Our son was born in the middle of the night in a hospital about an hour away from where we live, I was there, not because I gave birth to him but because I am his mom. My husband was also there, not because his DNA runs through our son’s veins, but because he is his dad. I coached and my husband cut the cord on this beautiful baby boy that was ‘given’ to us by a woman who couldn’t care for herself much less a baby. She loved him more than life itself and simply wanted what was best for him. From the moment he was born I promised to do whatever I had to do to make his life as great as possible. Of course I could have no idea what that truly meant.
You see, our son was so advanced so early. We thought he would do great things someday. In fact when he began public school in kindergarten he was so much more advanced than the other children that for first grade he was placed in a class for advanced students. First grade was amazing, second grade was good, third grade was a nothing less than horrible and it went downhill from there. Public school was a nightmare for him. He hated everything about it. He didn’t want to go. He would beg and plead for me to not make him go. He would cry and scream and kick and push and sometimes he would get so worked up he would actually vomit. He wouldn’t take the bus, he literally would bolt out into traffic to avoid getting on the bus. I was late to work every day, I would have to drive him the one block to school and then physically drag him into the school and once he was secured in the principal’s office or with a trusted school adult I would bolt out to my car to get away….all the while telling myself his screams and cries would end as soon as I was gone. One day as I ran to my car to escape he tried to climb out the window…I will never forget that day, As I got into my car I could hear him screaming, “mommy, please don’t leave me here, Mommy, come back, Mommy, why are you doing this to me”. As I drove away the tears ran down my face and pooled on the rim of my travel mug. A quarter mile later I was on the phone with my husband, my exact words were, “ I can’t do this anymore, it is too hard, I can’t leave him there like this thinking I don’t love him,” My husband responded that, “we would figure it out and if that meant I had to explore other employment options, so be it.” 20 minutes later I sat in my supervisor’s office giving him my 2 week notice. I had no idea what I would do next, but I knew I had to be more available to my child and my current employment situation did not allow for that. (I was a bailiff and I often worked late at night and was unreachable during the day.)
Almost immediately, I was offered a job working at the same district that my son hated so much, incidentally it was also the district I had attended as a kid and our daughter was currently attending. Through the next few years I began to explore getting our son approved for special education services. This is when I first learned about the 3 initial hurdles and what it would take to prove my son needed the services and why. Apparently the fact that he hated school in and of itself was simply not enough. His anxiety, not enough. The fact that he was rapidly declining in all aspects of daily living in and out of school….again, not enough! Over the next year I had meeting after meeting with the special education department, I took him to countless appointments with pediatricians, behavior specialists, OT and PT specialists. I begged, I
pleaded, I threatened, I yelled, I cried. I got angry, I got sad…eventually mid way through third grade he was ‘awarded’ special education services and moved form the general education classroom to a ‘special’ classroom. This is where we finally got a short reprieve. Over the next 2 years he was protected and I was confident he would ‘get better’ at school, then middle school happened. If he wasn’t ‘failing’ previously he sure was now. I watched as my beautiful happy preteen boy went from a smiling funny popular boy to a sad, distraught, loner who had no friends and hated everything about his life….it was no longer just school he was deficient in but in life in general. Nothing seemed to be working out for him. He once again hated school, hated the ‘special class’ he was now in and especially hated the teacher…as did I! It was so difficult to try to be diplomatic while wanting to tell that one particular teacher where to go and how to get there! The final straw came at Christmas time during his 6th grade year. I had had enough of sitting down and being told what was best for my own child. I had jumped through all their hoops, I had followed all of their recommendations and yet my son was slipping further and further away. It was time for this mom to step up in a way i never had before. I insisted his ‘team’ discuss an alternative placement. I was adamant that his needs were not being met and that I was ready to explore other options. Finally they listened! Finally the public school agreed to a change in placement and we settled on Bellcate School. I was overjoyed that we had won…that was short lived and replaced with shear terror of what I had actually done. My son would no longer be protected. I would no longer be there to watch over what was happening throughout the day. I was beside myself with worry. WE had meetings with the new school and were told how different it would be…still I was nervous. I had never imagined that our son would go to an alternative school…little did I know this would be the BEST thing that could have ever happened for him and for our family. Over the last 6 years our son and our family have been supported in a way we could never have imagined. Bellcate has proven to be a place where not only our son fits but our family fits as well. This school is a community of families just like ours and yet completely different from ours all at the same time. We have been so supported in all that is important when parenting a child with special needs. Bellcate is a school that sees to all of his educational needs, but it is also a community that supports our family. We have made life long friends there and know it is where we belong. It took a long time for us to understand the dreams we had for our family and for our son were not ours to have…ours were different ones, equally as good, just different. Bellcate helped us get to this place where we understand that, without them I have no idea where we would be…and I do not want to know because where we are is a pretty wonderful place.