It is not the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the night before school starts and frankly that means many of you, my friends, the people I know who parent kids with unique needs, will not be sleeping well. I know you. I see you tweeting and posting and worrying quietly behind closed doors whether this will be the year your child will be understood. Has the IEP been read? Will your child even be able to get into the school physically? Will he cling, or cry, or wave happily. I know you are worrying yourself sick the night before school starts. It’s what we do.
I know you. You and I are the same in a lot of ways. I am sitting here doing the same thing. I know your child has been spinning the last couple of weeks sensing the transition that’s about to come. It isn’t pretty. The last two weeks before school starts are the hardest because kids with special needs are often more sensitive to facial expressions and the frustration you yourself start to feel as the days inch closer to back to school time. I know.
I see you starting to worry already before the first day is even here and part of me hates that school is this worrisome for special needs parents.
So here’s what I want to tell special needs parents the night before school starts.
These are my five wishes for all special needs parents the night before school resumes:
- I hope your son or daughter makes a friend this year. A true friend who loves making bracelets, or playing Pokemon, or eating Lunchables together. A friend who stays. Just one. A friend who gets all the differences and sometimes celebrates them with your child and hugs her and calls her BFF. Because. EVERYONE NEEDS that one BFF.
- I hope the teacher has read the IEP (individual education plan) and I hope, against all my prior knowledge of how this works, that they follow it. I hope they ask what can I do to make this child feel part of this classroom? How can we do better? How can I be the one teacher he or she remembers? How will I reach him or her and what can I learn from him that might even make me a better teacher? I hope.
- I wish for your baby that one birthday party invitation. BECAUSE. I KNOW. IT hurts you as much as it hurts your child when they are left out, and they are often left out. The birthday party invitation. It’s the one thing regular parents don’t even give a second thought to. Maybe they are even a nuisance sometimes. But there’s a kid at that school, maybe your kid, maybe another one, that never ever gets the birthday party invitations. That’s real. That sucks. Let this be the year your child gets a real birthday party invitation.
- I wish for you a few moments of peace today when your child goes back to school. I hope you breathe, have a coffee, take a nap, go to work, or do yoga. Just please promise me you won’t simply sit there crying your eyes out because you know this year none of the above will happen. Have faith. Take a minute to celebrate the success of simply getting him or her there. For some of you, I know that is a Herculean effort. Transportation issues can be a nightmare. Separation and anxiety and so many other hurdles. I know. Breathe. If they got to school at all promise me you will celebrate just a bit because some days success is just getting there.
- I wish for you a year in which someone believes in your child as much as you do. I hope their eyes light up a bit when they see them, that they smile a genuine heartfelt smile that tells your child they matter. They are special and worth being around. I hope that person also values you as a partner in the process and never ever says the word – lazy. I hope they genuinely love their job and they leave your child just a little bit better and brighter, happier and more confident. I hope they build her up, instead of always tearing down. I hope you have a better year than the last one. Mostly I hope you remember you are not alone.