August is not my favorite month. In fact, it’s probably my least favorite. It’s hot. It’s muggy. And it’s the start of a new school year. Oh, the school traumas!
The last time I was excited about school starting was when Luke was off to kindergarten. I was excited for him to experience school and friendships with peers (and to have no kids at home). The teacher busted that bubble on day #2 when she called me in for a meeting. Ever since that August day in 2007, August and I are no longer friends I dread August and the start of a new school year. School with an ADHD (an LD and APD and gifted) kiddo is exhausting for a parent.
Here’s our track record with school and ADHD:
Kindergarten: teacher kept insinuating were were not fulfilling our parenting duties in preparing him for school
First Grade: Luke’s new teacher in his new school was very in tune with his differences and his needs. He was diagnosed with ADHD by a private specialist but denied special education services for a his ADHD and writing disability. We secured classroom accommodations through a 504 Plan.
Second Grade: His teacher wanted to do everything she could to make school easier for Luke. She wanted it so much that she coddled him, let him break boundaries and even fudged his grades a bit. She was super sweet but her extreme leniency didn’t help Luke learn organization or self-regulation. We continued and periodically updated the 504 plan.
Third Grade: Third grade is the year of “accountability” in U.S. public schools. This was the year of “the great fight” for me. I had Luke re-evaluated for special education services and inclusion in October when I realized his handwriting and written expression disabilities were preventing him from success in all academics. He was granted special ed services and we drafted an IEP. But the IEP wasn’t adequate for his needs. We met every couple months the entire second semester and I fought and fought for more supports at school: more support and some assistive technology in the general education classroom, supports for deteriorating social issues, supports to teach organization, he needed so many supports and didn’t get any of them, despite the IEP team always agreeing with me on what he needed (not always, but 90% of the time). He received a “D” on his report card in writing every quarter, despite have special ed and an IEP. I reached my breaking point, crying in IEP meetings and ultimately deciding we had to do whatever it took to get Luke in a charter or private school better suited to his learning style and more willing to work with his needs.
Fourth Grade: Luke starts fourth grade next week. He will be attending a small private school that focuses on hands-on, student-directed, experiential learning. It was a complete twist of fate that we had the funds to send him to this school (a partial permanent impairment payment from Worker’s Comp for a finger injury Daddy experienced at work the year before was just enough to bridge the enormous gap between what we could spend on his tuition and the actual tuition) when he wasn’t selected for open slots in the two local Charter Schools. This school is almost exactly what I imagined as the ideal school for Luke. Our entire family is excited about this school year for him.
However, I am still quite nervous about the start of the school year. Not as nervous as I would be if he were attending our local public school again, but anxious nonetheless. It’s a new environment, a school that does not have a special ed department and is not subject to IDEA law. I know deep down that this school is ideally suited to Luke regardless of that fact because it will be able to not only fully accommodate his ADHD and learning disabilities but also nurture his gifted intelligence.
So I approach the new school year with some trepidation (mostly over the recent announcement I received from Luke’s teacher explaining that they’re going on an overnight camping field trip in September — how will they handle his meds? his behavior in the evening when meds aren’t working? being sure he doesn’t wander from the group?…). I am anxious but I am also armed and ready to be sure Luke’s needs are met at school, just as I am every year.
What are you worried about with your ADHD child starting a new school year? What have you struggled with in the past?