» Start of the school year and a string of thoughts on being “different” in public school

I threw all my clever 3-4 word post title ambitions out the window on this one. Because there is nothing neat, clean or tidy about starting the school year when your child is a bit different.

When you walk in to meet the teacher night, heart-racing, and hope that there is no pause on the other side after you introduce your child. When you’ve had 900 meetings and emails just to get to this point. When you aren’t sure that the woman you’re handing your child off to really understands how she works and doesn’t work sometimes. When you’ve worked all Summer to prepare said child educationally and socially and hope that one week doesn’t undo months of progress. When you are scarred from past blunders within the school and special education system. When you aren’t certain that everyone is really on your team.

If you are a parent of a child with a special need, disability, illness or other special circumstance you know about this heart-pounding, finger-nail biting week called back-to-school. You know about the emails to the new teacher explaining the behaviors, needs and triggers not listed on the IEP. You know how much the teacher needs to know those and you know the despair you’ll feel when the teacher feels attacked rather than empowered. When all you hoped to do was give her a glimpse into understanding this neat kid that you call son or daughter.

It’s desperate times. And we try to stay calm and collected. But the appeasing replies and scripted emails fall flat as we search for those that really want to help our kids soar, like we know they can.

And sometimes, we get those bright and shiny people. The people that are happy to rejoice in the diversity of humankind. The extra-mile school people. Who order bumpy mats to go in front of swinging doors so your blind child will have a warning. Who ask you to walk the building to make sure it’s safe and properly prepared for your child.

In those moments and with those people the world feels a little bit safer and warmer for our kids.

After 3 years of advocating within our school system those warmer people are appearing more and more. Perhaps it’s all part of watching a child bloom… but it’s also the result of advocacy and pushing and questioning and suggesting and 900 meetings. It’s the result of one child pushing past her circumstances and embracing a life full of promise.

So…friends who are approaching the start of school with different, perfect and wonderful children… keep speaking. Keep standing, keep emailing, keep suggesting. And know that we are all standing in solidarity together. Through every IEP meeting, teacher conference and email string… we are together.

Start the school year strong. Speak for your babies.


About the author


Erica is an advocate for simplicity, family time, making a cozy home and loving others well. She is the community coordinator for One Orphan, the orphan care ministry of America World Adoption Association. Erica and Calvin have four young children; Elliott, Charlotte, Lola and Liam. They currently reside in Nashville, TN.

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