It was 1978, I had just returned from a 16 week maternity leave after setting up the first elementary autism public school program in Sacramento Unified School District three years previously. I had trained a young lady to take over my position while on leave & when I returned would soon be starting the high school program for the district & she would continue at the elementary school.
We had been told that due to Proposition 13, there would be no summer programs for our children with autism. All I could think of, back then, was all the work we had done to get our students functioning at the current level & now skills would be lost & families devastated, scrambling to find some way to keep their sons & daughters in a safe environment for summer.
I guess it started then, my “Well I will just start my own program” attitude. I contacted my rabbi friend at Temple B’nai Israel. He had space he was willing to provide me & also donated insurance to cover the program. I was willing to work for free as well as my co-teacher & so we let the families know that we would provide a 4 week summer program at no cost to them. The only thing they had to do was get their son or daughter to the program. We held our first week of program with great success with 6 students.
I don’t remember how Michael McBride from the Sacramento Union Newspaper found out, but we were all over the July 17, 1978 paper, “Prop. 13 doesn’t stop them”. The reporter also contacted Sacramento Unified School District to get their take on our solution to their problem & the district contacted me immediately. The Director of Special Education asked that I bring the program back into the district. The remainder of the summer session was held on our school sites & our students continued to flourish.
By the way, my “I will just start my own school” actually started when I was in college and my father would drive me through the streets of San Francisco, on school recesses, asking me if I thought certain buildings we would pass by, would make a good school location. He encourage me to dream, to think anything was possible. He believed in me.