Hat Trick

Pennies From Heaven's Couch Cushions

Apologies for not posting anything yesterday. And apologies for that apology, because I bet you didn't even notice and quite possibly your life continued on just fine despite my lack of posting. Regardless, I had an excuse: Terminal Brain Fog.

For example, I spent most of the day writing and rewriting the same 9-word sentence. Over and over again. Nine words and then BLAMMO, headfirst into writer's block and some weird wrastling with the Passive Voice and then some Dangling Modifiers were all, "you wanna go at it? let's go at it. bitch."

And then I spent -- no lie -- 20 solid minutes ransacking my bathroom top to bottom because I could not find my tinted moisturizer.

Here's a hint as to how THAT went:


(Dear Microsoft: MS Paint Goggles. Could totally be your iPod. My gift to you.)

The real problem is that right now, the Biggest Thing going on -- exactly the sort of Big Thing I've come to depend on this blog community to help me ramble through and work out and get advice on -- is also one of those Very Difficult To Write About Things, because my intentions could very easily be misunderstood. Because it's tangentially about money. Stupid, tacky money.

Basically...would you, my fellow special-needs parents or anyone who has ever loved the spit out of a special-needs kid, ever knowingly get in over your head financially to pay for something, if you thought it was the best something for your child?

Noah's OT camp is officially over now. We saw HUGE improvements in these short seven weeks. Huge, noticeable improvements. We also saw just how much work there is left to be done, and the glaring gaps in his IEP. Stuff that the school district is just not concerned about, but of course, we are. So I naturally started inquiring about supplemental services provided by the agency that ran the camp. There were, thankfully, quite a few options. We were close to settling on a Saturday morning group plus maybe some one-on-one OT -- completely disregarding the agency's preschool because it was in the afternoon, which is when we were told Noah would attend the public school.

And then on Thursday we received his official classroom assignment. Surprise! It's in the morning.

By Friday, the last day of camp, we had an observation with the private preschool set up and an application in our hands and a spot tentatively reserved -- the last spot, of course, WHAT ARE THE ODDS -- because the occupational therapists who worked with him this summer told the preschool director that Noah absolutely needed that spot, that it would be the perfect, perfect place for him. Eight kids total, half of which attend district programs in the morning, over half of the graduates from last year are moving back into the mainstream this fall. Speech therapy, occupational therapy, parent support and counseling, customized treatment plans.

By Friday night, Jason and I were absolutely sick with misery, because of the numbers. The school is expensive. I mean, of course it is. It is more than twice what we budgeted for, back when we planned to send Noah to Montessori. (Oh! Funny story! We talked to them awhile back about whether they had many kids who also attended <name of the district's special needs preschool program> and kids with SPD/SID and they were all, "Hmm? We've never heard of any of that stuff!" and we were all, "Okay, thanks, bye!")

(Is that funny? Probably more like rage-inducing. I sometimes get those two mixed up.)

I mean, we're okay. We're really, probably, more than okay.  Especially when you go by the "new okay." The "recession okay." We did get nailed pretty hard this year with medical bills because our insurance company is a jackhole, and taxes because we suck at math, and a ton of house-related crap because being a grown-up is just one big endless sucking jackhole. And just when we feel like we've dug our way out and can treat ourselves to nice things like Macbooks and fancy tinted moisturizers and a hotel room for our anniversary, our dog up and eats fucking fertilizer for lunch.

(Aaaaaand this is why I mentioned "intentions." Because I seriously -- oh my God -- do not want it to sound like I'm hinting around for money. I'm not. And I know it's easy to judge someone's finances from the sidelines [u could afford to stay home with ur baybee if u stopped buying bronzer selfish whoor!]. [VARIATION: how dare u complain don't u no how blessed u are i don't even have cheekbones for bronzer selfish whooooor!] And  now I'm tempted to delete this entry all together. Maybe I still will. Stay tuned, alternative publishing universe!)

(But then I think...well, what if someone out there is looking at a gigantic pile of money RIGHT THIS SECOND and wishing there was a Deserving Child to give it to, like an orphan being raised by a blacksmith, who dreams of college and betterment and Estella Havisham! Or maybe the son of a blogger, who dreams of choo-choo trains and grilled cheese and Olivia the Pig. Who am I to stand in the way of their good deed? What if, in the absence of a Deserving Child, they spend it all on hookers and grape jelly?)

(But THEN I think that the orphan is probably way more Deserving, honestly, and really, if you have a pile of money that you really don't know what to do with it's better to look for reputable charities than random orphans who can end up being totally fucking ungrateful.)

ANYWAY. We just don't know what the right choice is here. We're mostly afraid of making the WRONG choice. So we go over it again and again, and the voicemails from the school are piling up, asking if we've mailed in the application yet. If we use the last bit of money we have in our savings, plus maybe some money back from refinancing our mortgage...if we cut back on all sorts of things (hello! goodbye, Sephora!)...if we put some of it on the credit card...if we apply for financial aid... But of course, we have to commit to the school and pay deposits and half the tuition BEFORE the financial aid decision would be finalized, and then I think about our roof and the sound the garbage disposal keeps making and we need to replace the basement carpet (EDITED TO ADD: These were stupid examples. Stupid! Of course I'm not going to keep him out of the school because fucking carpet. I was trying to illustrate that there would simply be no money left for unexpected emergencies but neglected to list anything resembling an actual, you know, EMERGENCY. Sorry.) I worry we'd be spending all year a mere hair's breadth away from financial disaster. I worry about paying for a whole other year of preschool NEXT year. And then Ezra's school the year after THAT. I worry that our original, cheaper plan would really be enough and I am almost annoyed by this stupid dangling carrot.

But then.


What if? What if we do? What if we don't?



I think you should write a book, you are BRILLIANT. And yes, I *was* hyperventilating a bit yesterday with the lack of posting. Send Noah to the school, the best time to act is NOW.


Amalah, I love reading your blog. It often makes me laugh out loud and to appreciate my own two boys. You've given me a lot of joy over the years for nothing so if you set up a Paypal account I'd be more than happy to pop a bit of money in there to help your gorgeous boy. To my thinking, I pay for a magazines that I don't enjoy half as much as I enjoy your blog so you're still a bargain!


It sucks because I'm sure there are dozens of other factors both for and against that are pulling you guys in all sorts of directions. Honestly if it were me, the guilt would drive me (first) INSANE and (next) to pay for the school but don't loose sight that you guys know the situation best and will no doubt do the best thing for Noah and your family. If you're not comfortable with the all or nothing approach try the middle ground this year and if Noah's struggling you'll have the chance to enroll him next year. It might not be a perfect scenario but at least you'll be confident that it's the best thing for him.
But probably don't take my advice because I have too many stars in my eyes and just want you to be my best friend.


Amy- Believe in yourself; you'll know what to do. Take care.


I'm the mother of a 3 1/2 year old boy with special needs. A year ago I was reading through your archives and had to double check I was reading about Noah, and not in fact my own child. Because of you and Noah I stopped doubting myself over my concerns, and realized my son had legitimate needs.

I don't know you, I've been a lurker on this blog for awhile, but I feel a connection with you (not in a creepy way, I promise!). I know the decision is all yours, but the fact is you have an opportunity to help Noah. An opportunity that many of us with special needs kids can only for. I would love to see the amount of awesome Noah will receive from this program.

For me a donation to help Noah is the best way I can think of to say thank you for sharing his story.


If I had extra money. Or even a job. I would give it to you for this. Not too useful, I know. But maybe someone else reading, someone who was at Google in 2000 for example, maybe they can give it you.


Absolutely he should go to the school. And I would like to help out. And I think others would too. I get a lot of joy EVERY DAY out of this blog and your other columns. Besides my little girl, it's safe to say that pretty much only coffee...well, coffee and the occasional cocktail...give me joy EVERY DAY, and you know they cost me money EVERY TIME! None of us have a lot -- but I bet a lot of us have a little. Maybe a related blogger could set up a PayPal site on your behalf & you could just, you know, mention it to us. I hope you do. But most of all I wish you the brightest future of all for your family.


As a teacher (albeit secondary ed), I'm wary of "special" programs that "work wonders" and know that the public schools are often underrated.

That said.

As you know: Early intervention is everything.

Also known: This program works for him.

Thirdly: You beat yourself up mercilessly for having him in that school that wasn't working for him when you had no way of knowing it wouldn't. How much would you beat yourself up when he's 17 sullen and teenagery and you wonder if it's because you didn't put him in this preschool?

But whatever you decide is fine. I suspect you know you'll do it or you wouldn't have opened yourself up for the Selfish Bi-ach comments if you didn't.

Also -- for the "get a job" folks: writing for Alphamom and MamaPop IS a job.


We haven't gone into debt for it, but totally have spent a huge chunk of change in the 3-5 years on OT/PT/music and hippotherapy and honestly looking back I would've spent twice as much if I knew how much of a difference it would make for her. My theory with dyspraxia is that repetition is everything and offering him constant experiences tailored to him is priceless in giving him the confidence that will ease some of the other ways he copes now.
We were leaving horse camp ($$$) today and she shouted goodbye to another camper by name across the parking lot of her own accord and I fell over dead and then tried not to cry because this was the kid who wouldn't talk to anyone who wasn't an adult. Should probably go write in my own damn blog, but I would 110% go for it if I were you.


I too have a kid who has special needs so I know the expense. Trust me. He is 5 and is doing so well now but I would give up EVERYTHING I have bought and every extra penny we have had the past 3 years if it meant that he wouldn't have had 3 years of struggle and could have received help earlier. I mean everything.

Put Noah in the school. Cutting corners and living without the non-essentials sucks (God do I miss Sephora and going out to dinner and buying whatever I wanted) but it is so worth it to see your child break free of the "thing" that has been holding him back. Trust me.


If the school district cannot provide adequate services for a child, then it is required to pay for services rendered somewhere else! The supreme court just ruled on this recently. You should send Noah to the better school and bill the district.

When my son was in a special ed. preschool the school district paid for it. Now, however, he apparently doesn't qualify for services (he has tested out). He clearly needs help though. We are currently having him tested by a neuro-psychologist. I believe that if he has a diagnosis (or two) the district has to reinstate the IEP. I feel for you, and I believe you will make the right decision. My in-laws have an offer on the table to assist financially in any way for my son. Even if that means private tuition. It is very generous of them but I don't know if I could take them up on it. Good luck. You are not alone! It shouldn't be so difficult.


Hey-yo! Married, no kids, single income and college debt is continuing to accumulate because one bachelors isn't enough for me! And I get it - except what we're struggling through is for ME ME ME! and not a child, but still. Noted. We delay things like getting our leaky roof fixed because someday this 2nd degree will be worth it? I'll be working 40 hours again someday and we'll be able to afford getting it fixed and the attic de-smelled. Anyway, we prioritize. And yes, I still insist on my Aveeno body products and fancy dog and cat food. Priorities!

For what it's worth, I agree with other readers. Do a little calculation, multiply your average number of readers (you have some sort of statisticy thing that tells you that sort of stuff, right?) by 5. 5 dollars - and that's saying that every reader would give you $5. Which they wouldn't. Some would be offended (pssssht). But others would LOVE to help and would probably give even a little more than 5. See where that gets you and consider setting up a PayPal button. Also! Whore this page up the wazoo! I don't care if I see ads all over the place because I know it's helping a wonderful family. And I'm sure others would agree. Anyway. You have this resource with what I'm sure are tons of readers (maybe even a Daddy Warbucks out there??) so you should use it! Why not try?


Do it. And then remind us to click on your ads and send you all our samples of tinted moisterizer. We'll all help in as many ways as the internet allows us. We understand. Well, at least all of us who can spell do. ;)


I am the mom of a special needs child. After the first year and paying for all the therapy I went back to work as a teacher full time. We could scrape by without it, but I get such anxiety over money and debt I knew it would be a bigger strain on our marriage if I didn't. It depends on you and Jason. I do think in this economy it is risky.

One of the first pearls of wisdom I was given after my son was diagnosed was that there will never be enough time or money to do all that will "benefit" him. To let go of the guilt of that. It often helps me to remember this and just be at home, being his mom, teaching him hide and seek and making goofy animal sounds. It does sound like this would be a long day for Noah and would really cut down on the time he has with his brother.

I don't know if I have helped, but I do know that 2 1/2 years into this I am looking to simplify and just enjoy each day instead of run run run and feel more and more guilt.

Good luck!


Amy, Follow your gut, you will never regret it. He's worth being on the brink of financial diaster, it will all work out, trust me, been there done that.



I'm totally a lurker...I read a ton of blogs and NEVER comment but this post of yours tugged at my heart. When I finished reading it I immediately said, out loud, "DO IT!" Put Noah in the expensive school and to hell with the rest...also, if people want to help, let them! I feel like it would be a PRIVILEDGE to help your family, if even in my small, insignificant way :)


We have a 36-year-old daughter who is without a job at the moment. We are supporting her. She is "identified gifted" and has ALWAYS marched to the proverbial "different drummer." So ISSUES...not like Noah...but still. PayPal. We are a bit strapped money-wise at the moment (see above), but we would send you what we can. We're both psychologists and educators. Get Noah what he needs. You will never regret it. And we love Ezra, too.


Mel can suck it! Sorry, I just had to say that. Anyway you are in a really tough situation. I would love to give you a donation because I have read you for years, and you got me through a horrendous six months of pumping because my kid and I failed breastfeeding. Poor, poor Amalah. But lucky, lucky Noah to have such a caring and concerned mama!


I just noticed your latest tweet. Let's face it, about once a week you are posting about some money woes. Then you post about all the things that you are buying or the latest project at your house. It is time to prioritize. Maybe that means picking up another freelance gig or going to work as an editor at a boring magazine or newspaper. Most people do not LOVE their job, that is why it is called work.


Please add the Paypal button so that I can stop spending money on grape jelly. Really, I want to do this for Noah.


Dude, this isn't deciding whether you should fork over the money for him to go to Fancy Liberal Arts College vs. a truly decent state school. At that stage of the game, you have to be much more protective of yourself, your finances and realize that it's up to him.

At this point, however, your decision could impact whether you're going to have the freedom to make that decision later on.

My opinion, for what it's worth, is that if you can see yourself recovering from the cost setback in enough time to prevent any true, long-term damage to your finances (i.e., your ability to retire), then you should do it. If you can't, then seek out alternative solutions.

My heart is with you. Being a parent is so very, very hard. Much love to you.


Oh, Amy, my heart goes out to you. We have had to make similar decisions, albeit on a much smaller scale. There is no simple answer. A decade ago -- hell, 5 years ago, I would have comfortably counseled piling up debt and stretching your resources. Right now? It's a real concern, to be without a cusion. At the same time, this is a pivotal period in Noah's life. Concerted effort now could very well put him onto a path where he no longer needs support.

Wow, that was unhelpful. I guess all I have to offer is sympathy and understanding. (Oh, and I'd also chip in $20 if you were to accept donations. Keep in mind that I wouldn't be giving money to *you*, but to Noah, who I've come to love in that peculiar internet way.)


Do it. Enroll him.

I agree with the PP who said the worst that can happen is that you have to find "paying" work.

At any moment you can type "I need a job" and will get a gazillion offers b/c you are so awesome. Really.


And your Paypal address is...?!?!?!

Seriously, sometimes you just have to realize that there's a difference between "want" and "need". As in, I "want" a new handbag, but I "need" to read Amalah's blog every day in order to get through the daily drivel. And Noah NEEDS this school. Let us help. Please?


I don't have a child, and am constantly teetering on the edge of financial ruin, and since I'm comment number eleventy-hundred no one may ever see this, but my opinion is this: go for it. You may not have this chance with Noah again. If you can do it, do it. I think you'll be okay. Maybe each reader can send a dollar!

Good luck. :)


My suggestion -- get a good private assessment from the OT place, call another IEP meeting and insist your school district provide additional services.


Okay, I didn't read all the other comments before I opened my word hole. Anyway, it looks like a lot of us want to give back to you for making us laugh and feel like we're a small part of the big family you've made here on the internet. I'm unemployed, and I would give money to your paypal account, just because I think it's the right thing to do. A friend - we all consider you a friend (no we're NOT STALKERS - needs help, you help her. That's the way it is.

Maybe you can raffle something fun? Everyone who contributes $$ gets a ticket, and then you draw for the fun thing? Like a Sephora gift cert or something. That removes the squickiness factor, right?


Do it, do it, do it. Education is worth it, especially the education Noah would receive there.

I am also a firm believer in fate and the fact that Noah's school just happens to be in the morning, while you were able to secure the LAST spot in the preschool - that just screams fate to me. Noah was meant to go.

(((hugs))) It sounds perfect for him.


Do it. Put him in the new school. Look at how much they've helped him in just SEVEN WEEKS of camp. Imagine a whole YEAR's worth of that kind of improvement. Think of the awesome groundwork that will give him for next year, and the next. There's no time but now to give that to him. (No day but today, to perhaps put it in your rent-head lingo. *wink*)

Believe me, I GET money woes. I know how stressful it is to close your eyes and step off the ledge of financial security for something you feel you must do. But you can, and you will, make it through. You still have the option of financial aid, too! Could you sell off any of your pretty but no longer needed things for some extra income? Ask family and friends for contributions to Noah's school fund as birthday and holiday gifts? Turn DCFoodies pro somehow?


I think you have to do it. The other stuff can wait, but this can't.


Listen. I know it is easy for people to say "listen to your gut" and "do what is best for Noah". I say, do what is best for your FAMILY. Which, of course, includes Noah.

And what is worrisome is when you use the phrase "would you......ever knowingly get in over your head financially to pay for something, if you thought it was the best something for your child? "
And when you say "get in over your head financially" I cannot help but say Put On The Brakes.

And you have referred to your fund as an emergency fund. Is this an emergency?

And you had very, very valid concerns about Noah being in school ALL day and yes, he is still little. There is a great chance that being in school will just wear the little guy OUT. Or maybe not.

I only say all of these things for you to think about. Nothing more. Really. Truly, none of us commenting can really give you advice - only you and Jason know the real numbers of what is going on here.

It is easy for folks to say "listen to your gut". But that gut needs to EAT. And needs a place to LIVE. I, for one, would not judge if you decided to hold off on the expensive option for now.


If you would consider going into debt for his college education, then maybe it also makes sense to consider taking on debt for this education?

Good luck w/ your decision making.


Go with your gut. I know money is a huuuuuuuuge thing to grapple with and those emergencies (hello, Ceiba!) are scary and suck the money out from nowhere (umm, rambling)...but I think you should put Noah in the school Pay the deposit, pay half the tuition and just suck it up because you know it's right for Noah. You did ask for my opinion, didn't you? (lol) I'm sorry! I know that this is HUGE. Whatever decision you make will be the right one.


If money were not a factor, if the only factor was Noah's betterment - what would your decision be? Listen to your gut, your intution, the little voice in the back of your head. That voice is always right.

Then, after you make that decision, you brainstorm on how to make that work. PayPal? Maybe (I'd kick in at least some Philosophy comprable $$). Whoooring (love it) yourself out to beauty websites to keep you in samples? Part time work outside of the home? Possibly.

Here's how I see it; I'm probably not able to have children; and now that I've made the decision that by 40, if it doesn't happen naturally (and I'm 35 & single to boot), that I'll do whatever - WHATEVER - it takes to adopt a child. Dunkin instead of Starbucks - done. Drugstore and not department store - also done.

Between your immediate family, your extended family, and your internet family, and your own talent and resources, you will figure it out.

And if you care to rent out Ez for NOMs, you will make a bundle. Just sayin'.

Best of luck - your readers will root and support you in whatever you decide.


Sounds like a "jump and the net will appear" type of thing to me. Have faith.


I love your blog, lets start from that.. I know you hear this all the time. But let me tell you, should put up your pay pal button again and let heters hate, but at least you will have the money to make the desicion. I don't want to preach you about money.. but I start leasining to Dave Ramsey last year and make all this money isues better to deal with and also we deal WAY better with money now. It had help me lots. Pray and think and meditate and whatever you do but everything will be ok. I just know it.


It sounds like you've done more than enough research to know if this is truly beneficial to your child, and you seem to know it is.
There are a lot of "extras" we tend to get comfortable. A lovely
(owned) homes in an expensive suburbia, for example. I know it sounds drastic and I'm not recommending you randomly sell your home, but yeah. You definitely have the money if you chose to use it wisely.


I don't know...i just read your comment, and all day in school is a lot for a kid his age. A LOT. he will be in school all day for most of the next years of his life. A hard sell always seems to hide something. Not that this is helping you decide, this is a toughy. Luckily, you are smart in these matters.


No answers from me, just the reassurance that I'm pulling for you and know exactly how stressful it is to worry about money and whether or not you are able to do enough for your child.

No matter what happens, Noah is a very lucky to have parents like y'all.


The money situation will work itself out. Do what's best for your family. If you don't, you'll likely regret it for a very long time.


Also, I've never used a garbage disposal (and never even seen one until I went to California!), so I know you can live without it.


And one more thing....if you set up the pay pal, I'd kick a ten spot your way. It's the least I can for the pleasure I get from reading your blog.



Maybe it's time to go back to work. Or, take in 2-3 kids during the day as daycare/babysitting. Sell stuff on Craigslist. Take on a job on the weekends when your husband is home to take care of the boys. Or, get a job with the school in exchange for reduced tuition.


Well, shit.

If you can eek it out for a year, I would do it. We lived in that way too tight realm for a couple of years (to put my son in private school) and we finally had to call it quits this year for many reasons, BUT the progress Noah could make in a year of really great programs might make it a non-issue next year. Next year the district's offerings might be enough.


Delurking to say I'm not going to commit one way or another because I don't know how much you earn, how much your mortgage payments are, how much the school costs etc. I would say that you need to look at your income and figure out how much of it goes to the mortgage, basic groceries, and health insurance. Those, to me, are the absolutes that are non-negotiable. Anything left over can be plowed into the preschool, and then you can look at how much else you need, but if you can't afford to feed Noah, no amount of private schooling will be worth it.(I know you're not at that point, which is part of what makes it so hard - because you can just! Almost! Nearly-but-not-quite! afford it.)

With regards to the savings issue - yes, you need to have a contingency plan in case Jason loses his job (you know this, I know), but in this economy the reality of that might be talking to your parents or in-laws and seeing if they could help with those absolutes for a couple months until either of you found work. It's not an ideal situation, but unfortunately, nothing is. As others have said, there will never be enough money. Sit down and look at the figures; talk to each other, talk to your families, talk to a financial planner if possible. Make sure you can have a roof over your heads, food on the table, and medical care and then do what your gut tells you.

The anxiety is an important issue, too, but it will be there no matter which choice you make. If you send him to the school, you'll worry about how you're so incredibly poor, and you won't be able to make your payments, and you'll lose your house and have to live on the streets and Noah will have to show off his vocabulary to passing strangers in exchange for quarters that will not be enough to feed you and ohmygod, you're all going to die. If you don't send him to the school, you'll worry about how he's not socialising enough, and the teachers aren't nurturing him and he's going to stop talking altogether and then he won't have any friends and he'll be a total outcast and he'll grow up to be a serial killer and he'll shoot you all and ohmygod, you're all going to die.

Fun prospect, huh? My point is that even if you have a perfectly good reason to worry, anxiety will take that reason and turn it into batshit-crazy-the-end-is-nigh thoughts. Try to put aside the anxiety when making the decision (not that it's not legitimate, because it is, but try not to make it the deciding factor unless you know it will significantly detrimentally affect you and your family).

Ok, essay over. Know that whatever you choose, you have the love and support of a whole lot of people across the internet. Noah is an amazing kid, and I'm sure pre-school or not, he's going to grow up to be amazing as well.


Holy shit, that was longer than I realized. If you can't be bothered reading it all, it essentially says Noah = Awesome. The end.


Woman, put the faffing Paypal button back up! Do it! You may never know if sending him/not sending him was the right decision, but don't let your feelings about the tip jar make that decision for you.

So, march! Off you go -- do it now! :D



i must have checked in 5+ times yesterday. hells bells, girl -- i really needed a laugh, too.

uhm, i will give noah money! your transparency is rare and i'd love to show my appreciation...

Amanda  in AK

I think it's time to put up the PayPal button - when you're able you can pay it forward. Right now it can be your turn to accept a little help from teh internets.


I agree with 'She Likes Purple'. I would totally donate a few extra bucks to help out Noah. At the risk of sounding all creepy like an internet stalker or something, I have to say that you have helped me so much through my pregnancy and the first year of my child's life. It's hard to transition to becoming a mom. Your blog made it easier/less lonely, not to mention that your blog is damn funny!
It would be great to be able to give a little back to you and Noah.


A garbage disposal breaking IS an emergency. It backs up your entire kitchen sink, stinking, and prevents you from having a usable kitchen sink. Yes, girl, it is an emergency. Don't belittle your concerns. It's all there in your head and it's all important.

Yes, Noah's education is important. So is Ezra. So are you. So is your husband. Do what's right for your whole family. Good luck.


been there w/my 7 yo. paid for 2 summers at Baltimore Lab out of our home equity line because he needed it. unfortunately the year tuition is something like $40k, and being more than half of our income that was out. but if you can swing it, do it. remember you don't have to do it "forever"--one year may be enough. i thought sam would need that level forever, and honestly he is doing better in a regular public school now than he did in his 2nd summer at lab.


Late to the party and a lurker to boot.

(But a long-time lurker who has lurked since before Noah and commented on breast-feeding posts -- in a nice way).

Re: would you, my fellow special-needs parents or anyone who has ever loved the spit out of a special-needs kid, ever knowingly get in over your head financially to pay for something, if you thought it was the best something for your child?

Over and over again. Regardless. You must. You have to. For him and for yourselves. Will it always work out the way you want? No. Still, you must do it. For him. For yourselves. But especially for him.


JUST DO IT. You won't care about the debt when you see Noah's progress. However, if you don't DO IT, you will feel awful if Noah continues to struggle. Then you'll wonder if the OT camp would've made the difference - and really, no mother needs a self inflicted guilt trip.

Mrs. Q.

I used to think that parents who dug themselves into a financial hole over their kids' preschool tuition were nuts. I mean-- He's FOUR! But then I had kids and it all changed.

Only you can decide what is right for your family. Noah may have turned a corner in his own development and be OK without the school. But your posts about finding the right fit for Noah have been heart-wrenching. And this new program has renewed your hope-- in the system and in your son's potential. It sounds like it's worth it, even if it's for your state of mind. If you decide that it is, you will find a way financially, even if it means taking on more work, holding off from Ezra's preschool for a year or not eating out. Christmases get scaled back, you take friend's up on offers to visit for vacation and you just make due. When my sister and I grew up, my mother said we "didn't have a pot to piss in." (Lovely.) Sure, we didn't have dance class or karate lessons, but we had a happy SAHM, a loving, hard-working father and fond memories of our childhood.

It all works out. I hope for you, you have some peace.


In the wise words of Nike: Just do it.

You'll make yourself crazy thinking about what *might* happen money-wise. If the school is what's best for Noah, it will work out just fine.

I'm a couponer... and can help in that aspect. I know, I know, you are afraid of coupons. But they can be your friend! :)


Dude, I lost a house in making sure my Aspie was getting the right meds and treatment.

Short term financial hell is always trumped by long term gains for my child.

If you go the specialized school route, I'll be right there to cheer you and Jason for making that decision.


I think the photo at the end says it all. He LOOKS like he's turned the corner with that summer program. He looks amazingly plugged in, and I know you know that. If one picture can show so much, you know that you are on the right road..the finances will sort themselves out. You and Jason are too creative not to figure out a strategy to pay for it...keep us posted...

Redneck Mommy


I'm here if you need to talk to another mom to a special needs kidlet.

Noah's lucky to have you.


I am going to try to not have my head explode all over this comments section. But this will be difficult.

I have no wisdom for Amy in making this decision, having never been forced to make such a decision myself. The most I can offer is my support, whatever she chooses to do. But she knows this.

I'd like to add two things, relative to some of the comments left here today.

As unorthodox as it may appear from the outside, Amy has a "real" job. Writing -- indeed, writing ON A STUPID BLOG -- is an actual job. Many writers make money writing online that's comparable to a salaried corporate or non-profit editorial position. Additionally, in Amy's case, she has the advantage of not having to pay for full-time childcare for two children under her present work-from-home circumstances, along with the added benefit of being physically there for her kids much more than she would otherwise. All told she is likely financially better off as is than she would be if she abandoned writing online and got the desk job many of you seem to believe is the answer to her family's present financial dilemma.

All of that said, the costs associated with the kind of education and therapeutic care Noah needs, and that she and Jason want to provide for him as ANY parent would (read: the best available), are still daunting. And, as she notes, her family has recently experienced some financial hardship (yes, we all have, of course, and she recognizes and acknowledges that, but it IS another part of the equation, and it's fair to mention it). The cost of living in and around Washington, DC is extraordinarily steep as well -- and I should know, as my family fled to Baltimore from DC for this very reason. In any case, it is a nuanced situation, a complex situation, and blaming her for not having/making more money is simple-minded. Despite what some commenters here seem to think, Amy does not divulge ALL the details and circumstances of her personal life -- and most certainly not of her finances -- to the internet. There are things you just don't know, believe it or not. So please, give the woman the benefit of doubt, as you'd hope others would if you were in this situation.

I have something else. To the low-life refuse of humanity that would come here to take pleasure from tearing into someone in pain -- the vultures who as a consequence of not receiving enough hugs as little girls now feel compelled as adults to go out of their way to kick other women when they're down for sport: do you feel better about yourself now? Did lashing out anonymously at a total stranger make you feel like you mattered? Was it empowering, thrilling? Was it? Well good for you. You go ahead and relish that Pyrrhic victory then. Because if doing that sort of thing feels good to you -- if for you that's fun, entertaining, a highlight of your day -- then the dismal emptiness of who and what you are is something I can't feel anything except pity for.

And please, feel free to tear me apart over this comment, as I can promise you that I will go out of my way to never read a single word and ignore every pathetic attempt to get my attention. Because anyone who'd have an iota of interest in a single word any of you sniping cowards have to say is a person whose opinion I frankly care nothing about. Take a hard look at *yourself* for once, feel the shame and horror you should at what you see, and then get a fucking life.

Amy, put up the Donate button and fuck the haters and their noise. Let those who love you help you.


Personally, I think you would regret it if you didn't send him along, and then something wasn't quite right down the track. And the only reason you are dillying and dallying is because you know you want him to go and then the fear of what may happen starts biting back.
Start a fund, and I'll happily throw a few pennies into it to for you. He's too cute to miss out.


Sweetney I think you went a bit OTT with your comment. Of the 250 + comments only 2 or 3 people told her she should get a job to help with the cost of the school.

Apologies but to me that would be the logical thing to do- I would work nights stacking shelves when my partner was home to help in any way I could before I'd ask for donations. I don't think anybody thinks she's not working, but surely there are ways she could try and find more work to bring in more money.

I think that putting the paypal button up for people to donate is tacky myself. Especially given the current economy and the fact that lots of people would be lucky to have enough money to put food on the table, let alone pay for an iphone.

Mama Ritchie

Do it. He sounds like he's made great strides. Keep it going. Whatever it takes - have you ever danced the pole? I hear you make good tips...


When my child needed the expensive private school, I found ways to work with the school to offset tuition. Can you work in the office 2 mornings a week? Be a teacher's aide for 1 day? Clean the classrooms for reduced tuition?


Only you can truly make this decision - you know your financial situation. But, if this is truly about money for garbage disposals and carpets or a phenomenal school for Noah, where he may have the opportunity to experience joy and success rather than frustration and failure? Well, I don't think I need to go any further. Besides, couldn't Ceiba be your garbage disposal? It might satiate his appetite for tomato fertilizer.

Also, as I've seen stated in other comments, I don't think anyone needs to tell you the importance of early intervention . It's critical.

Here's an idea - I went to a Jewelry party last night. The consultant works full time, has a baby and claims that by doing just 4 shows a month, she makes an additional $1000 a month. While I'm guessing the school will be higher than that, that might make a huge dent in it, and you seem like you would have a personality that would rock at doing something like that. That would allow you to make extra money and still stay at home full time with Ezra and Noah.


I think you should send him to the program. Regret is a very bad thing and if you don't send him to the program, you may have that nagging "what if" forever. No one faults a mother for doing whatever she can for her child - and raising money through the community with Paypal or maybe holding some sort of cool fundraiser idea is not shameful in any way. Reach out with dignity, people will help!


Just my 2 cents: I have a son similar to Noah who is now five and entering Kindergarten. Our private ins for OT ran out last fall after 14 months. Money was tight and we decided to go with dropping private OT since the schools were servicing him. We just recieved the results of his recent Neuro Psych eval and I am kicking myself for wasting a precious year of his life. I am now desperately tying to get his old OT to take him back. If I had a do-over I'd give up anything I needed to get back that year. I know this is a tough decision, Good Luck!


This is a really tough decision (obvs). Of course you, being his parents, are the only ones who can really understand all the details and potential consequences. I will say that I know a couple who has a son with autism, and they also struggled with where to send him for preschool (their choices were a bit different than yours - obvs again) and they ended up sending him to the cheaper option, and they've been very, very happy. Spending tons of money isn't always necessary. The problem is, as you know, that you won't know if it's necessary until you don't spend the money. Best of luck with this choice.


I say do it. Money comes and goes, planned or not. This is an oppurtunity you may regret not taking and that would be the real hardship.


I've been reading your blog since before Noah was even a thought. A couple things: first, your kids totally rock (duh). The second, you have and always will do what's best for him. I don't have a kid (I don't even have a dog or a robust savings account), so I'm not going to pretend to know what you should do. I just want you to know that someone out there sees you as a kick ass role model for moms who are doing the best they can. Best of luck with your decision.


I almost never comment, I'm a much better lurker. But this, THIS was hysterical:

"And I know it's easy to judge someone's finances from the sidelines [u could afford to stay home with ur baybee if u stopped buying bronzer selfish whoor!]. [VARIATION: how dare u complain don't u no how blessed u are i don't even have cheekbones for bronzer selfish whooooor!]" I laughed my ass off.

And the rest made me cry. And I never cry. Just do it. Pay for the school.


I say you do it. Worst case is some temporary financial hardship, and you go work the night shift at CVS to catch up. (This is what I mentally do to help make decisions - what is the worst case and how can I fix it? I'm not saying you should actually go work at CVS, you understand). And I know you aren't asking for money from us, but I want you to think about something. I come to your site daily to check for updates, and to advice smackdown too. You make me happy and entertain me and educate me - I should pay you something for that but have no way to do it beyond clicking on your ads. I give NPR money every year for the same reason, and every time a blogger I read publishes a book, I buy it. Put up a donate button. I feel guilty that you feel guilty for not posting and entertaining me, and I do nothing for you.


Posting again after alllllllll that to offer you a (((hug))). Follow your heart and veer away from heroin. It'll work out. :)

Cheryl S.

Pay for the school. If Noah has continuing issues and you DIDN'T you'll be questioning it forever. Pay for the school. HUGS!! And if you want to take donations, do it. Even if people gave a dollar, it pays for something. (Just don't blog about your new car and diamord rings! Just kidding!)

Lisa V

I'd do it. Spend the money now and it will benefit you for years to come.

We've had to come to a new normal, husband lost his job, unemployed for 18 months, got a job paying 1/5 of before. Our van died, I mean died. We're broke. Cable is gone, the Y is gone, cooking anything requiring a recipe is gone, eating out is gone. Clothes aren't bought until the old ones have holes. It's not really that bad. We're saving desperately for another car, so it feels like we're going to a goal. Seems cutting back for Noah would feel the same way.


You've already had so many great comments, and I agree with most of them, starting with "She Likes Purple"'s PayPal Donate button. Your blog posts have brought me so many laughs and adorable photos and tear-inducing video montages over the last 3 years, and I am a big believer in what goes around comes around. The least I can do is transfer some money from my PayPal account to yours to help you cover a big expense that is SO important. This has been the summer of Happy Smiley Noah and Happy Blog Posty Amalah, and I'd really like to help keep that going.

And to the people who keep asking why you can't get a part time job, how do they think that would work exactly? Let's say Noah goes to school from 8:15-12:15 AM (I'm totally guessing). And let's say you get a job from 8:30 to 4:30. Not only would you have to pay for full time daycare for Ezra, but somehow Noah would have to get from preschool to an afterschool program until you got out of work. Not only would that be a logistical nightmare, but the cost? Most likely more than or equal to the pay for the job. So yeah. PayPal, Amy!


Good luck with your decision, Amy. I can tell you only that two friends of mine, both with special needs children, have spent loads of money on special programs for their kids and while it's been a financial burden, the success of the programs cannot be denied and their children are thriving. My friends are certain that if they had left things to the public schools, their children would not be where they are today.


Definately do the special preschool - my daughter had a speech issue due to a cleft palate. We worked with the system from the time she was 2 1/2. At 4 I didn't feel we were making very much progress so we put her in private speech therapy at a clinic and it really helped - even though the cost was huge! In the end it doesn't matter how much money you have, you're kids are your legacy!


I say do it. I'm not in your situation (although we are pretty poor due to my choice to be a SAHM) but I KNOW I would sell my soul to do what's best for my daughter. I've been reading you for a while now and you have never sounded as optimistic about Noah as you have sine he started this camp. I have no doubt that the money issues will make life really suck for a little bit and be very scary, but from where I'm standing, there's really no other option. You can find ways to make it because you're motivated. Another school is not going to help Noah because they don't care/aren't prepared to help him. You and his dad are his only advocates, his best chance to not struggle through for the rest of his life. Looking at it from the starting point, it looks big and scary, but looking back on it a few years from now, you'll know you did the right thing. Sorry if I got all preachy, I'm really passionate about kids' education. I'm done now. :) Good luck!


DO'll find the money and make don't want to look back and say "I wish we had..."


Good grief. Truthfully, all of the "do it and the money will work itself out" comments are making my head EXPLODE. This is why so many Americans are in major denials as they carry major loads of debt on their credit cards.

I got myself into that very kind of debt in my 20s with that very kind of mentality. It took me some backbreaking years to pay it off. NEVER AGAIN. The thought of living without an emergency fund makes me go into a cold sweat.

In short, money just does not "work itself out".

But, based on your own experiences you have written about, I think you and Jason already know that and are approaching this situation carefully and responsibly. It is interesting how many folks fail to see how seriously you and Jason are considering all of this.

Again, I think you and Jason will make the right decision for your family. The Haters will hate whatever you do anyway, so fuck 'em.

Select Note

Delurking just to say this...

You know, every time I think we're going to end up on the street when it's time to decide something like this, it all manages to work out. I don't know how or why, but it does. Go for it- Noah needs it, and well, it's just money. You can find a way to make more if you really need it, but your baby is your baby.


I vote for the "DO IT" camp. The other stuff will take care of itself.


Why don't you get a J-O-B. You have to know how dumb you sound, otherwise you wouldn't have said it yourself. Quit buying fancy shit and go to work like the rest of us.


I wish I had some advice--none of this is easy. But, this just takes my breath away--the sacrifices parents make for their children. Their needs above all else--the stress and anxiety for the next few months or years along with the monetary issues. I hope one day Noah realizes how lucky he is to have parents like you.


I wish I had some advice--none of this is easy. But, this just takes my breath away--the sacrifices parents make for their children. Their needs above all else--the stress and anxiety for the next few months or years along with the monetary issues. I hope one day Noah realizes how lucky he is to have parents like you.


I say go for it. You already know this school is able to make a difference with Noah, so hold your breath, take the plunge, and don't look back. Everything else will sort itself out. It always does.

Alyssa's mom

Get a paypal account. Honestly! Id love to help as well!


I usually see the number of comments you have and can't believe you read them all but I'm going to take a chance. We were once in the same position you are...very comfortable financially but if we were going to do what we felt best for our two special needs kids, we were gonna feel some hurt. Totally. fucking. worth. every.penny.


I am certainly no financial guru, being a paycheck-to-paycheck kinda gal myself (but single and childless, let me point out!!!) but my vote is to put Noah in this school!!! I hate to think of you and Jason regretting it later if you decide not to. Things will all work themselves out later, somehow; can't tell you HOW, exactly, but I'm confident they will! Hugs and best of luck with whatever decision you make!

MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings

I'm normally flip and snarky in my comments, but I'm going to break from routine and try to be serious for once.

My wife and I raised or are raising four special needs children--three of them developmentally delayed and one of them gifted and talented--and I can tell you from experience that your school district almost certainly has resources available that they're not telling you about because, like you, they don't want to spend money if they don't have to. I don't when Americans are going to wake up and realize that just about everybody--from insurance companies to school districts--is deeply motivated by the desire for money. They want it all, and they will lie, cheat and fight you to keep it.

It's not guaranteed, but after filing something like seven legal actions against the school district over the years, my wife, a savvy occupational therapist who knew we weren't getting the whole truth from the district, finally figured out to work the system with the help of an expert lawyer in this area. It can be extremely frustrating and complicated, involving state and federal laws (including a whole set of laws triggered by the IEP process) that are hard to understand, but you can often get your child the specific help he needs without paying out of your own pocket. In fact, the district's often legally obligated to provide those services, either in-house or by funding it out of house if they don't have the ability to provide the services your child needs.

They won't tell you that, of course, and they'll make you feel like a shit for pursuing it with them, but if you're sufficiently motivated by financial need and a high sense of justice, as we were, you can be successful.

Someday, perhaps, I'll write a book about it and make a lot of money advising parents on how to get what's they're legally entitled to.

Until then, good luck.


I am there. There's no money for food and hot dogs have become more frequent guests at the table when a year ago they weren't even allowed in the house. But the tuition is getting paid, and we are happy. Whatever you guys decide will be the best choice, you'll figure it out.

I also love it when you make fun of the baby boards, whhoooore!!


My husband lost his job 6 months ago. For some reason I was all jacked up and ready to send our 5yo to a GREAT private school. The most heartbreaking thing for me was giving up that dream. So here I am with a kid that goes to public school and I am AGONIZING over it b/c, it's just not a good fit for her. It isn't that it's public. It's more about being lost in the shuffle and she's a super talented kid. Anyway, funds for her to go to the private school started falling out of the sky. And I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that I am transparent about our financial situation.

Okay, so I don't know what you believe about God, but I really believe He wants the best for our little ones, and when we ask for it by being honest about our needs and our inability to meet those needs, things come to us. Honesty and humility go a long way in getting what you need. I hope Noah gets what he needs!


And I want to send something to you. Not a lot. Just a tiny amount in solidarity and as a way of showing that I really believe what I say about getting what you need.


I'm the oldest of four kids and my mom worked as a janitor at our school to provide us with a great private school education. She literally cleaned toilets at our school so we could be there. That's not even including everything she gave up to afford the tuition. At one time she worked at the school daycare making $4.25 an hour, but it was extra income and she only worked while we were in school so she got to be home with us. We even had partial scholarships and free lunches, but with four kids you do what you gotta do. We live in a smaller city and, while I won't say the public schools suck, they're not stellar and they're crowded. She thought the private school was the best option and she did whatever she could to enable us to attend.

Did she have nice clothes? No. Did she and my dad have any extra spending money or go out to dinner together? Not that I remember. Did we have nice cars? No, we had old beaters. Did we sometimes have our utilities shut off because we couldn't pay the bills? Oh hell yes. Was there a day I took popcorn in my lunch instead of chips because we didn't have a lot food and it was close to payday? You bet. Were some years better than others financially? Of course--it wasn't always scraping the bottom of the barrel. But did we get an excellent education because of the sacrifices my parents made? Damn straight.

You do what you gotta do. If you think that program is right for Noah, send him to that program. Money comes and goes. Yes, financial stability is nice, but knowing you will live without regret and you made the right decision feels a lot better.

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