Saturday, September 4, 2021

Shiro Goes to School

School started this week. Before we got Shiro, we weren't entirely certain we would try to send her to school with Stow right away. We wanted to be sure that they had good chemistry and that Stow wouldn't be distracted by her. As soon as the two of them met, though, we could see how she helps Stow regulate. So when the trainer came to work with us, we included a training session at his school in our schedule. 

In order to have a service dog at school, we needed to articulate specific tasks Shiro would do for Stow. For a visually impaired person or a person with epilepsy, it's perhaps easier to see the role a service animal can play. With autism, the support a dog can provide might be less obvious, so it took several conversations with the district to make sure that Shiro would actually be able to accompany Stow to school. Fortunately, when the director of special education saw him with Shiro, she immediately noticed just how much more confident and relaxed he seemed. Because she has worked with him since he was 3, she knows just how many human resource hours have gone into helping Stow regulate at school; I imagine it wasn't hard for her to appreciate the value in having Shiro there to help.

Checking out the building.
It took several conversations, some paperwork, advice sessions with the trainer, and a few phone calls to the bus company, but we finally got official permission for Shiro to go to school. The day before it started, we went to meet Stow's teacher and to introduce him to Shiro. He and Stow figured out what to do with her portable crate, where she would relieve herself, and where to put Stow's desk so Stow wouldn't be distracted and Shiro wouldn't distract others. Shiro and Stow walked the hallways with his case manager while I hung back and talked to his new teacher and the social worker. 

Heading to school.

The first day of school, Stow was up and ready to go well before the bus came. We made sure Shiro had an empty bladder, put her vest on her, and hooked her up to Stow. When the bus came, Stow went willingly and without anxiety. I had to lift and push Shiro onto the bus, though, because she was much less sure about the situation (she'd never ridden a school bus before). She came home at noon, and Stow came home at 3, and by all accounts, both of them had a great day. The second day, she went willingly onto the bus, and, other than a few hiccups (like Ren forgetting to go pick her up one day), it seems to be going really well.

Working hard at school.

People keep asking me if Shiro is helping Stow, as if she will bring some sudden and obvious change in his life. When I feel pressure to answer that question, to somehow justify all of the time and money that went into making this happen for him and our family, I get pretty anxious. I mean, it's not as if everything is magically better. But then I take a deep breath and notice that mornings have gone smoother; meltdowns have been shorter; and Stow has willingly and happily gone to school every day so far. Most importantly, Stow feels that Shiro makes things 100% easier for him. That's a huge improvement and something that we hope will lead to less stress, fewer intense moments at school, and increased independence for years to come.

Chilling after a long morning at work.

No comments: