Middle School Reality

 Yep, he is officially a 6th grader. These pics and videos are actually from a couple weeks before school. The school holds and event called “Griz Biz”. Where incoming 6th graders and their families can tour the school, get their ASB cards, pictures taken, etc. This was actually a good day for Marley and for me. We had a great time.

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 in the parking lot cheezin

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 in line for pictures….cheezin

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cheezin some more

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trying out lockers, even though he will not get one, because he is a student of the “transition academy” a fancy word for special ed room and students there I am finding out don’t get to do much that their non-disabled peers do. I’ll expain in future post.

Marley taking a self guided tour, of classrooms he more than likely will never be in

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 Marley’s first ASB card


Marley 6th grade pic. By far my favorite school pic of Marley, he looks so happy



I wish……just like when I slip on headphones to listen to music to help calm and center me…..I wish I could have something to put over my eyes so I could see this and other vids like this one at least three times a day.

In search of clarity……..

A re-read of one of my favorite books, “Into the Wild” is helping me get past a very difficult month for me. I been overwhelmed as of late due to trying to figure out how to do the things I want to do, and need to do and balance that with the reality of finances. Couple this with the passing of my husbands father has added more anxiety of myself aging(and how unhealthy I am right now) and my son future(and all I need to do for him so he has the best chance of an independent future). To add to this I am searching for services for Marley now that we have and “official” clinical diagnosis of Autism(which he has always had-but for insurance reasons we had to have a WA evaluation). Every phone call and every email is just about the same. It’s either no we don’t take Apple Health or yes we take Apple Health but there is a waiting list. For the waiting list I have continuously been told it would be a year and a half for any movement. Which is causing me to have more anxiety that by the time we make it to the top of the list Marley will be 16. So yesterday, I just had to take a break from everything, disconnect from computer and do some reading. I don’t read much anymore, mostly because I can never find quite time. So I started with some magazines and then saw an old favorite of mine. Below is one of my favorite excerpts.

into the wild



“make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt.

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.

The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.

The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy.

But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”

― Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

5th Grade Graduation Day ~ Redmond Elementary ~ A year in reflection

Where did the time go? How can my son be graduating 5th grade? I know I am not alone in asking these questions that so many parents ask when they realize that their child’s elementary school experience is over. There is no going back. There is no reset or do over button. There was so much going on this school year its like Marley started and ended in a matter of months. I wish I had done more.

I have this thought that beats me up everyday when I look at Marley that T I could have done so much more for him. In March I attended a Transition Fair at Microsoft, to learn about all the services and opportunities there are for young adults with disabilities in Seattle. I learned alot at this fair and came home with a wealth of new knowledge. But I also came home with that thought, that though of failure.  Instead of worrying about what caused Marley’s autism why did I not stop and say you know Tracy you need to get the best services for him – do what ever you have to. Stop working – sell your home – go somewhere where he will have the best opportunities for a successful future. Unfortunately I was to overwhelmed with the diagnoses to even think about his future. I wasted so much time. I should have been in Washington years ago. Not that Washington has the top-notch special education experience, quite the contrary in some areas. But the nature of the people, the diversity, the willingness to help attitude, the sense of true community, it is here.

I am almost certain that had I moved to Redmond, and Marley had the opportunity to attend Redmond Elementary school from kindergarten, he would have been closer in line academically and socially with his peers. Now I don’t want to discount the experience my son had with two very wonderful teachers, one in Head Start and one in third grade in Kentucky. The were awesome and went above and beyond to try to teach and help Marley grow. But these teachers were teaching for a district that provided no supports.In my eyes they were 10 years behind even the lowest states in services for those with disabilities. I feel so bad for the families still there fighting the district, just the other day I read another parent is filing suit that the district did not provide their child with F.A.P.E (free and appropriate education). I could have stayed, I could have fought, I could have filed a lawsuit too. It was during my son’s second grade year at the dreaded IEP meeting that I finally got clarity on what I needed to do for my son. See the district had this thing that they created that was an alternative diploma, a certificate of sorts, that they were convincing parents they needed to participate in because it would be beneficial to the children and the schools and somehow this would be the best for our son. Across from me sat evil that day at the IEP meeting, evil with a southern twang telling me, ” well deary it’s not like your son is going to improve and go onto college”. WTF, how dare you tell me what my son’s future entails. How dare you give up on my son educational experience. How dare you set the ceiling so low for my son. I could have knocked that woman out that day. Instead I sat speechless, I felt like someone had taken my ability to speak and stabbed me in the heart all at once. It was in that moment I knew my son would never despite any good teachers intentions be able to reach his full potential in KY. I thought about homeschooling him, but how was I going to do that working a graveyard job. Both Eric and I worked fulltime, sometimes 50 hrs in a week. There would be no time. So all we could do is stay in Lexington and fight to get our son moved to a better school. My husband lead the charge and by that fall we finally got Marley into a better school.

He made some improvements, but still wasn’t reading. Marley spent two wonderful years at that wonderful school were he was loved by all that were trying to teach him. That idea that I should stop working -sell the house – move – would finally become a reality by the time Marley reached the end of his forth grade year. It actually took the economic collapse to help send our family in the right direction. The company I worked for decdided to chage and when the window of opportunity presented itself, I left. No longer dedicating countless hours to someone elses benefit. I  now could spend those hours benefiting the most important person in my life, my son. So the house was sold in months and we set off on our moved to Washington. We had no plan, but I had a gut feeling it was the right thing to do. It gave me butterflies to think about this crazy thing  I was about to do to my family, but my great-grandmother always told me that the things that scare us the most in life, the things that we are unsure of and give us that strange feeling. ‘ the thing we are meant to do, that’s living……that’s growing.

So luckily I am married to a man with a sense of adventure and spontaneity and off we went. It is crazy to throw caution to the wind like that but I am so glad we did. The changes to my life, my son’s life, my husband’s life have been profound since arriving here. I am now hopeful that there will be many more amazing things happening to us as the years go on. I do have some regrets about not arriving here sooner, but nothing good will come from dwelling on that. I look at the positives as much as I can now. We are here now(positive), Marley is loving Seattle(positive), Marley loves school(positive), I am now doing something that makes me happy,advocating for those with disabilities(positive), my husband loves his job(positive), we have more family time together(positive) and we doing something almost every weekend(super positive). I can’t wait to see whats around the next corner, that is best feeling one can have. That “where will the day take me” feeling is so food for the soul. I feel more alive than ever and I and my family is loving this new change.

So now elementary school for Marley is over. Depressing thought, but I am too busy thinking about what an amazing experience he has had this year. Marley was so very fortunate to have three wonderful and caring teachers not to mention forty-one classmates that helped make it his best year yet. Marley went into 5th grade not reading and thanks to Mr. W and others for encouraging him, he is now reading on a 1st grade reading level. Socially Marley has grown by leaps in bounds. Nothing warms my heart more and brings me more joy than to see my son beaming with happiness everyday I dropped him off and picked him up from school. His teachers and especially his classmates have helped create a little social butterfly.  His classmates daily asked me questions about Marley wanting to know more, or letting me know the amazing things he did in class that day. This is the one memory that makes me not feel sad about the elementary school experience being over. I know his classmates will be following him into middle school, looking out for him and continuing to be a friend to him. I could not ask for anything more. For so long I have witnessed my son be a loner, a child different from others, isolated. No other children ever got to know Marley and he had little friends and none out of school. But I don’t have to think about that any more, his classmates love and want the best for him. I can’t wait for what the future holds for all of the them. That idea is so exciting I can’t wait to see them all grow up.


So below is the last few days of Marley’s 5th grade experience. What a truly amazing year he has had!!!



So knowing how much this year was special, I wanted to make something special for Marley’s classmates and his teachers. Do you use Pinterest? Well I do, I’m always bookmarking things I find of interest and tons of things that look delicious(but I’ll never cook) and DIY crafts I dream of creating yet I have no creative bone in my body. But I wreck my brain for weeks trying to come up with something and I don’t know if it cause really I am not that creative or it’s just I have too much on my plate. So thank god for Pinterest, you really stepped up to the plate. Below are the finished projects that Marley and I worked on for about two weeks. Smart I made sure we did something everyday so I would not be doing everything at the last-minute. Cause as my world usually goes, I make plans and say oh I have time and then something goes awry. Usually it entails me getting sick, or Marley getting sick. Sadly something did happened, it was a good thing I started two weeks out from graduation.

Marleys Fifth Grade Graduation (15)

Marleys Fifth Grade Graduation (17) Marleys Fifth Grade Graduation (18)



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Wonder why Marley is grinning from ear to ear? Wonder what he is holding in the bag? Well, nothing makes Marley more happy than pencil sharpening. On one of the last days before school was out, Marley had the opportunity to use his class dollars(fake money for turning in and completing assignments) to buy something from the classroom store. His teacher Mrs. Hudspeth informed me after school that there was only one thing Marley wanted to buy…………pencils……..And she knew it and made sure he would have enough to last and sharpen over the summer, hilarious………Good looking out Mrs. H!!!



Marley cheezin like always

Marleys Fifth Grade Graduation (1)

A very nice surprise, Marley receiving the “Mr. Jolly Rancher” award for being the boy who is always happy!!

Marleys Fifth Grade Graduation (2) Marleys Fifth Grade Graduation (3) Marleys Fifth Grade Graduation (4) Marleys Fifth Grade Graduation (5)


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I wonder if he is really trying to read it?

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Nope, this is him turning around and asking me, “What this say?”


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SUPER SUPRISE!!!!!!!…………Mr. Unifier


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The very special people in Marley’s 5th grade journey. On the far left is Mr. Kim Weirsum. I could write a book on how thankful I am that Marley had him as his Special Education teacher this year.  Mr.W, as Marley called him was instrumental in finally coming up with what Marley needed to learn to read. Time – patience – and pictures. At the beginning of the year he had Marley on beginning level Wonderbooks that used pictures along with words, it was the exact key to getting him to start reading.

Here is a short video of the progress marley has made in reading this year…….


Mr. W has done everything possible to ensure that my son gets the best education. He has also been a great source of knowledge on autism for fellow teachers, and gives great advice to parents like myself on different ways to improve the learing experience. Most of all he has been very supportive in knowing how hard it is for us on a daily basis. Test may show my son has an IQ of 32 but he understands that is a test and nothing can correctly measure Marley’s intelligence and learning capabilities. He has been so encouraging  to me on my road to advocating for Marley and others. I just wish I could steal him and take him onto middle school. But that is a selfish idea and I know he has many, many more children to make a lasting impression on and I hope that he continues to do so.


The middle pic is Mrs. Mary Hudspeth. Mary, like Mr. W, I could write a novel on my appreciation for all that she has done for my son. From the start of the school year, when I heard from another parent that their child wanted to know more about Marley because she took it upon herself to read to the class a book that would give them all more insight to this different student that was in their classroom. WOW!!  She also spearheaded a “peer buddy” program for Marley in her classroom. Making sure that other students would help Marley and get to know him more. Actually here and Mrs. Huntley have done something I am unsure they can even fathom will have a lasting effect on not only Marley but his classroom peers. These students as Mrs. Hudspeth said in the video above, came into the school year kind of all over the place and looking out for self. The journey they have shared with Marley has helped these young future men and women lay the foundation for caring and compassion of others. You can’t ask for anything more. I know academics are important, but to shape young children with the abilities to see others will help change this world. We always hear of school shootings and bullying, but if the teachers were as compassionate as the two Mrs. H’s, this would not be an issue. That is one of the greatest things to teach and my son is so fortunate that he spent his last year in elementary school with Mrs. Hudspeth.

And last but not least I have to mention Marley’s other not official classroom teacher, Mrs. Huntley. See pic on far right. See fifth graders at Redmond Elementary school actually shared two teachers. Their classroom separated only by a folding divider.  Mrs H was equally integral in the teaching of my son this year. I enjoyed most hearing from my son after school field trips about Mrs Huntley. He would say in a few words…”Mrs. Huntley, shes hilarious, she so funny”. I got it, I totally understand why he was saying that. One of my first impressions at a parents night was that she was a woman with a heart full of gold. Now to any other parent she might come across as blunt and if I was a kid in her classroom back in the day I probably would have been scared shitless. But I also saw that she wanted the best for her students and she would push them harder than they might think they could go. She looked like one of those teachers that don’t play around. But I thought she was hilariously funny in her stern way of thinking. I loved her sense of humour and that’s why I could totally understand why Marley had that same vibe!!!


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A couple of shots out in front of school.



A couple of close up shots of Marley’s awards

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Then came the sad day of the last day of 5th grade

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Marley Ii had to snap a pick of Marley with his best friend Ariannna. She has so much love for Marley and has been Marley’s number one classmate support this year. I am so thankful he has a good friend that will continue on with him through middle school.

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and last but not least is the shot of  Mrs H and Mrs Dennis, who I know helped Marley everyday at school. Some of the kindest women you will ever meet, the students of Redmond Elementary are so fortunate to have them. I will truly miss the conversation with them after school about something Marley did, they will be truly missed.


Lastly I wanted to share the thing that brought me the most joy. I was most delighted to see my son’s yearbook when he came home from school on the last day of school. This was Marley first yearbook, none of the schools in KY really did this in elementary school, so to have this memento it means so much to me. It also means alot to Marley who, already five days out from the last day of school is missing his friends. I will have to take a picture of what Marley does at night when he is in his room. He likes to pile things on his bed that bring him happiness. Every night it is usually the same items, his favorite books, his classroom picture, his picture of his friend Arianna, his various stuffed animals, and now his yearbook. I know it must bring him comfort to look at those pictures, he likes sitting with me and I will ask him who this person is or who that person is and all the while he is grinning from ear to ear.





Redmond Elementary yearbook  (1) Redmond Elementary yearbook  (3)


But the best thing of all was seeing my son’s pic alongside his classmates in the individual classroom pics. I was afraid that he would not be. I feared that he might be left out. For I know this has happen to many other parents of autistic children. They are often left out and if included in a yearbook pic, they are pictured with their Special Education / Resource Room classmates, which to me is defining them by their disabilities. Autism can be a very isolating disability and I don’t want that for my son. I feared that for a long time. But not anymore. Marley may not excel academically but he excels in bringing happiness to others.Marley has this profound affect on people. He has a contagious happy personality, gives the best hugs in the world, and just wants to share the way he sees things with everyone he meets. There is no doubt in my mind that this skill will help him go far and I can’t wait to see him flourish!!!

Redmond Elementary yearbook  (2)

Story of Hope: Marley

The last thing I wanted to share today on World Autism Awareness Day ~ 2014 was a story of hope. Actually it is Marley’s story of hope. I  recently was asked by the Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy organization if I would like to contribute my son’s story to share with others during the awareness month of April. With no hesitation, I dropped everything I was doing at the moment, which was alot and sat down to type a shorten version of Marley’s journey. I wanted to participate for so many reasons. First of which was to give hope to someone else who might come across the article and to share that when you think all hope is gone, it never really is. Secondly, WAAA is the first organization I sought help from when arriving in Washington. They are hands down the best. They have a group of wonderful advocates who have help me navigate both the medical and educational avenues here in Washington. Lastly I wanted to share Marley with everyone. He is an amazing young man, and honestly I wish he could meet everyone in the world. He has a unique quirkiness to him, that is so infectious it should be shared with as many as possible. After meeting him you really will see things in ways you have never seen them before.


Story of Hope: Marley

Where is the reset button?  Whenever I would think about my son, I would find myself asking this question.

Marley 8 months

What a journey it has been with my son Marley, who has autism. On St. Patrick’s Day, he turned 12 and I spent the majority of the day in deep reflection over the last 12 years of his life. I remember fondly the day he was born, his gorgeous curls, his first words, his first birthday, and most of all the “beautiful beams of happy” that would flow from him. His personality was infectious.

But this happy trip down memory lane always seems to turn dark when I reflect back on the year everything went silent. I took my son for his yearly checkup and shots shortly after his second birthday. As soon as we got home from the doctor, my son spiked a fever that kept rising and he started to have mild seizures. We later found out he had contracted measles, which befuddled me since the shot he had received was the MMR.

That evening was the scariest night of my whole life. After Marley recovered, I had this sinking feeling something was still wrong with my son. My chatty boy was no longer chatty. My child who could cram anything and everything in his mouth, was now only eating peanut butter sandwiches. Playtime did a complete 180 and went from my son scattering the house with toys to sitting in a chair with his favorite spinning toy, staring blankly with no emotions. It was as if someone had come in and reprogrammed my child.

Confirmation of his diagnosis of autism came about six months later, something that was very difficult for my husband and I to hear. For the next six years, I fretted over what could have caused my son to have autism. I spent nearly all my free time researching about the next “cure” for autism. From 2004 to 2010, I must have experimented with everything I could find on the Internet from chelation therapies, to gluten-free diets, to some rather kooky, off- the-wall therapies. Nothing worked. Nothing changed. My son still had no speech, was still not potty trained, and still was a picky eater. What was I doing wrong? Then one day I met a woman who suggested to me that I look into Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for my son, a therapy I had not heard of or tried yet.

Marley 2 years old

But my hopes were soon crushed because we found out our insurance did not cover ABA therapy. If we were going to want services for our son, it would cost $300 every two weeks. I started working graveyard shifts and selling clothing online to have the money for his therapy. He made such great progress in such a small amount of time. In just one month, he was trying new foods and drinks. But his successful therapy was short lived. Three months later I could not physically do it anymore. For months I continually beat myself up for not being able to provide him with the therapy he badly needed. I knew I couldn’t continue to be so depressed, so I gave up. I stopped looking into therapies, stop scouring the internet for the “next big thing” on autism, and started to focus on just making my son happy.

If my son wanted to only eat peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and spaghetti, well then, so be it. If he loved spending hours on end with printers, fax machines, and looking at the tail pipes (mufflers) of cars, well then that’s what we were going to do. I gave up, but it turned out to be the best thing I had ever done for my son. I came up with “mommy therapies”– what I call my creative ways to teach my son. These “mommy therapies” helped me finally potty train my son at the age of six. My son loves to dance and thoroughly enjoyed listening to music. So I used that as a way to teach him to learn to speak. And by the age of eight he was no longer grunting and pointing at what he desired but was formulating words. But I was still very hard on myself for not doing more.

Then the greatest thing happened to our family. I lost my job. Yep, I lost my job, and my husband did, too.  It couldn’t get any worse than that. For a couple of weeks,  I thought everything was going to come crumbling down around me. It was so hard and stressful contemplating our family’s future.

The only thing I found happiness in was my son. I wanted happiness for him, but was not happy in our current situation. The town we lived in in Kentucky offered no future for my son, educational or otherwise. Maybe we could move? I knew I wanted to be where my son could have the best shot at an independent future and a better educational experience. I wanted to live in an active city, a diverse city, a city with its eyes on the future and technology, but also a city I personally could find peace in. We decided Seattle was the place!

Marley 12yrs old


This was last year. I sent my husband out first to find a job and housing. My son and I drove cross country from Kentucky in what I thought would be the worst road trip ever, but actually turned out to be the most memorable experience I have ever had with my son. My husband found a job in Redmond. Next he found a place for us to live and registered our son for school.

On the second day of school, I attended my son’s school PTA meeting and was surprised to find out after introducing myself that everyone in the room already knew my son and found him to be a very happy and loving young man. I was soon being asked to be the school’s Special Needs Parent Liaison. I had never volunteered in a PTA in my life, but I had always wanted to. I also started blogging on the school’s website about events, activities, meetings and resources available in Redmond and surrounding King County.

Posting about a training workshop is where I first found out about Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy. Since I was a newbie to the area, there were so many questions that I had about available resources and services in the area. I quickly joined WAAA’s Facebook group and was soon inundated with so much helpful information. WAAA advocate Trish Thrush has been my go-to person. We have had some small hurdles since arriving here with insurance, trying to get evaluations, dealing with  the state Health Care Authority (HCA), to trying to secure ABA therapy, and I found WAAA to be very helpful in figuring all the information out. But it didn’t stop there, Trish helped me during a recent crisis I was having with my son’s IEP meeting and dealing with the powers that be in the school district. Thanks to her advice, our son’s IEP this year went off without a problem. Our family is so fortunate to have found such a great advocacy group and a great advocate in Trish Thrush.

My son’s school is wonderful and he has made many friends this year (something he has never experienced before). He is making great strides and is officially learning to read. In just the small amount of time that we have been in Washington, he has gone from reading three words to over 40 words. He heads off to middle school next year and I am confident that he will continue to be successful.

Marley and MeSo where is the reset button? Nowadays I only think about this question because I wish I had not spent so many years worrying, fretting, and wasting time and money on all those therapies and so called “cures for autism.”  I am not focusing on a “do-over” anymore. I have found my happiness. Everything is still not a bed of roses by a long shot and I know the years ahead advocating and teaching my son to advocate for himself will be hard.

I just want to share with other parents who read my journey, not to waste time worrying about causes and cures. My advice to others is to share your experience, and in turn learn from others and their experiences with disabilities. I know now, through advocacy, the more we create a greater understanding and acceptance for our sons/ daughters, the happier and more successful our children will be in the future.

Please if you are looking for answers and don’t know where to find them, contact WAAA. There were founded in 2007, and exists to remove barriers to timely access to evidence based treatment, effective education programs,  sustainable community based services and supports for children and adults statewide.

Their mission is to dramatically improve access to autism insurance benefits and effective services in schools and communities regardless of personal financial background.

Their Vision:

  • Remove barriers to insurance coverage of effective autism treatment in the state of Washington
  • Promote Clinical Practice Guidelines for evidence based treatment of autism
  • Promote an adequate network of healthcare providers (including behavioral and allied health treatments) with bonafide autism experience statewide, regardless of funding source (Medicaid, private insurance)
  • Provide support, guidance, and resources to families and professionals towards making effective autism treatment and socially significant habilitative programs attainable statewide

– See more at: http://www.washingtonautismadvocacy.org


Marley is a Fifth Grader ~ First Day of School ~ Redmond Elementary

Well this last Tuesday was the first day of school for Marley. Unlike Kentucky, on the West Coast students start at various times but usually in the month of September. I always like schools starting in September, thats how I remember it was when I went to school and it means a kid can enjoy a more of summer, but I wouldn’t have mind them start in August this year, since Marley has been out of school since March 31. I wanna give props to all those homeschooling parents. I don’t know how you do it. Having to be Marley’s teacher on top of mother, just about did me in.

So Tuesday little man went into the 5th Grade. I have a 5th grader, it makes me feel so old to say that, but I am forty so I guess it is ok. Marley is attending Redmond Elementary this year. I am so grateful we get to send him to this school. Lake Washington School district is one of the best in Washington, and I have a pretty good feeling Marley is going to love this school as much as he did Rosa Parks. Redmond El has a very diverse student population, which is similar to his previous school which is always a major plus. The school is very close to the apartment, so if I wanted to walk with Marley and then go to the park I could. Oh and the best is the school start time. Marley used to have to get up at 6:00 in the morning for school because he road the bus. Now he is up at 8:00 to be at school by 8:45, I really like the time change, it is alot easier on me too!! The school has alot of parent involvement, PTA mothers were very welcoming to me last week, and Marleys Special Education teacher and regular classroom teachers are great. I actually heard from a parent at the PTA meeting that she thought her son might be in Marleys class. When I confirmed the both had same teacher, she told me that Mrs. Hudspeth actually took it upon herself to read books about Autism, I think one was, A Cat who Has Autism. I was blown away that she would introduce Marley to the class and vice versa to help make the transition of meeting new classmates go smoother. Here are some of the pics of Marley’s official first day!!