We've come a long way.
In 4 years we went to five different schools, searching for the proper placement for my son. He has a very high IQ and was deemed gifted in Kindergarten. When he was younger, he far exceeded his peers, and had a desire to do so, but was not in the right placement, and he got stuck. Instead of working with him, recognizing that there was something different and taking action from there, he was ignored, embarrassed, and belittled. He was poisoned to believe that school was a horrible thing to have to suffer through. The idea of him being on the spectrum was thrown at us, almost as a dirty word or a disgrace, but that was in Kindergarten- after they had secluded him, excluded him, and written him off. Never again did it come back up, even after I asked year after year if he could be. If he might be.
If he was.
As a stay at home mom, I've had the ability to be around to fight for my son. And that I did. I fought the school district, I fought administration, I fought with teachers. I did not stand for anyone disrespecting my son because he was different. They kept mislabeling him, misdiagnosing him, and made our lives hell. I kept asking for a placement where he could be engaged, actively learn at and above his grade level, yet be sensitive to his social/emotional needs.
No such place existed, I was told.
I kept fighting- because that's what any good mother would do. We fought through embarrassment after embarrassment, teasing & bullying (from staff and peers); we fought through the tears from not being invited to anyones birthday party, through him celebrating his "weirdness". We fought even against family who still are confused, naive, or unaware of his diagnosis. My own sister told me how appalled she was because my son doesn't have any social skills.
With only a handful of friends as a support system, we kept fighting.
The end of last year, we switched him to school five, as a last effort before we enrolled him into virtual school and I homeschooled him. The placement was in a self contained ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) classroom, but one which was for grades 3-5, and the children were higher functioning. In fact, in this classroom kids are kept to the regular basic ed standards. They do work to integrate the kids back into general population, but I was told that it might take awhile. There were only 8 kids in the class last year, and I was so 'done' that I went with it, just because of the size of the classroom.
It was the biggest break in our fight with the school system.
His teacher was sweet, young, and soft spoken. I thought for sure he would eat her alive, but to my surprise, he adored her. She was patient, kind, yet firm. He pushed his limits and gave her a run for her money, but not once did she speak derogatorily towards me or my son. Not once did she make us- me- seem like I was uneducated, expecting the impossible, or out in left field somewhere. Every concern, every hope, every fear, every experience she took in during our first meeting, saddened that we had to endure as much as we had.
She was the first -and only- district staff member who recognized and appreciated how I fought for my son, and meant it.
In fact, she told me that she wished more parents would stick up for their kids the way I did. I couldn't help but think that if they put us through this, how many other families did they give the same run-around to? How many kids of single parents or working parents fell in the cracks because they didn't have the ability to be at the school four days a week?!
We finished the end of the school year, without many problems, (which I was thankful for). We discussed everything with our son and asked him if he wanted to return in August, before we filled out the paperwork for fourth grade.
He said he'd "really enjoy going back" to this class.
Every August, I would get sick to my stomach in anticipation of a new class, a new teacher, new classmates for my son to have to endure. Not only would I start feeling anxious, the closer it got, the more agitated my son got. He didn't want to go. He didn't want to face a new classroom of bullies, or a teacher who just didn't "get" him. I wouldn't be able to sleep, and I'd stay awake wondering how long it would be before his new teacher would give up, throw in the towel, and tell us they couldn't do it anymore. I dreaded the look of failure in my son's eyes every time we picked him up from the office, or pulled him from a classroom or school. I would cry because it broke my heart- shattered it completely.
|A new favorite tee, my son can't |
wait to wear to school!
This year was different.
I could concentrate on getting school supplies. My son wanted fun tee- shirts that showed off what he likes, and what he thought was funny, or cool.. without stressing over how his peers would view him. He started to get really excited to see his teacher, and to see if any of his classmates from last year would be there again. I realized I am starting to get my son back.. my smiley, happy son, who loved school, was eager to learn, and had a thirst for knowledge that couldn't be quenched.
I am eager to see where this year takes us.
When he came home today he told me that he's going to be taking science classes in the teacher's class next door. He was very excited, because he worked with her a little bit towards the end of the year last year. He can still have his breaks, and it's close enough to his class that he feels safe- if he's got any issues or problems, he can go right through the pod back to his classroom, his teacher, his environment.
My son was excited!
For the first time in five years, my son was excited about school. And that made my heart leap for joy.
Please, share this post. I can't tell you how many times I just wanted to give up. I thought I was too emotionally, mentally or physically exhausted. There were times that the school and district staff made me feel that I was fighting a losing battle. But I was not. I was fighting for my son.. and that is NEVER a losing battle.
I can only pray that other parents with kids like mine read this post, and their energy gets renewed to continue fighting for the needs of their child. For their future, for their everyday- no matter what the issues are at hand. Never give up on your child- they need you. If they don't have you fighting for them, who is?