A Letter to My Special Needs Son’s School Principal
School has failed my son, who struggles with ADHD and Tourette syndrome. But here’s hoping 7th grade in your special education program can turn it all around. Plus, is labeling a special needs child necessary?
The next three years proceeded in the same way: We spent the first half of the year being scared by threats of his being left back, predictions of his never graduating high school if he didn't read more, even becoming a "troubled teen." Then with spring came the state tests, which he passed, literally, by a point or two. I was mystified, considering that he flunked nearly every in-class test. I asked how this was possible, and never got a straight answer. We pleaded for him to go to summer school, and the answer was always "He's fine! Summer school is only for the kids who don't pass the tests. See you next year."
So we paid a tutor each summer. We knew she couldn't work a miracle, but her unspoken role was to praise his efforts, something few adults did. We gladly paid her for that.
As his academic abilities floundered, though, his athletic abilities grew; he was an all-star basketball player every year, MVP twice. At practices, the other moms would drop their sons off. I stayed for the hour and a half, all alone, watching. Do you have kids, Mr. Principal? For a couple of hours a week, he wasn't a problem. He was a star. Basketball saved him...and me.
On July 4, 2010 , we were watching fireworks when his head started twitching. Then his arm started jerking. The tics got worse and as the first day of fifth grade approached, he started grunting, chirping, and meowing. Tourette syndrome was diagnosed. The kids that year, having known him all through elementary school, were pretty tolerant.
At the end of fifth grade, I was finally able to convince the special education committee that a child who has never been able to read a single grade-level summer reading book is not "fine." He was put into an inclusion class as he moved into your school.