Let me start off by saying fair/equal education should be available for ALL children. It’s that simple. No child (or their parent) should have to fight for an education that many take for granted. However, if you have a child with special needs I will warn you it’s a fight. Every. Single. Day.
I will say that where we live now seems to have a better system in place then where we once lived. But it’s still a struggle. All I want, all any decent parent wants, is for their son or daughter to succeed. That starts at home and at school.
My wild man is almost seven. He attends a public school. In order for his needs to be met we have an IEP in place (some states call it a 504) Basically it is a plan that lays out my sons strengths and weaknesses. His plan gives him scheduled speech times and OT times durning school. His plan also calls for an aid to help get him on task throughout the day. Sounds perfect right? I thought so at first.
Last year he was in an autism/special needs classroom. The class size was eight children and eight aids plus the teacher. There was a calming room, sensory toys and tools, and even an OT room. He’s teacher taught him to hold a pencil and he finally was able to write his name. He was excited to go to school. He loved his class and peers. It was perfect and he was doing amazing. To amazing according to the school. At the end of the year it was agreed (I went along with it thinking they knew what they were talking about) that he would be placed in a normal classroom for his first grade year.
Normal, an odd word in the land of autism. Nothing about our lives or wild man is normal. Why oh why did I think this would work. The first few weeks went okay. I think he was excited to be back at school. But as the days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months he slowly started hating going to school. One of the things that aggregate him (okay me) is that he is now expected to do spelling test. I know, I know all kids have to take spelling test. I get that. But he is still working on forming letters, how is he suppose to spell a word if he does not know all the letters to the word? In the last six weeks he has managed to get one word correct. One. One out of sixty. The word was frog. When he showed me his paper he beamed with pride. Look momma I did good. Frog ribbit ribbit. The nine red X’s did not phase him. But they crushed me. Another his personal aid has four other students. How is she suppose to care for my son’s needs when she has four other kids? Thank you budget cuts. He has sensory issues so he eats only a few foods. Two of those being peanut butter and Stage two peas, yes the baby food peas. Well he can’t take peanut butter because someone in the other class has a peanut allergy. As far as the peas, a boy in his class called him a baby for eating baby food so those are now out as well.
He is lost and I don’t know what to do. Part of me was so excited to hear he was doing so well at the end of last year, but part of me worried that he would get over looked and left behind in a regular classroom. My fear as become his reality. He hates going to school now. And even though he can’t articulate why he hates it I have a feeling I know why.
So, I started looking for a new school. And I thought I had found one. It was a private school so the classroom sizes were small and they worked on an individual plan based program virus the whole class learning the same thing. It seemed to be the perfect school, until I was told how much it would cost. One year over 12,000 dollars. Wow. We are a one income family currently with six little ones in the house. There is no way we can afford that kind of tuition or justify it. That’s when it hit me, we need public schools that specialize in special needs. Why should it cost so much more for them to receive a descent education?
It’s time for better education for my son and all the other children who have autism, or Down syndrome, or any special need. Why should they get left behind or overlooked? Why should their disability be a magnet for educators or providers to charge more for their services? Have you looked at the cost for some of the sensory products or equipment for those with special needs? It’s insane. What’s a mom to do?
We fight. Day in day out. We become the face the principal and staff at the school dread to see. We make sure our concerns are being heard and that they are being met. We become moms like Maya DiMeo off of Speechless. We go in demanding and we don’t back down.
The fact is I would love for my son to be what society defines as normal. I think all special needs parents feel that from time to time. It’s natural for us to want our children to fit in. But the reality is he is not. He was made to stand out. No matter how hard he tries or how much I pray he will never be “normal” and that’s ok. God made him in His image so my son is exactly how he is suppose to be. He may learn different,act different, and talk different but different does not make his less. As his mom it is my job to make sure everyone sees that.
I will fight for you, for your education, for your independence, and for you to be excepted. Mostly I will fight so others can see you the way I see you. My brilliant, creative, funny and loving son. Don’t worry wild man, momma’s got this!