This week marks back-to-school time for students in our area.
Bryan attended school for many more years than the average student. We signed him up as a newborn for his first educational experience which began at four months of age.
He was accepted into the Early Intervention Program of B.A.R.C. and had an I. (Individualized) P. (Program) P. (Plan). And, so, on September 14, 1981, I strapped my baby boy into his blue plaid car seat and drove the half an hour to school Monday through Friday, 9:00-1:00. Bryan attended this pre-school from four months to four years of age.
The early lessons of “patterning”, practicing basic milestones like sitting and standing and multi-sensory stimulation grew into speech therapy, learning of letters and numbers, and basic pre-kindergarten skills.
Once Bryan entered public elementary school, the I.P.P. turned into an I.E.P. until age twenty-one. The elementary years were a constant struggle to find the right placement for Bryan. There were never any students his age. All of those children were either 3-4 years older or younger than he. We had to push hard for Bryan to be put in a E.M.R.(Learning Support) class rather than a T.M.R. (Life Skills) class, subjecting him to countless I.Q. and developmental testing instruments along the way.
It was a daily stressor dealing with negative teacher input as Bryan struggled to attend to his lessons. Even with multiple behavior modification strategies, he would have more bad days than good. To quote a ten-year-old Bryan, “I’m having a tough time in school, Mommy. I’m angry, tired, sick and grouchy of school”. Couple these dismal school days with health concerns and it’s no wonder Bryan was having difficulty. Constant congestion, fluid in both ears, multiple surgeries, and other health concerns plagued his school days.
The teacher hinted at Attention Deficit Disorder. We took Bryan to multiple psychiatrists who attributed his lack of focus and attention to “developmental immaturity”.
It wasn’t until age fourteen and our fifth or sixth psychologist visit that a definitive diagnosis of A.D.H.D. was reached. Now we could treat the barrier to his learning. Better late than never.
Unfortunately, his middle school class dissolved right after the A.D.H.D. diagnosis at the end of the school year. On the last day of eighth grade. I found myself frantically visiting other school districts which were still in session to find a class for Bryan. And. then, I happened upon a classroom in a district north of ours where the most wonderful, warm and welcoming teacher convinced me that this would be an outstanding learning environment for Bryan until high school.
The last leg of Bryan’s educational journey began at the local Vo Tech school after we, as parents, had the tough conversation regarding what setting would benefit him the most. We came to the conclusion that Bryan needed training and a no-nonsense approach to get him ready for the competitive outside World of Work, not academia. At our final exit interview, Bryan’s teachers asked him what goals he had after graduation. He answered, “I want to move out and up by the time I’m thirty”. Which he did. At age 30.
And, now, he has an I.S.P. He continues to work on his goals and objectives. Today, as parents struggle with the decisions of mask-wearing and vaccinations, and at-home or in-school learning environments, I wonder how those whose children have developmental disabilities and social/emotional concerns are coping with all of these added stressors.
All I can say is: Persevere. You know what is best for your child. You are their most knowledgeable advocate. Persevere the way we did and the way Bryan does every day.