As the first day of school rapidly approaches, I've been thinking more and more about how our school year experience differs from the typical parent/child school year experience...
There's so much excitement- back to school time! Parents rushing around filling 'must have' lists of school supplies, kids making wish lists for school clothes, teachers readying classrooms.
I've done none of this. Logan will be going into his junior year of high school this year- but there were no trips to buy supplies, no school clothes picked out. I've tried to go through the motions, simply to give him this back to school feel fun, but he just doesn't care.
Being in a special education program makes our preparing a little bit different. Our concerns all revolve around IEP meetings, evaluations, and sadly, budget cuts. We worry if a favorite aide will be leaving, a bus driver will be switching routes, a best friend will be transferred. Any of these can be disruptive in his progress.
He doesn't care too much about what he wears, so I buy him (cool) stuff all throughout the year. He's always got several drawers stuffed with choices, and comes up with his own combination and always looks great. ---> see?
His school supplies are basically a pencil, and a notebook that will serve as a communication book, passed back and forth between the teacher and myself.
Once school starts, I start being the detective- searching for clues, picking up on leads, is anything wrong? Did the day go okay? Is the teacher not telling us something? Its a stressful way to live. We have been extremely fortunate with his peers, as well as the staff he's worked with over the years, and there have been few issues, but I still worry and wonder.
Logan's accomplishments this school year are likely very different than your child's. While most parents are starting to look for colleges, attending football games or driving lessons- our junior year's goal is to learn to tie our shoes, and write our first and last name.
(although we did do this!! Logan's driving lesson)
I try to share Logan's story with as many other special needs parents as I can, simply because I want them to know it will all be okay. You might have a newly diagnosed child, and be struggling to wrap your brain around the things that are going to be different. Yes, its definitely a very different parent/child experience- but you can do it. Your child can be just as cute, cool, in style, and in some parts of their life, independent. He/she can be popular, accomplished, and loved by their peers.
Your kid might have quirks you worry about- well Logan loves to collect ponies and has washed my dishes with Hershey's syrup- ITS OKAY! in the grand scheme of things, these are not a big deal. Don't be ashamed of their odd habits. Its part of them.
Don't ever give up and don't ever back down. Enjoy these years though- they do fly by. They may seem really tough now, but before you know it you'll be looking back in awe, saying wow, how did we ever get here? Make "here" a good place to be. Treat your child as abled- focus on what they CAN do, build their confidence.
It's a long, bumpy road- its not always a fun ride- but at least we are along for the ride. So many parents have lost their little ones, so don't take a single day for granted, even the toughest days. You may have had dreams of a football star or a ballerina- and yes, you may have to alter those dreams, but you can still make your child feel like a star. Logan is the star of my show- and he knows it.
If you're struggling with a newly diagnosed child, and not sure what to do next, my inbox is always open. I've been down a lot of the same paths as some of you. I've felt most of the feelings you might be experiencing. Its a lonely road to travel alone- so reach out. I'd love you to say hi.