There are a number of locally familiar names in a long, glowing feature in the Aug. 1 New York Times about how Madison's public schools have taken the isolation out of autism for many district students. Garner Moss, son of School Board Vice President Beth Moss, is at the center of the story, which focuses on his involvement with his classmates in school at James Madison Memorial and in extracurricular activities like cross country and swimming. Garner and Beth Moss are at the heart of the story; Beth Moss' fellow school board member Marj Passman and the district's director of special education services, John Harper, are also quoted.
In addition to sketching a warm portrait of Garner, the story describes how the Moss family left Tennessee to come to Madison specifically because the schools here have an exceptional national reputation for inclusive education for children with autism. Garner is currently a junior in high school and has been flourishing in Madison schools (Muir for elementary school and Jefferson for middle school) since the family arrived in the district following third grade, according to his mom. I wrote about another, highly successful Muir graduate, Christopher Xu, who has Asperger's Syndrome (which is related to autism) a couple of months ago. Christopher, an enormously gifted young mathematician, has also blossomed with the help of his family and some exceptional teachers in the Madison school district.
When reached during a family vacation in Colorado this morning, Moss said she had just picked up the New York Times and found it both "strange" and "gratifying" to see her family the focus of the story.
"For Madison to have this kind of national reputation for doing it right with kids with autism is exciting," Moss said.
"The emphasis on helping kids like Garner by allowing them to be included is really important. We're so aware that his life is going to be so much better than it would have been if he had grown up somewhere else, or if he had been born 30 years ago. We fully expect him to have a paying job, to be able to live independently and to have hobbies or interests in things like running or swimming. And, he's been so happy with his friends. You know, that generation of children is so accepting. It gives me great hope for the future," she added.