Author: Karen Copeland
When my son was still in public bricks and mortar school, he did a lot of things that others would find odd and unexpected. You might see him doing different things like shouting in the office, but that’s just it. That’s all you would see.
What you wouldn’t see is the number of times he was trying to let his support person know what he needed. What you wouldn’t see or know about is the strict boundaries that were placed on him that sometimes didn’t make sense even to me. What you wouldn’t see is me coming to pick him up thirty minutes later because there was no point in him sitting in the office for the remainder of the day.
You wouldn’t know how many phone calls I made to the school and to the district helping teacher to try and get a plan in place so that my son could be a part of his school community. You wouldn’t know that my son thrives on consistency and the last minute changes in staffing threw him off.
You wouldn’t know how hard we had worked to get our son to where he was, and that we had experienced a glimpse of success only to have supports changed and withdrawn. His success did a nosedive and we had to try to start all over again.
For the parents who are here that don’t have a child who has special needs, but you’re here because you want to know more about our experiences, I CELEBRATE you. I cherish that you want to know more, that you are being curious and you want to support us. The truth is, I fought hard so that my son could be a part of his school community alongside your child. Not so that he could hurt them or disrupt them, but because he needed a chance to be a kid.
I know it is hard to have our kids who struggle in our schools, especially when they are not getting the support they need. But I want you to know that we can’t give up on these kids. If you know of a child who is struggling, ask the parent if there is something you can do to help or if they would like to chat about their experience. You could start with “I hear it is really tough to get children the support they need in school. I’d like to understand more.”
If your friends start talking about “that kid”, maybe ask them an “I wonder” question…I wonder if we know the whole story? I wonder if the parents have tried to get support for their child and been turned down? We need to remind ourselves that everyone deserves a chance. And we need to dispel this myth that parents aren’t doing anything to help their kids, because most of us really are. It just isn’t known or seen.