Carter has been at his private school for kids with special needs for a year now.
One year without threats to send my husband and me to truancy court in spite of letters from multiple doctors documenting the medical causes of those absences. One year during which Carter's teachers have called us every time he has become excessively upset, aggressive, or ill during school hours. One year of adequate supervision so that Carter doesn't become the target of bullies on the playground or in the lunchroom. One year of sending my son to a school where people care about him.
It's been remarkable, to see what Carter can do when he knows he's safe. I'm still stunned when, at the end of a school day, his teachers say things to me like, "He's been having a hard time the past few days. Is there anything we can do to help him get to feeling better?" There is no scolding; no shaming; no tsk tsk tsking. Just people who care about my kid enough to get to know him and work with his issues instead of against them.
Not that I blame the teachers for our terrible experience at the public school. On the contrary; all but two of the teachers we worked with really wanted to provide the education that Carter needed, but they didn't have the space or time they needed to help him. In Carter's class at the private school, there are twelve kids, two teachers, and an educational assistant. If any of the kids falls to pieces, an adult is available to help. No one has ever hollered at Carter (I heard it from the hall twice when he was at the public school), sobbing and near-hysterical, "Stop it right this minute!"
No one points out to us anymore that Carter is not working at grade level. I always hated that, the charts and graphs that showed Carter gaining a few months of educational progress per year. He's still far, far behind his age group, but that's not going to change so I don't see any real purpose in focusing on it beyond what the law requires. Carter's current teachers concentrate on the gains he's making, comparing him only to himself across time.
For all my celebration about being able (because of the generosity of my parents) to give my child the best possible education, I also have a broken heart for the kids who don't have the same thing. Several times in recent weeks, as education budget cuts have filled the news, my husband has insisted that I turn off the TV, shut down the computer, and put away my mobile device. "I know you're not playing solitaire on that thing because you're gritting your teeth. Put it away!" he says, and I do, because he's right. Tying myself in knots over budget cuts isn't going to increase funding.
So I'll write another letter about what Carter needs, and what my three typically-developing kids need, and what our nation needs, and I'll send it to the people who make these decisions. I'll encourage you to do the same thing.
And then I'll try not to panic because as bad as it is now? It's soon to be worse.
Adrienne Jones lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband, their four children (two of hers, one of his, and one they share), and the Wonder Dogs. She blogs about family life, pediatric mental illness, health care, special education, and all kinds of other things at No Points for Style.