A new school year is upon us! My twins, who turn four next month, are starting their third year of special education preschool. It’s a half-day program at the local public school. They absolutely LOVE it! They get to ride the big yellow school bus, eat a snack, and even do yoga with the physical therapist.
One of my boys, Julian, is completely nonverbal with an autism diagnosis. He is the sweetest, cutest kid ever. The other one, Dominic, is undiagnosed, with a severe language delay. He is also the sweetest, cutest kid ever.
I know most parents worry when they send their kids off to school. When my oldest son started kindergarten seven years ago, I mostly worried about his behavior. He is “all boy!” I worried about what color he would get in his folder everyday… Could he adjust to sitting still for a longer period of time? How would he do making new friends?
Now that I have children with special needs, my concerns have drastically changed. I no longer worry about my own children’s behavior; That isn’t even something I can reinforce at home.
I now find myself worrying about the teachers’ behavior. I know that might sound negative, but let me explain… Imagine sending your child to school with duct tape on his mouth. Seriously… take a second to imagine that. My children can’t voice their questions. They can’t voice their worries, frustrations, or fears. And to top it off, they can’t tell me about their day when they get home. It’s scary.
Their teachers and therapists are in complete control. I worry how they will handle their own frustrations throughout the day. It’s not that I don’t trust them, because I do. My boys have an amazing team working with them. I just know how hard their jobs are… and I know how irritated I get on a daily basis.
Even though my boys are at different levels and have their own specific needs, my message to their teachers is the same. Here are a few things I want them to know:
1. I appreciate you.
In the midst of meetings, conferences, and classroom parties, there will be times when I forget to say this. But it’s true. If I could buy you a drink everyday (alcoholic or caffeinated), I would. You have one of the most important jobs in the world. Thank you!
I also know that you don’t live at school. I know that teaching is your profession, and you have a life outside of work. I realize that you get sick, your family gets sick, and life happens. You have a demanding job. I couldn’t care less about your lesson plans being typed up and your newsletter coming home on time. So relax… I’m in your corner.
2. I’m counting on you.
I’m entrusting you with two of my children. Neither one of them can tell me what happened at school that day. Imagine how scary that is for me. You’re not only their teacher, you’re their mother when I’m not around. I want you to treat them as if they were your own.
3. I’m not Super-Mom.
I try my best. But I’m stretched thin. During the first week of school, my boys will have on fresh clothes and shoes. They’ll have cute little snacks, and their hair will always be brushed.
But there will also be mornings when we miss the bus because their insomnia kept them (and me) awake at night. I may even forget to put a snack in their bags one morning because my other two kids wouldn’t get out of the bed. (Both of them have recently been diagnosed with Teenager.)
Please be patient with me, and don’t take it out on my boys. It’s not their fault that I can’t handle life. Remember, I’m counting on you.
4. Their emotional health is far more important than their IEP goals.
My family has worked very hard to make sure my boys feel safe and loved in a world they often don’t understand. That sense of security can be ripped away in an instant if they’re pushed too far. Of course I want my children to master new skills and make developmental gains. But that won’t happen if they don’t feel safe… if they no longer like school.
There will be days when they just can’t “get it together.” But remember, they’re not being bad. They’re simply frustrated. Autism doesn’t play fair. So when that happens (and it will), CALL ME! I may have ideas that could help get them back on track. Or I may even decide to pick them up. We are in this together; We’re a team.
My children are my world, and I’m doing everything I can to help them progress. Sending them to school is a huge part of those efforts. As a parent, I’m counting on you to protect, encourage, and guide them. I’m looking forward to the year just as much as you are. So, thanks in advance! ❤