All those labels are getting me steamed. In the world of special education, my son is a veritable bowl of alphabet soup: OCD, ADHD, TS, LD, OHI. In English, this translates to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Tourette Syndrome, Learning Disability and, (as if those weren’t enough,) Other Health Impairments. Over the years, we’ve had almost every letter of the alphabet flung our way. But in reality, my son is not a hot appetizer, a grouping of letters, nor even a diagnosis. He is just Sam: my beautiful, funny, affectionate, inquisitive, compassionate, chatty 13-year-old boy. He's a talented actor & singer, who can also rock out on the drums.
Now, I'm not completely knocking diagnoses. They can certainly be a starting point, and may even give us a basic "recipe" as to what makes a child tick, or in my son's case ... er ... tic. They can also be immensely helpful in terms of securing special education services from a local school district. But, just like in cooking, you can’t focus on a single ingredient. As parents and educators, we need to look beyond to the whole person. We need to understand & respect what truly motivates a child, and capitalize on his or her strengths, (versus focusing on the weaknesses.)
In this day & age, it is completely frustrating that there aren't more programs suited to a kid like mine who is "in between." He is too academically impaired for a regular class, but too high functioning socially for a special ed class. Okay, if I lived in
, I would have my pick of several great programs. But I am stuck in the suburbs with little to offer. So we have had to make do. Manhattan
Sam is a "street smart" kid who finds it social torture to navigate middle school from the perspective of the special education class. Not only do kids treat him differently, but teachers can be condescending, as well. To quote Sam, "What is their problem? I'm not an idiot!" He longs for his summers at sleep away camp, where there are no labels and he is treated like everyone else.
But I am hopeful that eighth grade will bring about positive changes in his world. For starters, he was cast as THE LEAD in the school play, Seussical. And, yes, I admit it: I am proud that a “SpEd” kid beat out 100 other middle schoolers for the plum role!!! These Long Island soccer moms need to understand that just because a child is challenged in one aspect of his life, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t excel in other areas.
Otherwise, I will continue to try -- for Sam and my other two sons -- to create building blocks of positive experiences for them … each one serving as a solid foundation for the next. I don’t really care what letters of the alphabet these boys represent. All I know is that each one brings a flavorful ingredient to the mix. And I can't wait until the timer goes off and I get to see how awesome this recipe turns out.