We live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is a long way from Camphill Special School. When we sent our son, Bar, to the Children’s Village at Beaver Run, friends and extended family who knew that Bar is the heart and soul of our family asked, “How could you send him away?” We struggled with the question ourselves, and we now know with certainty that we didn’t send him away – exactly the contrary – we have had the great opportunity and privilege to have our son go to Beaver Run and we all are far better because of it.
When Bar was in middle school back in Cambridge, we all just managed. His teachers just managed his day, attempting to modify textbook based curriculums for a kid who doesn’t read, and adjusting music classes to somehow engage Bar so that he would not become frustrated and distracting. Much of his day was spent on his own, with his aide, learning “life-skills” – which meant tagging along while she went to the corner store for a diet soda for both of them. The Individual Education Plan was okay on paper and reality was not. At home we found we could either work well with Bar, or take care of the needs of his younger brother and sister and the needs of the family. The reality was that we were not taking good care of any of us.
When it became obvious that our middle school was no longer working for Bar, we began a search for a local approved private school for children with special needs. The process was daunting. We looked at everything we could find, and what we saw was not comforting: hospital settings with startling staff turnover rates, behavior management schools with padded time-out rooms, country-club-like daycare settings. He needed none of those. After several people suggested we should look at Beaver Run, we packed up our family of five and went to visit.
Visiting Beaver Run was like coming home: busy hands for adults and children, green fields and animals, small children pulling other children in red wagons, big kids doing chores, families, teachers, colors, music, sit-down meals for twenty or more that feel like Thanksgiving.
Beaver Run was more than we dreamed of for Bar. We no longer try to improve Bar’s day with constant meetings and IEP revisions. Now, we are students too, following the wise leadership of Bar’s teachers and houseparents, trying to live our lives with the clarity of purpose, unqualified kindness, and openness to the unknown that we find at Camphill Special School. Could we even have imagined such a school, a whole community, where our son was fully included, even cherished, just as he is? A place where he would be guided, challenged and cared for patiently and with love by every adult he encountered every single day?
Our son found such a place at Camphill Special School and now he is taking part in The Transition Program at Beaver Farm. And to my friend who says, “It must have been hard to send Bar so far away,” I can only say, “He is thriving,” and know that the rest of us live in communities that fall short of the one Bar lives in.