Parenting children

Facing the First Day of School As a Parent of a Child With Special Needs

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I can't believe another year is beginning.

I guess if I were like some parents of neurotypical children, I'd be a bit worried about the new school year. Perhaps concerned over whether Cassie or Carson will have an easier time of making friends this year. Dreading math - this year is times tables and that's sure to be hard for Jani.

But since I'm the mom of 3 very definitely atypical children, the new school year brings more than its share of dread and worry along with the sharpened no. 2 pencils and colorful new backpacks:

C. is supposed to start first grade next year. Can she handle it? She often doesn't understand what the teacher says during story time: how will she manage when the teacher explains a whole new unit? But she can't do a "developmental kindergarten": there would be nothing for her to gain there.

And S. will start learning his letters this year in earnest. I know he'll have trouble, and I know why. Unfortunately I've been so busy with life, I haven't been able to do everything I want to do to bring him up to par.

And Y.? He'll be starting junior high. On the one hand he feels proud of himself for having made it this far in one piece. He's in a special program geared to boys with reading issues like himself, and so this year he has a level playing field.  But will it really help him? Will the staff really feel driven to make sure he goes as far as he should?

And for all of them: a year where we as parents will need to step up to the plate, not just once or twice, but constantly. Advocating for your child is a full-time job, even if you're lucky to have sympathetic staff. It can get tiring sometimes.

So at first glance, the new school year seems as bright and cheery and hopeful as a brand new copper penny: looks all nice and fancy in it's paper wrapping isn't worth much.

Key word here though folks, is seems.

Yeah bob, I could choose to look at everything with a jaundiced eye, expecting the worse just to keep myself from losing the best. No one would blame me at all if I sat on my backside and complained about how hard things are.

But I'm not going to give in to that.

I'm going to think about a little girl who at four and a half, was not much more advanced than my neighbor's 18 month old. That little girl - bless her - worked her buns off, and a year and a half later is now a healthy, happy kindergartner who can talk in full sentences, knows all of her letters, and isn't afraid of flies zooming around when she goes to the bathroom.

I'm going to picture in my head the little boy who even I couldn't understand about 80% of the time. Now that same  boy is so determined to be understood, and so wittily eloquent, that he can hold his own.

And last but not least, I'll stand by - for once - and let my teenager handle the bumps and bruises and heartachingly exciting moments of junior high.


Because I refuse to focus on failure. I am absolutely unwilling to define my future by the tragedies of the past.

The days of looking for miracles, cures, or changeling children are long gone. Instead, my goal - and I hope yours will be too - is to keep putting one foot forward, and then one more, day in and day out.

I know we'll get there. Eventually.





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