I decided to branch out a bit from just talking about Auggie. My other two children have given me permission to put their images on Two Oats and to share their public school stories.
This is Michael.
There is a phrase that special needs moms use that really sums up Michael’s experience: putting a square peg into a round hole. Like one of those “match-the-shape-to-the-correct-hole” toddler toys. No matter how hard you try, that square is never going to fit in that round hole. You simply cannot treat a special needs kid the exact same as a ‘typical’ kid. That’s why there are 504 plans, IEP’s, Wright’s law, and the IDEA act.
But what do you do when the school doesn’t follow any of those?
Michael went to headstart for a year and although he was a hyperactive 4-year-old, the teacher (a wonderful woman named Ms. Minter) and her assistant never had any complaints.
Kindergarten was a different story.
Our district did half day Kindergarten, so his teacher and her assistant only had him for 3 hours a day. Headstart, in comparison, was all day. This teacher, Mrs. Sawyer, told me to put him on meds after a month. Jumped straight to it. He had difficulty focusing. He was 5. We went to his doctor and started the long process of getting a diagnosis.
I am ashamed to say that I gave in when we got the diagnosis of ADHD back. His ‘focus’ at school became better, but at home, he was a completely different child. He was angry and yelled all the time. He started hitting me and his sister. I often found myself covering my daughter to protect her from him. He was so strong. I have no idea where any of that strength came from. We suffered through the outbursts and sensory problems for the rest of the school year.
Over the years, we bounced through 3 of the 4 ADHD medicine family. He had been through 2 different behavior therapists and occupational therapy. We found that he had sensory processing difficulties. We also found that he was misdiagnosed. Through a lot of work and a lot of independent research, we worked with Doc (his psychiatrist) and Donna (his therapist) to get the proper diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
We asked for a 504 and an IEP. We did the STAT meetings. I studied the IDEA act and Wright’s law. I learned enough to know that the school wasn’t fulfilling their part of his treatment. A lot of unpleasantness ensued and I’m not willing to go there again, not even for the sake of this blog.
I’m going to jump ahead to third grade. I’m not going to share the name of this ‘teacher’. I was called by the school at least three times a week the first half of the school year. I lived at that school. If Michael couldn’t “focus” within the first half hour of school starting, he was sent to the hallway. If he wouldn’t stay in the hallway, he would be locked out. If another teacher saw him roaming the halls, he was either sent to the counselor’s office or to the head custodian. All of his school work was being sent home as homework. His teacher didn’t even try and stopped going to the STAT meetings. He also stopped returning my phone calls and emails. So I went to central office and talked to the director of the special education department, wonderful woman. She was confused as to how it is that she had not heard of my child. We don’t live in a large city and it’s her job to know every case in the county.
We submitted every copy of every meeting we had with the school to her. We gave her the copy of his diagnoses. We signed a form so that she could talk directly to his behavior therapist. THAT IS HOW CONFIDENT I WAS IN MY KNOWLEDGE THAT THE SCHOOL WAS NOT DOING ALL THAT THEY COULD DO AND WERE LEGALLY OBLIGATED TO DO.
She came to the next STAT meeting and sat on our side of the table.
That speaks a lot. She could have sat at the head of the table or on the side of the school, but she was on OUR side. That was the most uncomfortable meeting of my life. I have never sat quietly while a whole school administrative team got yelled at by one of their bosses, but that is what happened. The teacher, the principal, the counselor, and the school psychiatrist got their rear ends handed to them on a beautiful platter. She flat out told them that we knew what we were doing and that they should have followed the plan that I came up with all along.
There are three things I left with that day:
1) the knowledge that things were going to improve in that school’s special education department.
2) the knowledge that he would not be going to the fourth grade there. There was no way I would be able to look at them seriously ever again in regards to Michael.
3) my son. We had been granted a ‘mental health’ day. We used that day to make a plan that would forever change our daily living.
We made it through the third grade and we started homeschooling the next year. We haven’t looked back since. Michael helped us make that decision ultimately. He had become tearful over the thought of going back to school and he had battled depression since second grade. That depression included suicidal thoughts, a side effect of ADHD medication.
The summer after third grade, we started weaning him off of the medication. Doc and Donna helped us through every minute of that. Donna ‘broke up’ with us after she approved our homeschool plan. She gave me the confidence that I knew what I was doing and that I was acting 100% in his best interest. We continued to see Doc until Michael started self-regulating his impulses. The ADHD diagnosis dropped at that point and Doc ‘broke up’ with us, voicing his support of our schooling choice.
Family wasn’t as supportive, but that’s a different post. The best thing is that there are no more square pegs being forced into round holes. He is celebrated for the wonderful, unique person that he is.