He’s been asking to go to Kindergarten all summer. We’ve visited his school and met his teacher. We are now eight days from the first day of school. He’s pumped and I’m a big bag of mixed feelings.
Last year was a difficult year.
We were in a school district where kids like Jackson easily fall through the cracks. If you didn’t have an Autism diagnosis or a severe disability, there wasn’t really a place for you. Jackson often came across as just a behavior problem. We knew early on that the district would not be a place we could stay long-term. Jackson would either continue to be labeled a behavior problem or he’d be shoved in a classroom with 25 other kids and left to fall through the cracks.
It’ safe to say many of the school officials didn’t like me. I was the mama raising my voice to be heard. I was the mama sending emails and demanding they take Jackson’s disorders seriously. I was the mama blogging about schools failing students like Jackson.
I have no doubt they were glad to see us move.
I was glad to move.
It’s maddening when your child has very real neurological disorders, but you sit in an IEP meeting and school officials have no good options for him – just stick him in a regular kindergarten class and send him to a resource room if he gets overwhelmed.
Not good enough.
When we told the IEP team we were moving and gave our list of reasons: smaller class sizes, Jackson could access all the special education programs without having to have an Autism diagnosis – they all shook their head in agreement.
They knew the plan they had come up with wasn’t the best for Jackson.
They knew a regular Kindergarten class would be be too much.
They knew, but there was no better option.
We’re blessed; we were able to pack up and move to a better district.
But what about families who can’t? What about the many children who don’t have Autism, but have disorders that cause them to struggle in the classroom.
They’re left to fall through the cracks.
Stick them in a regular classroom and we’ll deal with them when they start having problems – that was our previous districts game plan!
So imagine my surprise when I received an email from Jackson’s kindergarten teacher a few weeks ago listing the many options we had for making his kindergarten year a success.
I seriously wanted to cry!
We haven’t even started the school year and I am already seeing a night and day difference between our old district and the new one.
I shouldn’t be surprised.
I remember when I first called my friend Bryan for some legal advice. I was at a loss for what to do regarding Jackson’s education and he specialized in education law. He had a soft spot for special needs kids and their families.
Bryan, what am I going to do?
You know exactly what to do, Jennifer. Move. You know exactly where Jackson needs to be.
Bryan joined our fight last year. He did it for free. He did it because he wanted Jackson to succeed and receive an appropriate education.
Bryan was murdered in February.
After his death, I heard countless stories similar to our own. Bryan going above and beyond for kids like Jackson – kids who would easily be forgotten if someone didn’t speak up on their behalf.
These past few weeks as we’ve bought school supplies and talked to Jackson’s teacher, Bryan has often crossed my mind.
He was right.
We needed to move.
I wish I could pick up the phone and thank him.
Did I ever truly thank him for all his help?
God led us to this school and continues to reaffirm our decision to move here.
I have prayed this is the place where Jackson can thrive and become all God created him to be.
I have prayed his teachers will see his heart.
He’s creative, intelligent, full of joy, has an amazing sense of humor and is one determined little dude.
Will we have struggles? Of course.
When you have a child with special needs there will be struggles.
But I feel certain this year will be better than the one before.
And I’m pretty sure Bryan is looking down with a big smile on his face.