Saturday, August 18, 2007

What happens when your kid's not "normal"...

It's August - it's that time of year when most parents have carefully screened and chosen the perfect preschool for their toddlers. For some, this process can be competitive - the top schools require applications, photos, etc. of potential "candidates" for their classrooms. Can you imagine what it must be like to get a rejection letter from a preschool? Utterly devastating, I'm sure. Unfortunately, I won't be experiencing that stress this year because Will won't be going to a mainstream preschool. As of September 5th, Will will be enrolled in a special education program at Buffalo Hearing & Speech in downtown Buffalo.

Will is still experiencing significant delays in speech and comprehension. He's received therapy through early intervention since he was nineteen-months-old but he just hasn't quite caught up yet. We're hoping that having him in a structured classroom setting with a lot of one-on-one attention will trigger that little brain of his into catching up. The goal is to get him these services now so that by the time kindergarten rolls around in a couple of years he'll be caught up and will no longer need special education services.

As a mother, this has been truly difficult for me. "Special ed" - the words just make me shudder. I remember making fun of people in special ed when I was younger. Didn't we all? How many times have you made fun of someone being on a short bus? In my acting class every week, jokes are made during comedy improve about "special" people. It makes me ill - that's my kid they are talking about. Coming to terms with and accepting the fact that my kid is now in that group has been truly difficult for me. I'm just glad that he's too young to understand the negative connotations associated with being in special ed.

Thanks to reminders from a good friend of mine who is dealing with similar issues with her son, I've tried my best to keep things in perspective. Not to minimize what's going on with Will, but I know there are parents out there whose children are really sick - very sick. We're talking things like cancer, heart defects, true mental retardation, etc. - illnesses that are physical debilitating that may actually claim the lives of those children. I remember visiting kids at a local hospital with Ryan a couple of years ago, and there was a little boy Will's age (about 18 months at the time) with cancer! CANCER at 18 months old! Come on! How is that fair? It is in the moments when I'm having my own personal pity parties that I try to think about and pray for those families. They have REAL problems. Will is just in special ed.

We continue to pray daily for Will that one day things will just click and that he'll become one of those normal kids who never shuts up. Until then, I'll gladly take Will to school everyday (I'm not putting him on a bus - he's three) and I will continue to report on his progress.


kristin said...

i'm sorry, dawn :( we felt similar when we had to put kate on growth hormones (like she was different and that kids would make fun of her for being so little). will is a smart kid...i hope the new school kick starts his speech.

hang in there xoxoxo

Barbara said...

Dawn, I am going thru EXACTLY the same thing. I am forever getting glares and comments from strangers who don't understand why he acts the way he does. I started feeling the need to explain my self to everyone, just so he would be accepted for who he is. But I decided that I won't do that anymore. I don't want pity stares, and condolences just because I say "I'm sorry, he has Autism, he can't help it...". Frankly it's none of their business. If people want to think I'm a bad mother because he is screaming "NOOOOOO!!!!" all through out the Galleria Mall, then they can believe that. They don't know me, they don't know my life, or how he became the way that he is, or how we found out about it, ya know? I won't see those people again. I know in my heart that I am already doing what is best for Mike, and our family, by having him go thru Early Intervention, and now starting at Summit. I think the only real differences between Mikey and Will is that Mikey can talk some (and he wasnt talking as of October of last year). We should get them together and play, even if it's only an hour.
I actually had an adult make fun (sort of) Mike when I was at the mall returning stuff over the Christmas holiday. There were 2 girls, about 20yrs old, and one said to the other "damn, he's a little big for the stroller, ain't he?" I ignored them. Then she goes to say "Hi" to him, but of course he didnt answer her, he was staring at the lights on the ceiling. Then she says "hmmph, can't even say Hi back??". Now, if it were any other time, i would have said "he's not allowed to talk to stupid people, that's why he didnt say hi". I thought that was a bad approach since there were 2 of them, and I was alone with him at the mall, at about 7:30 at night, and I parked in the parking ramp. I thought because they were stupid, they would try to knife me or something, ya know? Long story short - I pray that Will will love his new school, and you will feel the need to "explain" him in public to be few and far inbetween. He's a handsome little guy - and you'll soon have to say to him "Could you stop talking for 1 minuet!!" It'll happen. If you need to talk, I am here!

Dawn Fraser said...

Hey Dawn, I thank you so much for putting this post on your blog and being so honest about the challenges of raising a child with special needs. You may or may not know, but I have a twin brother with Down's syndrome. When we were growing up, it was often hard to accept comments about me 'taking everything' (in terms of intellect, looks, etc) from my twin to the point where I sometimes felt guilty for being born 'normal' and wondered what life would be like if he had been born the same. Although I have always loved and supported my brother (including little games that we played with each other that only existed in our twin universe), it wasn't until I was older that I started to understand that children with special needs come to special families. They influence our worlds in such a way that shows me the blessings that are so abound. The same way that my twin has helped me understand the importance of family, community involvement, genuine love and advocacy for the rights of all people, I'm sure that Will is going to shine some light in your own life in ways you've never imagined. I know it must be challenging, but I have faith that you will find journey enlightening and life changing. Good luck with him and thank you for sharing you story. Peace