This will be the first of maybe two or three posts which deal directly with the school years, as I intend to elaborate on them from the time my daughter was diagnosed with TS and ADD.
I would like to briefly clarify before I go into our experiences with the school system that my daughter and I overall have been tremendously blessed. My daughter was blessed to be surrounded by teachers, other school personnel and students that were caring, accepting and understanding yet expected excellence, as they knew she was capable of accomplishing tasks like any other individual — with the right accommodations in place.
She was never bullied or made to feel that she was an outcast in any way. We did have hurdles in the beginning, and I had to fight for her rights and even hire a lawyer to help me fight my fight because I refused for her not to be given all the opportunities she was entitled to.
Most of my fight was early on, in and around the fifth and sixth grade and then again when she was going to graduate eighth grade. Most of my fight was with a handful of individuals and with all the individuals that have been involved in her success I would say that is a pretty impressive statement that can be made.
I clarify this because it would not be fair not to give credit to all those who have touched our life in such a positive manner, but I want everyone to know that had I not fought the school system, my child would probably not be where she is today.
I say this humbly, but it needs to be said that we must fight for our children so that they can live up to their fullest potential. I also would like to add before I go on that I am a very spiritual individual, and had it not been for my belief in the Lord, I would not have had the strength to come as far as I have with my child.
My daughter actually began her school years in a Pre-K specifically for children with disabilities. When she was around 2 years old, I took her for an evaluation with a neurologist because her pediatrician was concerned that she did not make eye contact.
After our visit to the neuro a few weeks later, I received the results of the evaluation which described a child that sounded absolutely nothing like my child. However, the findings were that there was some sort of neurological disorder so although the neuro did not describe my child well, she was correct in her diagnosis at that time of “neurological.”
By the time my daughter was close to 4 years old, someone suggested that I take her to a child study team evaluation. The individuals I met with explained to me that they did not believe my child had any issues, except that she was an only child and was not surrounded by other children on a regular basis. They believed that could be what made her somewhat not as social as other children.
I should mention that I never believed she had any issues associating with others because she was a very happy child. When she was around other children she interacted with them, but she did have issues sharing because she was an only child. The child study team suggested that she be put into a program in a school which tailored to children with disabilities.
They said that if at any time I noticed that this was affecting her negatively, I could just stop sending her. The hopes were that she would become more social, interact with other children and become prepared for kindergarten. It went well, and the program offered home-to-school bus service, so she was in the program for a year. Soon after that, she started kindergarten.
I would say that kindergarten to fourth grade were pretty normal. I would like to clarify that when I use the word “normal,” I use it very loosely because my daughter has taught me, her words exactly, “There is no such thing as normal — only unique and different.”
At the start of fourth grade is when her TS started to become more constant, and by the time she was in fifth grade, it really took off. This is when the struggle with the school system began.
I remember my D was in at that time a performing art academy. It was a small school, with only 80 kids in the entire school. In order for her to be accepted, she had to take a test and audition, which in her case meant show some artwork. Since she did well on the test and met the requirements for art capabilities, she was accepted.
This was a Godsend because where I live, the regular public schools have many children, and I knew that would be an issue. The school tailored to kids from fifth to eight grade. When the school accepted her, I believe I told them about her TS and ADD, but it wasn’t until she began that the issues really made themselves visible to the staff. And that is when our issues began.
There was one particular teacher in that school who was reluctant to go the extra mile for my D. He believed he had too many students and thus could not spend extra time on just one student. Well, I was not going to stand by and have him inform me that he did not need to do anything out of the ordinary for my child.
Here he was complaining about too many students when I knew as well as he that being a teacher in that school was a luxury, as the ratio was 20 to 1, and in the regular public schools it was more like 30 or 35 to 1.
The principal in that school was also a bit odd. She was very proud of her school, and although she did not say it to my face, it appeared as if she believed my daughter was hindering what her school was about. She suggested one time very nicely that my daughter would receive better care at another school, which meant having my child in a special class.
Obviously, they did not know the parent they were dealing with at the time, but they soon found out. More to come … stay tuned.