Therapeutic School

So the other thing I couldn’t blog about that has been occupying a lot of time lately is Ben’s problems at school.

It’s been a long year of back and forth with the school – discussions, early picks ups, suspensions, and meetings.

Adam asked me not to blog about it until it was settled, and I’m glad he did because along the way there was a lot on anger, frustration and confusion.

But now that we’ve found a resolution, I will sum it up for you.

Ben’s school was given the impossible task of telling us our son didn’t fit in.

And we were given the impossible task of receiving that information.

It’s been 3 years of schooling for Ben and none of it has gone well for him. So far we haven’t found a single place where people understand his needs and can accommodate them.

It’s a very confusing time for us as parents. Because I feel like whatever it is that makes Ben a nonconformist is something that wasn’t always there. The signs didn’t surface until he was about 3 years old.

Normal birth, no excessive ear infections or other sicknesses, no allergies, no head trauma. There was no indication earlier in his life that we would one day be here.

And when that happens, it’s really hard to believe.

At first you deny. You try to make him fit. You beg, you plead, you reason, you reward, you punish. But nothing works.

Next come the doctors. So many doctors! Psychologist, pediatrician, neurologist, allergist. And therapists! Behavioral therapists, occupational therapist, psychotherapists.

When we got the diagnosis of Sensory Processing, it was a relief.

Finally we have identified the problem, now we can find the cure!

But not every problem can be fixed overnight, and some, sadly, never get fixed.

I’ve googled the crap out of this disorder and I’ve read that 90-95% of kids either learn to deal with it or it disappears, I’ve read other articles saying it’s not real, and other stories of people eliminating food and eradicating it. I’ve also read even more articles saying kids don’t outgrow it but can learn to cope with proper therapy. Other articles say they may not learn to cope even with therapy.

Around December of this year the Office of Diverse Learners met with us at school and suggested alternative placement for Ben.

No matter how softly someone breaks that sort of news to you, it still hurts. Hits you like a fist in the stomach.

Even when you can see something is clearly not working, you still don’t want to admit it or take the leap out of the mainstream. Alternative schooling in some ways feels like you are giving up on your kids.

But still we took the suggestions, we kept our options open. We called schools, we got babysitters for the twins and went on tours. And we saw how different kids in alternative placement, or therapeutic day schools, really are.

Some schools cater to autistic kids, some for trauma, some for behavior disorders. One school we visited told us they have celebrations for successful potty training. That school’s youngest grade was kindergarden. Another school showed us Ben’s would be classroom and there was a kid grunting non-stop in the back of the room.

We noted that Ben didn’t look like most of them, and didn’t act like most of them, and we wondered once again how we had gotten here.

In some ways I felt like I was going through the process of grief and all it’s stages. There is a lot of denial, anger, and tears. Perhaps I was grieving something … I was grieving the death of the vision I had of having a conventional child.

After the initial shock of it all, we finally found a therapeutic school that seemed to fit the criteria we had in our minds for Ben.  It uses the same books as his current school, has a good focus on academic achievement, the right kinds of therapy, the kids seemed very similar to Ben and most importantly, they have a high rate of rehabilitation.

We sent in the paperwork and luckily, they accepted us. In fact they actively made room for Ben, moving kids around in order to let him start as quickly as possible.

This past week has been an emotional one. Even though it didn’t work out at his current school, he still has made a lot of friendships there, especially with the staff. It will be difficult for him to leave them. I was sad all week as I watched him and his three brothers playing in the playground after school together. All that family togetherness after school, the giddiness the twins feel finally seeing their brothers again, the glee they have running to the school playground together, will mostly end when he goes somewhere else. And the comfort he feels knowing Jack is in the same school with him, looking out for him and protecting him.

Ben's Last Day of School.

Ben’s Last Day of School.

His kindergarden teacher very kindly offered to celebrate Ben’s birthday early so his last day of school was a happy one, filled with cards from classmates, presents and birthday treats.

It was also a sad one, as he said good bye to so many people that became close with him over the year.

Hugging his one-on-one aide good bye.

Hugging his one-on-one aide good bye, she had tears in her eyes.

Another hug for the security guard.

Another hug for the security guard who has taken him under his wing.

And the very next day, today, he started at the new school. Let’s hope we’ve finally found the right fit.

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