Here we go, about to start a new school year. Not only will my son be starting school next week, but so will I. I have 2 years left until I get my degree in Special Education- and my son will be continuing on in the KIDS pre-k program. My son attended the last few months of the past year and then went to ESY, which makes this his first full year. It’s exciting for him, but it doesn’t come without it’s own set of concerns on my part.
My son is only 3, and will once again be one of the youngest and smallest in his class (the ages range from 3-6). In the summer school program we encountered some issues that worry me about what could happen this next year. I want to share this experience as I’m sure many can relate to it. Elijah was attending a 6 week ESY program which contained students ages 3-6. He was the youngest in his class and that is where the problems for him began. All of the students in his class have autism as well, and obviously some are lower on the spectrum than others. It seems like every other day I would get a call from the school saying that Elijah was hurt by a student. The first time a student pushed him down, the next time they threw a puzzle at Elijah’s head, and so on. This continued for a few weeks, but nothing seemed to be too bad or cause for concern. Then he started coming home with scratches on his face. The school called and informed us of the scratches but when he got home, I was shocked at how bad it was. That’s when I realized this was a bigger issue. My husband asked one of the teachers if it’s the same kid who has been hurting him the whole time, and they said yes. They think it has to do with Elijah being the smallest. The student who was hurting him did not attend the last week of the summer school program, and it seemed like Elijah’s mood was much lighter and happier that last week.
Having gone through this experience, I can say that I was never once mad. These students are dealing with feelings and emotions we cannot begin to grasp. I cannot and will not place blame on a 6 year old with severe autism, who’s actions are not malicious. What I did feel was helpless. How could I have stopped or prevented this from happening when I’m not with my son? The truth is, there’s so little we can do once they are within those walls and we have to be willing to accept that. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t speak up when we have concerns, but being a “helicopter” parent doesn’t help the situation.
I can’t guarantee that my son won’t one day take his frustrations out on another student in the same way that this other student took his out on Elijah. I can only hope that the other parents understand and realize that it’s not a malicious act. Imagine living a life where you can’t organize or make sense of the thoughts in your head- oh, and you’re only 6 years old. I am concerned that this will happen to my son again, but I also know that I can’t shelter him from every bad thing in the world. We are parents, we naturally want to protect our children and it’s difficult to lose some of that control. I have found that communication with the teachers is my best ally in remaining involved and knowledgeable. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and raise concerns. It’s better than getting angry or upset without all of the facts.
Enjoy the last few days of summer and I hope it’s a great first week back for everyone!