This past Thanksgiving break is when he stopped walking and started his rapid decline, so we haven't sent him back since then, because he was so terribly sick. A teacher from his school comes to our house an hour a day, and that seemed to be working until last week when he started screaming "OUTSIDE! OUTSIDE!" at her. Like us, she was mostly just overjoyed to hear him talk. Later we figured out that what he was trying to tell her is that he wanted to go to school outside our house. He verified that by screaming the word SCHOOL at me for an entire day later that week. It was loud and frustrating and totally awesome.
Our first trial run was the "job fair", an exhibit the school district holds annually, in which the special education kids get to practice job skills that they might be qualified for. At first I was kinda like, hey, isn't this a little insulting, with the silverware rolling, shelf-stocking and other menial tasks, but then I watched 70 special teenagers go from table to table, learning these skills and getting so excited when the timer beeped and the teacher would hand them a prize ribbon or medal. Richy had the best time. He was so excited to see his friends, and they were yelling his name and making little excited noises. He had to have a lot of prompting to get a can from the table to the shelf, but once he got started he was so proud of himself. He earned 3 medals, which he wore for days.
The next day we drove up to his school to try an hour or so. I was so touched that every teacher we saw knew his name and was thrilled to see him. It's hard to send a nonverbal kid to school and to trust that he's known and understood and loved. I have total confidence now, though, after seeing teachers who don't even have classes with him cry out of happiness that he's doing so well. We spent an hour in his classroom, and he played the visiting rockstar, only participating in activities that he liked and snubbing the other choices. He didn't talk for them, but he did a lot of jumping and chuckling, and more than one teacher and administrator dropped in to tell me that they had been praying for him and planned to keep it up.
So we're going to give it a shot. His energy level is super high but he doesn't understand endurance, so he still gets really tired after a little while. Starting next week (this is spring break), we're going to send him on Tuesday and Thursday and see how he does.
It's hard to believe, still, that he is almost back to normal and in some ways, better than normal. It's starting to get super happy, though. I'm thinking about doing some jumping and chuckling myself.