Away He Goes

Mason’s Crotched Mountain School chapter is coming to a close. What’s next? A whole new volume of adventures!

Mason and Travis sat in the bleachers, eating their hot dogs, and watching the New Hampshire Fisher Cats do battle with the Bowie Baysox on a bright June day. Mason and over 30 of his peers from Crotched Mountain School had caravanned from Greenfield to Manchester to take in the game for “Education Day,” a promotion geared specifically towards local schools.

The stadium was packed out. Kids of all ages flooded the concourse and lines for popcorn stretched out to meet the lines for pretzels which then intersected with the lines for fried dough and hot dogs, forming a complex, impenetrable network of humanity.

Amidst the bedlam Mason took in the game–and this was no small feat. A young man with limited communication and an autism diagnosis, Mason is not a fan of sensory overload. In class, where Travis is his teacher, he likes to keep to himself, occupying the dedicated “Mason nook,” where he works on his academic work and watches his favorite videos on his tablet.

This sojourn to the baseball stadium was a first for Mason as a student at Crotched Mountain School; in fact, it would have been unheard of a few years ago. Before, when Mason would feel overwhelmed by his surroundings, he might run away or pinch his staff as a means of communicating his unease.

Not today. No pinching, no taking off, just two guys munching on ballpark franks, watching the Fisher Cats try to dig out of a 5-0 hole (they made it interesting but fell 7-5).

But Mason’s biggest and most exciting adventure will be coming in a couple of short months–when he departs Crotched Mountain School and goes back to his local school district.

And nothing even comes close.

THE PEOPLE PERSON

Mason arrived at Crotched Mountain School in 2014 for the same reason all students come to Greenfield–their local school is just unable to provide the needed resources to properly serve them. For Mason, challenging behaviors were what prompted his transition to day schooling at Crotched Mountain and his initial time in his new environment were marked with several aggressions a day.

Over time, however, Mason settled into his new school and his new schedule, which stabilized his surroundings and allowed him to move past his behaviors and showcase an entirely new side of physical interaction with his staff and teachers–namely, hugging.

Mason loves to hug. He loves giving high-fives. Basically, he just loves people.

“He has grown to be a completely different kid than the one we saw when he first got here,” says Meagan, his Student Services Coordinator. “He’s always laughing, always in a good mood, and just super-affectionate.”

Mason loves to hug. He loves giving high-fives. Basically, he just loves people.

As Mason’s team began to lay the groundwork for his move back to his home school they helped him focus primarily on his socialization skills, particularly working in a group setting with his peers.

This meant stuff work on the big table in the middle of the class where the students could come together to do their school assignments (versus at their own desks) and working on collaborative task like art projects.

Over time Mason’s socialization grew. Sensitive to noise and too much activity, he was never a big fan of music class but has since come to enjoy it, especially when the day calls for dancing. Vocational experiences have recently been introduced to Mason and he’s started a small job going to cash checks at finance, which allows him to make a little money to buy lollipops (his favorite).

A few Fridays ago, Travis led the weekly cooking class with his students. Mason, a picky eater, had never joined in with his peers to eat the result of their culinary efforts (not even when they made yogurt parfaits or smoothies or English muffin pizzas!). So Travis brought in the heavy artillery: his fryer from home. The project? Homemade potato chips. The boys cleaned and helped peel the potatoes and Travis cut them up and dropped them in the fryer. A little while later, the chips were done, warm and golden brown, and the class sat together to partake and Mason, for the first time, joined his peers and ate.

“He ate potato chips with us and that felt like the biggest win of the year,” Travis says.

THE RETURN

Mason’s departure from Crotched Mountain School was initiated in November. Following observations and evaluations, the teams from Crotched Mountain Mason’s local school district recognized that he was ready to take the next big step–a step back home to his own school.

“Mason deserves to have that education experience in his home community,” says Meagan. “He came to Crotched Mountain for a reason, and now it’s time for him to go back. He’s going to do great there. I know it. He’s going to be amazing. I’m so excited for him”

To make the transition as smooth as possible, Mason’s new school support staff have trained with the Crotched Mountain staff. Mason has a membership at his local Y to help him stay active. He’s gone to tour his new school, went in for lunch, even attended a school assembly. And when the new school year begins, Mason’s Crotched Mountain journey will be complete.

“And that’s the goal of special education,” Meagan says. “We are trying to get these kids to the least restrictive environment possible. And if that’s not here anymore, that’s fine. We’ve helped with the behaviors and worked on his academic and his therapeutic goals. Now we’re going to wind him up and let him go.”

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