Salute to Spouses Blog

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Deployment Soundtrack: Hurricane

Bridgit Mendler, 2012

Preview Song

This week I had planned to write about trying to break back into the business world. Starting from what seemed like scratch is hard on the soul and the mind. But then something happened ...

On the Friday before summer school was slated to begin, I received a voicemail confirming littlest sweet boy's seat on the bus to school. "Great," I thought. We are ready to roll.

Monday morning came, littlest sweet boy got on the bus and I waved goodbye. I drove to the gym and jumped onto a treadmill for my run and then began my session with the trainer at 9 a.m. I didn't check my phone until 10 a.m. when I got back in my truck.

Then I heard the words that will haunt me for many days to come. The voice said, "This is Mrs. Hunt. We have Stephen and he is safe."

My heart just sank. My son is on the autism spectrum and his issue is communication. I had been telling him for a week that he would get off the bus when he saw his paraprofessional. Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication on the paperwork, he was dropped off at the school he attended last summer not the school to which he was assigned.

I am not sure if it was lucky for him, lucky for the school or lucky for me, but as I listened to the voicemail, I realized that the school had done everything they could to rectify the situation. Between the time the teacher left me a message at 9:13 a.m. and the time I called the school at 10 a.m., the school had faxed corrective paperwork over to the county transportation department. All I had to do as the parent was follow up with the transportation department, which I did when I got home.

When I submitted the incident to the court of public opinion on Facebook, I was met with interesting responses. Mostly, my friends felt that they would have lost their cool or even "flipped out." Make no mistake, that was my internal response! My brain was screaming, "Are you kidding me? How does a child with special needs get dropped off at the wrong school? Don't you have double and triple checks for that?"

But here, sweet friends, is where our practice of being passionate without being emotional can be utilized. He could have ended up at a school where no one knew him. Instead, he was taken to the school he attended last summer.

I don't know if he remembered the teacher, but she remembered him. She took him into her classroom for the day and made it all work. When he came home from school, he was a little out of sorts, but that happens with any change in routine.

The next morning as we prepared for school I decided to not take any chances. I pulled off a long strip of duct tape and wrote on it, "Please take me to Ware Elementary. If not, call my mom at ...". I stuck it on his shirt and made another strip for his backpack.

The bus pulled up to my driveway and before I let him step a toe on it, I confirmed his drop off with the driver.

The bus pulled away and I waited. Thirty minutes later, I received a text from littlest sweet boy's paraprofessional that included a picture. He made it safely to school.

I was glad to be in the eye of the hurricane that day. I let the system that was in place work, and it may have been chaotic and scary, but we were experiencing the calm inside the storm.

The lessons I learned from this incident are to listen carefully, ask for documentation and let the system work. I asked if they minded if I followed up and they were grateful to have me do so. For those of you who know me personally, you know I would have followed up anyway, but the team felt better that I offered to do so.

It may sound a little silly, but how you as the parent or advocate of the child react to these situations is almost as important as the incident itself. Be passionate not emotional. Listen more than you speak. Look for what the team has done right. Offer to help where you can. Finally, follow up and follow up again!

Strength and Courage ... sby


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