Back To (Home) School – for Special Needs

It’s back to school time!  For many, this means the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and the unmistakable scent of Crayola crayons.  I can almost hear the binding crackling on a new composition book being opened for the first time.  The feel of new clothes, new haircuts, new shoes.  Moms and dads jumping for joy, while it being bittersweet that the kids are another year older.  I’m getting ready to send Bubba to third grade – state testing year!  I am in awe of the young man he is becoming, but I’m also ready for Fight Club to adjourn to weekends only.  Littles will be in school for his first time!  Away from mom and growing his independence!  Back to school is full of happy emotions of growth and maturity.

Unless of Course You Must Home School

There is a select group of moms where Back to School isn’t the happy time it is for others.  These moms homeschool, not by choice, but because the school districts fail their special needs children.  These moms send their special needs children to schools where the child has the same teacher in the same classroom, even though they are another year older.  These moms use therapists for education, instead of a teacher.  These moms have lost their children to traumatic and tragic accidents, even if the child is still physically here.  Those types of accidents where it isn’t the same child, you know?  Where life changed in an instant.

I’m one of these moms.  Smash-N-Break should be in kindergarten.  Those words – should be – biting me to my core.  Smash-N-Break will go to ABA therapy three days a week.  He would miss so much school, and our district won’t work with us because he isn’t “autistic enough”*.  We’ve been told he would be a “truancy issue”**.  So, when faced with the decision of getting him therapy or sending him to kindergarten, we chose therapy.  I’ll homeschool the days he is home.  This may be a failure, we will see.  We hope to transition to public school, but will have to wait and see.  I may end up homeschooling if the regular classroom is too much for him at first.  I don’t exactly want to, as I feel school has many benefits.  I may end up with him in a private school.  That makes me worry, too, as all 3 kids in private would be way too much of a financial strain.  And I have it easy!  We have every reason to believe Smash-N-Break will be in public school come first grade.  Many others are faced with this every year.

Smash-N-Break is jealous, so jealous, of Bubba and Littles.  He was supposed to go to school with Bubba.  He finished preschool, which Littles is starting.  He’s in this strange in-between.  And for a kid with ASD, who knows he is different, he just wants to fit.  I’ll hopefully help teach him to embrace the uniqueness.  We’ve had many conversations about it, but that hasn’t curbed his questions.  He wants to do kindergarten like normal.  I

 

know it would be a failure.  But I can’t explain that to him in a way he will understand or not blame himself.  It isn’t his fault he’s different, any more than it’s mine that he has autism.  (If I tell myself it’s not my fault, maybe one of these days I’ll actually believe it…)

What Will I (& You) Do?

Do I take a “first day of kindergarten” picture?  Is it really kindergarten?  Is this really the right decision?  I’m struggling with all those questions right now.  And there is no right answer.  When the day comes that we do our first homeschooling session, I’ll decide then.  I’ll wipe tears away for different reasons than the cute poems kindergarten teachers hand out.  When faced head-on with the differences our children face to the typical kids, pain comes up.  Grace and forgiveness haven’t happened for myself yet.

So, as you take your pictures of your kids smiling faces as they grow, say a little prayer (if it’s your thing) for those mamas who hold back tears for different reasons.  If you know one of these moms, give her a hug or a text to say hey.  Invite her for coffee, or whatever.  She may say no, but she will know she isn’t forgotten.

 

*Direct quote from the school district special needs coordinator. Still not sure what this means.  Seems like someone who doesn’t understand special needs though.

**Unless he was to attend school and then do 24 hours of ABA after. I mean who of us doesn’t like to work 65 hours a week every week for months? He doesn’t need time to, oh I don’t know, be a kid. Of course no ABA therapist is even open after 5 so…