The question of schooling….

No one likes to hear they didn’t make it into the college of their choice. It’s like a hard, sharp, kick to your gut. Now imagine when you’re not 18 years old and you’re talking about your 10 yr old with special needs and you wished he had gotten into one school but was rejected because they just can’t accommodate his behavioral issues? It can tear at your heart. My little guy is one of the most inquisitive, smartest and funniest people I know, but with a complete inability to follow rules and do what his teachers ask. And please understand, I’m not a “goggle mom,” with blinders on with regards to my son. As wonderful as he is, I admit he can also be excessively difficult, have a one track mind and very intolerant. I don’t envy his teachers, frankly. Can you imagine having a boy in your class who questions every single thing you say?

For mom’s with kids on the spectrum, this is possibly all too familiar. My son wants to control every single aspect of learning each day. If his teacher wants him to write a short story a page long, he’ll suggest he write a poem instead. If she suggests only doing numbers 1 – 8 on the math page, he’ll say he wants to do numbers 9 – 20 instead. He’ll roll his eyes if other kids have a hard time reading out loud, and gets really upset if he can’t discuss his knowledge about quarks and atoms or Schlessinger’s Cat theory (yes, an upper level physics concept) when the class is learning the basics about space exporation or whatever other science topic is going on. But please don’t ask him to multiply a few equations – it’s like you stuck him with a pin or something the way he carries on. If he’s not interested, he objects to even trying. 

So, that leaves us with “how to school this little guy?” It’s hard. If he weren’t so argumentative, he’d be mainstreamed with his twin sister going to middle school. He’d have so many wonderful classes and electives to choose from, he’d be with his old friends. But now he’s back into a much more restrictive environment, with kids who aren’t exactly peer models and it just breaks my heart. He’s this wealth of potential and I’m flummoxed on how to best harvest it. There just aren’t enough schools out there for behavioral kids high on the spectrum. I never thought that would be our issue. He’s too high functioning, but unable to make it through a regular class, so he needs this environment. We’ve looked at private schools as well, but unless they have the ability to work with very reluctant learners, it’s not the right place.

My hopes for him are still strong. He seems to be a wiz on the computer. Am I crazy to purchase him a laptop of his own and add photo shop so he can start creating movies? He’s in love with the Cyriak videos and wants to learn how to make them. It’s like I’m trying to think about what we can do for him outside of school so that down the road he can attain anything he wants. Of course, he might be up all night playing Kirby’s Mass Attack with that same computer.

Maybe it’s a maturity thing? This morning my daughter stormed into our bedroom at 6:20 am. My son was apparently already downstairs on the Wii and the sound woke her up. Now, he already got dressed for school and the sound was “lowish” so he tried to make sure he did things right (even though there is no Wii usually allowed that early in the morning). You run this weird tightwire of getting him to be self sufficient, but appropriate.

I guess it all comes down to just taking it one step at a time. One day at a time and celebrating every little tiny milestone. And one day, who knows, maybe he’ll be back with his sister in school. And maybe he won’t.

Time will tell.

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8 thoughts on “The question of schooling….

  1. Elyse, thank you for being so open and sharing. I know from my sister’s experience with my nephew how difficult it can be to get your children all of the services they deserve, and in a manner that is appropriate to them. My sister had to become as knowledgeable as the teachers and administrators (more knowledgeable, utlimately) about what Evan was entitled to in order to hold them accountable. Every little thing seemed like a fight to the death. The default position of the school system seemed to be to not volunteer any information, to not own up to their responsibilities. NO ONE wanted to do their job without being forced to. She turned into an amazing advocate and the bane of the school system, gaining a reputation among community families that has made her the go-to person for other parents of children with special needs.

    So you have my respect and admiration, because I know a little bit about how hard your situation is. Of course, that’s just the “outside” stuff. Dealing with your young man, as his mom and the person who loves him more than anyone else in the whole word, is another thing entirely. I don’t know how you do it and stay sane. My high school sophomore is, in most respects, perfectly fine, but I nevertheless anguish over every perceived slight, every meaningless homework assignment, every disappointment. She’s already feeling the “kick in the gut” about colleges, and she’s more than a year away from beginning the application process!

    I wish I had some useful advice for you, to go along with my empathy. Don’t stop fighting for him, no matter how much red tape they throw up in your path, no matter how astoundingly unsuited and unprepared his school is to properly educate him. You are his champion, his superhero. Don’t take no for an answer. I don’t have to tell you that this is not his fault, even when he is at his most challenging. It’s not your fault, either. Keep pushing until the schools stop treating his situation like a burden and begin approaching it as an opportunity.

  2. I have to tell you that it seems to me that your school district is failing your son. My youngest was and continues to be very argumantative. He would do the same things that yoru son did throughout his educational career but the school had a beahviroal plan, support and a para for him to help him understand how to be more appropriate. And yes it went on for years and years and years. And yes I got calls an calls and calls especially in high school. So what they were willing to work with us and they actually adored how bright he was and helped him harness his love of computers too. Oh and yes he had meltdowns, obnoxious behavior and was not the forgiving of other students “stupidity.” It seems to me that he is not receving FAPE and LRE. If at all possible I would contact a really good special education attorney..not an advocate but someone very practiced in legally kicking school distruct tuchas. They do not have a right to keep him from fufilling his intellectual potential simply because of behavioral issues. He is not ED, he is autistic. That is why it is called an IEP with emphais on the individualized part.

    As far as the computer..go for it. My children have been on the computer since they were 2 and they had their own computers by the time they reached middle school. So much is done on the computer in today’s day and age anyway. Who knows he might be the next Spielberg or Scorsese.

    It seems to me that he did a terrific thing about getting up, getting dressed and trying to be quiet. Props to him. Get sister noise canceling headphones. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. If you can believe it, we have an attorney and even they said this may be the best situation. It’s a matter of not having the set up in the regular school system, no matter what we do, to accommodate him. I’m going to be speaking with her again today though. Thanks so much for responding. 🙂

  3. Wow Lyse, thanks to your amazing writing skills you can capture the emotions of the moment so well. You and Steven are amazing parents. Ben and Kelly are very lucky to have you both. If you do not advocate for your child-who will? My situation with Joseph was not quite as complicated-but I was a regular in school. I know there were warnings whispered when I came in “unannounced”.
    Kelly would probably do well in a group counseling session that centers on siblings of special needs students. I know we run one in our school where I teach and it is very well attended. Parents even have a group of their own that meet monthly. The computer thing-yahoo! Push whatever buttons work . Love you !!!!

  4. Thanks Amy – things are really great with Kelly now – though she struggles with Ben like the rest of us, but she’s having a great year without the stress of him in her school. Blossomed in math and reading and while things are good now, I just struggle with what is the best placement for him. He’s this “unknown” when it comes to schooling and I just need to make sure it’s the right place. No where might be perfect and I need to realize that. He may not be happy anywhere as long as it’s school! 🙂 Thanks so much for responding – Love you too!

  5. Hi Elyse, I’m so sorry Ben is having such a difficult time. I’m sure you have, but just thought I’d ask: have you checked into a Montessori school? I’m not certain if it would be right for Ben, but some friends of mine here in TX have started their own Montessori school because they were pretty fed up with public school (they’ve both taught for many years). Good luck 🙂

  6. Hi Ann – I have and none of them for his age are close by. I thought that unique approach to teaching would be good for him. Unfortunately, I also don’t want to subject him to over an hour long plus commute each way on the bus to some of the schools maybe in Brooklyn or NYC. Kudos to your friends for doing this! How amazing. Fact is, Ben is most likely going to this one school, and it’s not a bad school, I was just hoping for more options. Been on the phone with them multiple times, asking tons of questions. We shall see. Thanks so much for commenting. 🙂

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