A Rosedale Thanksgiving

Q:  What am I thankful for?

A:  Rosedale School and its Amazing Staff.

For the annual Thanksgiving lunch, the staff had arranged the cafeteria like a restaurant, the tables dispersed, not in rows, but arrayed with white cloths.  I found Savannah with Mike, her burly teaching assistant.

"Hey, Savannah," I said, and kissed her forehead and stroked her hand.  "Daddy's here."  I turned to Mike, "Have you seen Tamara?"

"She's down in the gym."

"Holding court, I presume..."

Tamara is the president of the PTA and works events like a politician: greeting, thanking, and good-naturedly  cajoling people to donate.  Through her leadership, the PTA has blossomed.  I found her with a plate of food, which had probably grown cold while she was talking.  Long tables supported rows upon rows of dishes, and I could see why they had moved the buffet... it was so large it required it's own room.  I heaped my plate with ample helpings of things only available this time of year.  I touched Tamara's elbow and said, "hi," but otherwise didn't disturb her, and returned to the cafeteria.

"Savannah, did your class make any of the food?"

Mike answered for her, "Our class made the sweet potatoes that I've been told are already gone."

"Good work, Sweetie."  I rubbed her hand.

Mike left to get his lunch, and I ate with Savannah.  The cafeteria was packed with students, parents, grandparents, attendants, teachers, staff, and various community members.  The smell of rich food covered the regular Rosedale smell. One of Savannah's classmates sat at the table next to ours with her grandparents.  She smiled between every bite that her grandmother fed her.

Tamara joined us.  Savannah's teacher, Sue, came around and snapped several photos.

Sue knelt by Savannah, "Oh, I wanted to tell you how much Savannah loves a show called, 'S Club 7.'  It is like 'Glee.'  It has a lot of singing, but its not just singing.  It's about teenagers and romance and things like that.  It is very much geared for teen-aged girls."

"Okay, we'll check it out."

I said, "I've never seen the place so packed."

"I know.  It's amazing."

Rosedale School http://archive.austinisd.org/schools/website.phtml?id=117 is the district's school for children like Savannah, those with the greatest needs, the most challenges, the medically fragile.  In the special ed world, schools like Rosedale are rare because they are labelled "the most restrictive environment."  I find this designation ironic at best and dangerous at worst for kids like Savannah.  The clamor to mainstream special needs children, although a blessing for many, especially the high functioning, also caught children like my daughter.  Mainstreaming Savannah would be a huge mistake for her.  In essence, the "least restrictive environment," would put her in a school where her health would be seriously compromised and her intellectual needs ignored for the sake of ideology.

Rosedale is an oasis in a sea of despair, impediments, and pain.  It is the one place where people are positive, optimistic, and unconditional in their love and devotion to these kids.  It is where these kids have real friends, experience real joy, and look forward to another day.

Rosedale is the place where they are embraced for who they are and what they can do.

Lunch in the noisy cafeteria had overstimulated Savannah so much that she tried to nod off to sleep.

"Hey, stay awake,"  I rubbed her leg.

After eating too much dessert, I walked her around.  Tamara worked the room.  I joined her to talk to Al from the Rosedale Foundation (the lovely folks who sponsor the annual Rosedale Ride http://www.rosedaleride.info/ ).

As we were moving to leave a woman told Tamara, "I can help with the silent auction again."

"Excellent."

"What is the theme of the prom this year?"

"A Night in Paris!" Tamara beamed.

"Oh my God.  That sounds fantastic. I can't wait."

"John has already said he's going to build the Eiffel Tower in the gym.  And I don't mean a little, cardboard silhouette.  He says that when you stand in the middle of gym, it will look like you are standing under the tower.  Isn't that amazing?"

"I'm not surprised.  You know, he can build anything."

And I guess that is really the theme of this extraordinary school... if these folks can build a school like this, they can build anything, even a replica of the Eiffel Tower in the gym.

Here's to the tireless teachers, staff, and volunteers.  Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.

Rosedale Raccoons T-Shirt Illustration by David Borden
Rosedale Student T-Shirt

#parenting #specialneeds #inspiration #thanksgiving

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