When you are the parent of a child who has special needs, you quickly realize that it will take an equally special teacher for them to be able to learn. The thing that makes that kind of teacher so special, is something that can't be bought, taught or sold. It is a special spark that only a select few possess. That elite group of people, within the first few moments of interaction, make your child feel safe and open to learn.
The first school that we took our son to was a mixed homeschool/Charter school. I will never forget how bad that experience was. I want to clarify that not all Charter Schools are bad. We were just unlucky and picked a bad apple. Out of the three different teachers that worked with him, at that school, he only liked one. The other two just didn't click. I will never forget the stomach churning pain I felt every time that he went. For him, his anxiety was thru the roof. Even the days when he was at home were a horrible down hill struggle. It was right before he was diagnosed. It was thru that horrible experience that I was led to seek an evaluation.
At the end of his first semester of kindergarten I pulled him out. Never again was I going to sit by and watch my child suffer. My husband and I decided that we weren't going to put him back into a school until we had the results of his evaluation. It ended up taking eight months, (a short amount of time compared to how long some families in this country have to wait for their evaluation). That was from when I first called our local Regional Center, to having the evaluation report in my hand.
After our last experience, I was terrified to try and find another school. I remember long conversations and many hours spent on the phone. I was stressed and worried about finding the right school. I knew that he wouldn't be able to take very many more bad experiences. If I made a mistake or a misstep my son would never want to go to another school, ever again.
I will never forget that moment in time when the Special Ed coordinator for our county called me back. I had left a message for her the week before and I was anxiously waiting for her to call back. I was driving down a busy road and it was starting to rain. My phone rang and I recognized the number. I pulled off the road as I answered the call. The kids were too loud and so I stepped out into the rain. Our conversation was not remarkable. I retold my son's story for the hundredth time. She told me that we had to start with our local district, my heart skipped a beat. I wasn't familiar with it and felt apprehensive. The county coordinator gave me the name and number of the Special Education Resource Coordinator for our district. Not only did she answer, but she wanted us to come to school the next morning. She wanted us to meet with her, the Principal, Vice Principal and the Special Day School Teacher. As soon as I hung up I jumped up and down in the rain. After months of waiting and worry there was hope.
The following morning we all got up early, so that we would be on time. My son was in full anxiety, meltdown mode. It was very painful to watch and there was nothing that I could do to help him. The school administrators had to see him, even at his worst. The Special Ed teacher walked into the conference room in the middle of the chaos , she never even flinched. My son went with her and my husband to check out the class room. I wrapped up the basic paperwork for a temporary placement and walked over to the class room. I walked in and every one of my senses was met with a pleasing array of colors, soft lights, good smells and comfy quite nooks. He was calm and happy. Some of the first words out of the teacher's mouth were to tell me about her. She freely shared that her daughter has Tourette's Syndrome and that her son had speech delays. She knew what I was feeling and she got it. She was one of the team. Mrs.K was both a Special Ed Teacher and a special needs mom. This was the first time that I knew in my heart that it would be ok, that he would be ok.
I'm not going to lie, the days, weeks and months following have had their fair share of ups and downs. Thru it all the connection that my son has had with his teacher has only grown and become unbreakable. Mrs.K has held him thru some of his toughest mornings and advocated for his needs. She has even worked hard to help him form a relationship with one of the paraprofessionals. That way when she has to go to a training or conference he can still go to school and feel safe. I try to let his teacher know how thankful that I am,(we are), for her. I'm not sure that words can truly express what I feel.
My son isn't just going to school to fulfill a state requirement. My son is going to school and learning.