As my son comes into the home stretch as a senior, I am overcome with pride as this chapter of our lives comes to an end and a new one begins. He has become the young man we all knew was buried inside him somewhere. His past school experience had been nothing but negative. He had no friends, his grades were poor, and he had no motivation to attend school. He was depressed, nasty, negative and angry. I could not take him to my friends’ social gatherings and he had no social circle of his own. This was a bright and gifted child, yet very few teachers knew how to reach him. My hopes for him were fading. I was sure he was going to drop out of school without some serious intervention. I pictured delinquency, drugs, worse… The journey to get him into a school more suited to his needs was treacherous, but thankfully he was accepted into a therapeutic day school for eighth grade.
Individual and group therapy, small classes, consistent consequences and medication changes over the years, have all contributed to his growth. He has made many friends at school and has a social circle that is accepting. He stays in touch with friends who graduated before him. The confidence he gained spilled over into community activities and he began attending a local teen center and became a member of their Student Council. Not only does he attend social events at the center, as a teen council member he has a say in what activities they will have. Through the center he has made friends with teens from different area schools. He plays guitar and has met others who play a variety of instruments and they have jam sessions at the center. His career goal is to be a chef and with encouragement from his teachers and counselor he is pursuing his dream and will apply to culinary school for next fall.
Not only has he learned and grown from his experience there, but I have as well. Nobody tells you how to parent a child with emotional disabilities. I had to make changes in my home and changes in my parenting style to accommodate his needs. I have gotten support from the teachers as well as from his school therapist when needed. I have learned to be an advocate for my children and have pursued other avenues of my own to help other families advocate for their children.
I believe wholeheartedly that without the supports of this school, my past vision of his future would have been accurate. This was the first place he felt accepted for who he was; people finally “got” him. He entered school with his head hung low and eyes averted to the floor, but he will walk across the stage with his head held high and his eyes fixed on a vision for a bright future.