Hello Middle School

back-to-schoolThis week Katie started 6th grade. My daughter is in middle school. How did that happen? I know it’s a cliche, but time is simply flying by, galloping forward and gaining speed. My baby is no longer my baby, or even my little girl. She is growing and changing, gaining skills and independence. She is also back in our home school district.

I wish this fact didn’t worry me. I wish it didn’t make me anxious and tense, but unfortunately it does. To say that Katie and I have not had a positive experience with this school district would be a monumental understatement. Not once but twice, the district repeatedly suspended Katie for nothing more than having autism. Both times, after countless meetings (and lost work days), I was forced to threaten a lawsuit. Katie was then transferred to another district mid-year. As a result, Katie has spent five out of six years of grade school in two districts other than our own.

Yes, you read that correctly. She spent less than half of kindergarten and roughly half of third grade in our district. The rest was spent elsewhere.

I’m scared this fall will be round three.

I don’t want to put my child through that stress and disruption again. I don’t want to put myself through that mess again. And yet, this district offered a far better placement option than the one we were in. Last spring the choice felt like Catch 22—and it still does.

I didn’t want Katie to transfer back to our home district and yet here we are. Part of me wants to throw in the towel and just give up. The other part can’t believe I just wrote that. The concept is unthinkable. How could I give up on my child?

But I can’t escape the fact that I’m exhausted. I’ve grown weary of fighting the same fight. The details change but the underlying issue remains the same: although tasked with providing an individualized education to children with special needs, schools prefer a one-size-fits-all approach. My child, despite my best efforts, is falling through the cracks. I can’t let that happen.

Helen Keller and Anne SullivanYears ago a friend said I needed to find Katie’s Annie Sullivan, the teacher who found a way to reach Helen Keller. Will Katie’s new teacher, Mr M, fill that role? I hope he can, but there is no way to know. All I can do is make an informed decision and wait to see what happens.

You’d think after eight years of infertility, after years of waiting for something approaching a conversation with Katie, I’d be comfortable with this state of being. I’m not. Waiting never gets easier.

And yet here I am again—waiting for a miracle. Or perhaps simply a repeat of past events. Or possibly some unknown middle ground.

I don’t know what the future holds, but one thing I do know: I will never, ever give up. I don’t know how long it will take, but someday, somehow, I will find the program that meets Katie’s unique educational needs. Even if I have to create it myself.

Until next time,

About Cynthia J. Patton

Writer, Editor, Advocate, Speaker, Special Needs Attorney, and Autism Mom. Also the Founder and Chairperson of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit providing resources and solutions for life on the spectrum.
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