A family’s journey
Today’s guest author is Amber Dawn. Amber is a resident of Des Moines, Iowa. Amber is an advocate for better teacher-parent relationships in the education system. Amber is a parent who’s willing to stand up for her son and others.
It all started in Kindergarten, a teacher told me something was wrong with my child. “He needs help, he’s not normal” at the time I was offended. I was working three jobs and had just gotten out of a very abusive relationship. I felt like I was doing the best that I could do. Then one day it hit me, as a mother, it hit me like a brick, straight to the heart and the head, guilt. My son isn’t normal. In life skills he was fine, in school, we had an issue. We moved to a bigger district thinking that bigger is better. We hoped that more resources at the school would help my now 1st grader who hates crayons (despises art) and has trouble tying his shoes because he can’t handle the feel of his shoelaces. Unfortunately, he got so frustrated in his new school that he was removed from the classroom. This meant no music, no art, no physical education, no recess, and his lunch was served in a duct-taped square on the floor. This was his education for nearly 2 years, he sat in his duct-taped square on the floor with a clipboard. He did a few worksheets but mostly colored, which he hates still to this day. He was certainly not getting an appropriate education.
My son has dysgraphia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, but the stuff that hurts him the most in education is that he has a slow processing speed and a sensory disorder. It took me several years to get an Individualized Education Program (IEP), then came filing for disability. Things were a struggle. What does a parent do when the school calls you so often that several jobs have asked you to resign? This was a common problem at the schools he attended. My child went through four different school therapists in a single year and each new one started over, making no progress. We eventually chose to get help outside of the school in a specialized facility that offered a variety of therapies, such as occupational therapy (OT).
At another school, they quickly learned what happens when you restrain a kid with severe PTSD – his heart rate dropped and he blacked out. My son has a heart defect, I was terrified. Other kids would tell me he was provoked sometimes they’d call me and say that my son took the blame for something just get out of the classroom. Why, why did he want out of the classroom? Did he want to go back to the duct-taped square, the coloring, the basics? In his last year of elementary school, he needed to catch up, but who would fill in the gaps? Often it comes down to us, the parents because students miss out on academic learning when they get pulled out for the other help and services. Often we aren’t told why they are behind, but it is because they didn’t get to participate in the class or lecture.
I have been trying so hard to work with the school administration but it has been hard. Daily police are at the school and I worry it’s for my child. It is a financial burden because he doesn’t qualify for homeschool here with the way it is regulated. Many times, when a school thinks a student “might” get escalated they call and ask you to come and pick up your child. Your child is not suspended, they just want you to come and either pick up your child or come sit with them until they know for sure. Now almost in middle school, I’m hoping that the school will be less likely to call the police for little stuff. However, this does not seem to be the case. The policeman I talked to recently was annoyed because this is getting too common, schools are calling the police for small things like tossing a pencil.
My son is doing a lot better today and has a different teacher. We lost 4 years and it will be difficult for him to catch up. It’s hard. I’m at a loss but doing the best that I can for him. People that don’t understand shun me, and have no idea how much I fight for my son each day. I’ve been hospitalized for exhaustion simply because some schools, stopped caring and educating my son. I can understand a lack of funding, but not a lack of humanity. It seems like each school’s goal was “get him through the year” so he would be the next school’s “problem”. Today, my biggest fear is he will start getting frustrated again and let out his anger, which could result in restraint, seclusion or the police being called. I will continue to be strong, I will continue to stand up for what is right – I must for my son.