Positive Changes: My Emotional Disabilities Child Graduates from High School

Posted May 25, 2011 by

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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.


I am a mom of two boys, ages 16 and 22, both with ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. I have remarried and my husband has 2 boys, ages 13 and 16. The 13 year old lives with us, and has some behavioral problems and attachment issues. There is always something happening at our house!

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  1. Emmie Report

    Melly, I have never home schooled any of my children. My personal opinion is that they needed the social skills that could only be gained through interactions with their peers. Although, people who home school typically hook up with other home schooling families and they do field trips and events. My son was very inappropriate in his interactions with peers and adults. I signed my son up for a social skills group at a local teen center the summer when he was 13. It was a 5 week program and they went to public places like restaurants and stores. Even in public school he was supposed to participate in social skills groups but he ditched them and the school applied no consequences when he did not go, nor did they go get him! In the school he finally ended up in, he had therapy weekly and social skills training was part of the curriculum. The first year he was there (between 8th and 9th grade), he got extended year services, which meant he attended in the summer, but it was more social than academic. I am happy to say he eventually stopped being inappropriate, made friends, has had girlfriends and now holds a job. He applied for jobs over the past few years all on his own, gave appropriate notice to jobs he was leaving, etc.. If you would have asked me this when he was 14 I would never have believed he could turn around like he did! He told me, much later, that he was bullied in middle school. I had no idea at the time.

  2. Melly Report

    Kudos to you and your son. It’s so inspiring to read your post. My 3rd child is dyslexic. Besides trailing behind academically, she is really struggling to fit in. I can relate so much about your son’s predicament to fit in socially. I am struggling to cope as well. Still not sure whether I should continue her in the current private school that she’s going and let her learn on her own the social skills OR I should just homeschool her. Have you ever homeschool your child? Or would it do more harm than good? Would be really grateful if you can share your experience with your children on this matter. Thanks in advance.

  3. Trish Report

    I’m there! The “there” where they are in trouble at school and have no friends, etc, etc. I am trying everything I can to work with him through this and its nice to know there maybe a positive end. Thank you for your positive words of encouragement.

  4. Alison G. Report

    I could have written that first paragraph. Thankfully my son turned around in 4th grade. Things may change back again but for now I’m just enjoying the ride.

  5. Dr. Jim Report

    Emmie: Congrats! That is absolutely awesome.

    Regarding youngsters with emotional or behavioral issues, it continues to be an uphill grind to convince folks that many of the difficulties these kids face and present are SKILLS-related. When new skills are taught, learned and put into motion, terrific things can happen. And, more than anyone else, these youngsters themselves become excited about the possibilities and their future.

    You and your story are an inspiration!



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