Monday, May 13, 2013

The child

*Editor's note: This post is not about my son, Morgan. This is, however, fiction based on real events; a combination of instances put into story form in an attempt to make people think. Everything in this story has happened, but again, the character Samuel isn't actually Morgan.  

Imagine you're a boy, about nine years of age, who is supposed to be entering fourth grade but instead is approaching third. Pretend that you have a diagnosis of ADHD and anxiety, with a speech delay and learning delay. You might have sensory processing disorder, too, but your doctor tells your mom incorrectly that this is common with all kids with ADHD and anxiety and your school refuses to test for it.

Pretend that your mother, who has every good intention in the world, cannot for the life of her figure you out and you cannot, because of your language impairments tell her all that you need to. You react to adverse stimuli with meltdowns. Society sees you as a "bad kid." You have very few friends. You're a misfit, a square peg being continuously shoved in round holes.

You begin school, like other kids, at the preschool level. The school tells your parents that you are "too young and too low functioning for their low functioning program." So your parents keep you out for that year. The next year, your parents try again, not yet having knowledge of IEPs, special education, or the acronyms that would be coming. The school informs them that you are now too old for preschool.

Your mommy is so frustrated, but puts the pressure on. She enrolls you in kindergarten. You are excited, though because of your speech delay, you can't really express it. You meltdown on that first day. The principal calls your mommy and tells her that you are too young for kindergarten, not ready yet. You've been in school for one day.

Your mom has already been searching for another school for you, one with great programs in speech. Your parents have been looking to buy a house in this school district that they've heard is fabulous. And, it is. For neurotypical kids. Your psychiatrist tells your mommy that you will do well in a school environment, with an IEP, supports, and good teachers. Your doctor has even heard of and recommends this school.

You start kindergarten again. Oh, you love your teacher, Mrs. Sabrina! You even make a friend, Lacy. But the other kids don't really understand why the noises hurt your ears. Or why you aren't completely potty trained. Or, why you can't write like they do, or color like them, or cut paper like them. You go home in tears more days than you get into your mommy's car with a smile.

Your mommy thinks that next year will be better. You'll be older. You have medications that will help you. But your mommy cannot tell the future. She cannot see that the administration is changing, that the kids who don't understand you are getting older and will become mean. Your mommy cannot see that her illness which will lead to surgery will throw you for a loop and that behaviors will scare other people. Your mommy doesn't know that the teacher you will be placed with has no sympathy for "your kind."

First grade isn't how it was supposed to be. Instead of one class with your specials, there are three. Your teacher isn't nice at all. You can't control emotions, or your tics. You lash out, even when you try to be calm. You feel like you're crawling out of your skin and even try to claw it off sometimes. You make your mommy cry. You feel so bad.

The bullies hurt you and your friend, Franklin. He has something called Autism and is even in some of the "special special" classes, just like you! From what his mommy says, the bullies peed on him, and spit on him... they shoved him, and punched him. You don't know why, because he's so nice. You try to tell on the bullies, but the teachers say you're making it all up. This hurts.

Franklin's mommy and your mommy must have been right about stopping the bullies. It's almost the end of the year, but the bullies finally stop. You wish that your teacher would be nicer, but you're too scared to say anything to your mommy. Every time you've told on her in the past, the teacher has yelled at you more. "Samuel," she'll say, "you'll never amount to anything!" She's scary.

You're so happy when you're at home. Your mommy tries to make everything better. But you feel so dumb. The work from school makes you feel stupid. You can see that you're not doing the same work as the other kids.

Third grade comes and nothing seems right. You're in a class most of the day and none of the other kids speak. They're nice most of the time, but three of them flap their hands, just like Franklin did! But they scream and it really hurts your ears. One of them threw a desk once. No one said why, but the little girl was never punished. You're not allowed to tell your mommy, but you never do any "real" work. You play with alphabet blocks and draw. Just like in kindergarten, but easier.

In speech, the therapist gets inpatient. If you need to take your time writing something or sounding something out, she'll just do it for you. She tells you to never your mom.

Teachers talk about you like you're not there. They pinch you when you're "bad" or ask questions. When your mommy notices the bruises, you get scared and tell her you don't know where they came from. 

Your main teacher is pretty nice. You once threw a desk at her and she didn't even tell your mommy. She says you can't help it. You think you can, but don't say anything. When your mommy finally finds out, she's mad. She says you can't do things like that. But, you think, "the little girl did it, why can't I?"

You see the work that the other kids are doing. You think, "I can do that, too, if I'm just given the chance!" But no one ever gives you that chance. You are given work you've been doing for three years, since kindergarten. You're bored, so you don't do it. You sit in your "special" class with the sweet kids who don't talk and help the teacher like she asks. You wonder why you're in that class, but no one ever says why.

Lacy's mommy won't let you play with her anymore. 

You overhear your mommy talking about something called "test scores" on the phone. Mommy's mad. Really mad. She's talking to Franklin's mommy about how you've been allowed to fall through the cracks at school. You wonder what that means and go back to playing.

Your mommy tells you over the summer that you're going to a new school. That there will be a different way of doing things. You are excited. You think, "Maybe now I won't be yelled at all the time. Maybe now I'll learn to read. And add. And write. Maybe now, I'll have a real friend."

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