Chaos and Change, Part 1

12973396_10154810270134816_8980740602952449345_oIn addition to the Brownie star party and finally securing ABA services for my daughter Katie after nearly 18 months, two other things happened last week. First, my school district finally got around to visiting Open Mind School (OMS). They had a tour and asked about Katie’s progress. They didn’t seem surprised when OMS staff described how things were going. Which begs the question: did they know she was capable of this all along? Or are they merely happy to be getting a good return on investment for the substantial tuition they are paying?

How could they label a child “unteachable” and “retarded,” then merely smile pleasantly when told that this same child mastered addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in less than six months?

As I drove back home in hellacious Friday commute traffic, I wondered, doesn’t it make them the tiniest bit guilty that they didn’t achieve at least some of this progress in their program? Or do they find a way to justify their failure, shrug it off as a lack of funding and resources? Do they recognize how short-sighted this approach is?

I will probably never know the answers to those questions, but there was one important detail that both the OMS staff and I left out of the glowing narrative of the school and its success with my daughter. We didn’t mention that the school might be homeless in August.

money-bag-filled-with-money-915x1024In a week of chaos and change, this was the biggest change of all.

It turns out Marina, the school’s Executive Director, had learned nine months earlier that the childcare center located below OMS on the building’s ground floor, had offered well above market value to purchase the building. Located only a few blocks from the Oracle campus, the childcare center had a two-year waitlist and serves primarily Oracle employees. It intends to demolish the second floor used by OMS and expand its facility.

Marina spent nine months searching for a new location. She found one in Menlo Park and negotiated a ten-year lease so the school would not have to move again anytime soon. (Purchasing was out of the question given Silicon Valley’s expensive real estate market.) Just as she was about to announce the change to the staff and parents, the unthinkable happened. Facebook outbid OMS for the new school location.

How could this happen twice in less than a year?

With only two months to spare, OMS needed to identify a new location, negotiate a lease, and move. It seemed an impossible task.


Six months after transitioning to OMS, Katie was at risk of losing her phenomenal new school. I had no idea what I or the other parents could do, but I knew I wasn’t giving up on OMS without one hell of a fight.

Until next time,

About Cynthia J. Patton

Writer, Editor, Advocate, Speaker, Special Needs Attorney, and Autism Mom. Also the Founder and Chairperson of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit providing resources and solutions for life on the spectrum.
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