kids. Kara loves all of the kids she teaches and gets to know them all very well and all of their idiosyncrasies.
We brought doughnuts, party hats and horns for the party and the kids couldn’t have been happier. Her friend Jeffrey that she rides to school with every day helped her put on her party hat because he’s the kid who looks over all the other kids in class. Becca’s other friend Brandon showed off by stuffing an entire doughnut in his mouth and eating it without choking.
Kara as well as her aides have had special training in dealing with physically and mentally challenged kids. Autism is kind of hard to explain to some people because they equate it with mental retardation — it’s not. There are lots of people with autistic kids who argue that this thing or that causes autism, but it’s such a wide spectrum of behavior that I can’t put a finger on any one thing and I don’t really want to go there. When you first see our daughter you don’t really notice anything wrong until you notice she doesn’t talk much. She’s getting a lot better at talking now, but to a lot of people she’d just look like a quiet little kid. Little being relative because she’s four feet tall at four years of age.
What is a bit troubling is that the school district doesn’t have the funding to cover the kids needs. Kara gets $5 per child per year. That’s it, nothing else. She has to purchase items for her class out of her own pocket or ask parents to bring in the things she needs. Even though we aren’t floating in money we do what we can to help out. It amazes me how well she is able to do with so little money. It’s just a shame that there isn’t enough money to help our kids get a better education.