Planning the Evaluation
Last I wrote, we had obtained funding for our son, Vincent, to go to Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts for an evaluation. It takes a long time to get a date; I got all my paperwork and assessments together to send them in September. It took seven months to get a date in March. To be fair, they gave us a date in February. However, we had tons of snow, and they graciously extended the date to the end of March. It continued to snow here in Maine through April.
The trip to Perkins School took a lot of work on our part to put together. We have three children and two foster children. We were able to put one of our foster children in respite. The other child went with us. It was two parents and four children off on an adventure!
Onward to Perkins!
Since it was still winter, at least here in Maine, we couldn’t travel in the motor home; we packed everything into the truck and headed out. We stayed at Perkins in one of their independent living apartments. Perkins staff was very gracious and planned for our every need, even lunch with the students!
“He Wasn’t the Exception, But the Norm”
This was an amazing experience for all of us. Vinnie was right at home for the first time in his life, he wasn’t the exception, but the norm. That is an incredible experience for any child with a disability, for once to be like everyone else and not have to explain anything. It was like everyone spoke the same language. Every person understood and no need to explain anything.
Vincent went through two days of testing. They covered everything from education, psychological, and orientation and mobility. (That is the simple explanation.) We then toured the facilities and talked with teachers, staff, and administrators.
When we were finished, we took two days to process and decompress from our experience. We went to a Residence INN on our way home for two days, played, swam, and just relaxed. Of course, that wouldn’t be complete without Vincent’s twin dialing 911 from the motel room. Chagrin and apologies were given big time. Then that little boy got a lesson in 911 etiquette. Of course, it is now a family story for the book!
Considering Perkins School
Every adult I’ve met who went to Perkins School has said it was the best thing that has ever happened to them, and they learned so much. My response, “I know, but I just can’t send my child to a boarding school.” After experiencing Perkins, I do want him to go in a couple of years to high school and stay until he graduates. I think it will be a wonderful experience and set him on the road to adulthood.
For Vinnie, it is like this whole experience gave him a tremendous boost in self-esteem. For us, it put to rest many questions. Some of his different behaviors that folks had been trying to label as autism is in fact due to his visual impairment and premature birth. Vinnie turns 11 in July. For me, it reinforced that we have made the correct decisions so far to home school Vinnie. He can read and write braille, do math, and use his iPad and iPod to access stories and music. He is independent in the home setting. He is a wonderful part of our family, helping out wherever he can. He walks just a bit taller and more self-assured because of his visit to Perkins. That was worth the trip!
We are beginning the conversation on how to access Perkins with the service providers for visually impaired children in Maine. It may mean working with or advocating for services with Perkins School through the public school. It may not be an easy path. The one thing we feel is this is the next logical step on our path as we seek to raise this young man to adulthood. It probably won’t be easy, and certainly, nothing worthwhile is, but he is worth the journey!
So, what is next? We’ll keep you posted.