Relief In Advocacy

J. started school yesterday in a suburb around Buffalo. I have been hearing quite a bit that transitions for children with special needs is notoriously difficult. So I have had a small knot in my stomach from the moment we officially knew we were moving.

Until today.

Specifically until 2:00 pm today.

This afternoon I walked into my son’s classroom, as new friends walked by to greet their parents, all smiles and I see J. get off his chair and stroll towards me, a big grin on his face. It’s day two and he is loving being back in school. It was then that his teacher shared with me how J talked to his class today.

For J, school has been a whirlwind of new faces and names, of new schedules and rules. He’s in school longer, 5 days a week as opposed to 3 days, requiring more stamina. He no longer has a 1-1 aide, nor a play therapist per the district’s decision. He will have new therapists with new strategies and methods to adjust to as well.

For me, I have been so anxious about this move. The last few days have confirmed it for me and before 2 pm today, I had a different story in my head, of what I would share. One of frustration where I was just informed yesterday that the district policy does not allow children to be assisted in any way in the restroom, even if they should soil themselves. A policy, while I understand the reasons for, still denies dignity to a special needs child who does not have additional assistance.

Frustration that the teacher or teacher’s aid would have to verbally instruct my son on how to undress and dress himself, even though he is physically unable and might even hurt himself in the process. My shock at the school district’s statement that if J attended public school he’d get an aide, but since we’ve chosen a private school, he is denied. Or that if he had more than 2 sessions per therapy needed, they’d have to bus him to another school (who decides this crap?). My frustrations at being less informed at J’s IEP meeting than I thought I was, leading me to be less pushy on certain services. Yes, a completely different story.

However, J’s teacher told me today how he advocated for himself when asked to explain a little about his CP. She told me how he asked his classmates to be extra careful around him so they don’t knock him down. He told them he may not always be able to keep up, it hurts sometimes to run, and to be patient with him, as he sometimes is slow. He described his struggles and asked for his community to support him and he is only 4 1/2 years old.

As of this afternoon, I am no longer worried, we’ve got this, we’re doing something right!

Yes the there are battles yet to fight, solutions to be found, and the toileting situation is temporarily resolved, but my son took the biggest step of all. He spoke up for himself and others listened.

He spoke up for himself.

My husband and I, if we do nothing else for him, we at least taught him this, that he is able to speak up and be heard and what he says matters.



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