“We can no longer serve his needs.”
Those were the most gut-wrenching words my momma heart ever heard. And unfortunately, we heard it twice. When the first preschool told us our son was too aggressive, we instinctively blamed them, pulled him out, and found a “more loving school,” the best school in town.
Instantly, his behaviors started again, he declined, and we heard those gut-wrenching words again.
At just three years old, my beautiful boy was asked to leave two preschools.
My heart ached for him. My mind worried. My body was frozen as I pondered what does this mean for our future?
You see, he and his twin were born at 27 weeks. When your child is born at 27 weeks, you’re always kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop. And the shoe finally dropped. Well, both did.
His twin is the poster child for miracle preemie health, deemed “all caught up” at just age two. My son, on the other hand, seems to be constantly challenged by the things all too common to preemies—delays and struggles.
After three years of therapy and therapists encouraging us “something was off” and they could not put their finger on it, being asked to leave his second preschool was the last straw for us. I knew I needed to do more.
I knew he needed me to be his voice, to advocate for him.
But I couldn’t do it alone. Thankfully due to his therapy support system, we were able to be the best voice for him possible.
We immediately deployed every resource that was humanly possible. Within weeks, he was in a developmental pediatrician’s office, a neurologist’s office having his brain scanned via MRI, and seeing the best therapists in town.
And then the labels and my worst fears started trickling out, one by one: mild Cerebral palsy, global developmental delays, severe speech delay, severe sensory processing disorder, severe hyperactivity, dyspraxia, executive planning dysfunction, and the biggest gut-punch of all . . .
I will never forget the pain and anguish I felt when our doctor told us he had mild, undiagnosed Cerebral palsy. A brain injury likely causing delays and sensory behaviors.
A brain injury.
My son has a brain injury. I still cannot say those words out loud.
I will never forget hearing the words autism. I had always suspected it—but Level 2 Autism Spectrum Disorder—you could have knocked me over with a feather.
Diagnoses that were my absolute worst fears as a preemie parent came true. I am still learning, through my own therapy, how to say these diagnoses out loud and how to say “this is not my fault” but that is a story for a different day. I know deeply this is who my amazing boy is meant to be and that together with his support system, he will conquer the world.
As we began to unravel our diagnoses and what they mean for his future, I felt paralyzed.
“He will need long-term and substantial amounts of support and therapy.” My heart sank.
“He will need medication to help relieve symptoms, likely lifelong.” My heart hurt.
But there was no time for me to freeze, just to act.
So, I did what I know how to do best, I started to break away at this battle piece by piece. He needed me.
He continued therapy, and we added even more therapy. Every kind we could get our hands on. Through therapy, he started to find his voice. He got leg braces and was more stable. He worked on fine and gross motor skills. He learned how to start reacting to a sensory explosive environment. He got medicine to help with his hyperactivity and impulse control and another to address his anxiety.
Piece by piece, his confidence grew. He smiled and laughed more.
We took a pause from school, and we let him have the best summer ever. He was so happy. While his days were filled with fun activities with their nanny, swimming at Grandma’s, staying up late, and lots of ice cream cones, I searched every school thoroughly.
And we found the one.
To parents of mildly disabled children, you know how hard finding the right school can be. He was too typical for special education, yet too atypical for a large classroom. He needed a school with a small classroom, lots of structure, and lots of love. Let me just say, when you know, you know. Go with that school!
They welcomed my children with open arms.
They integrated his therapy into his day. They saw him for who he was. A capable, talented, smart, loving boy—a boy who just needed a little more support and guidance. And they gave that to him.
My sweet boy just finished his school year. In those nine months, we have received compliments, love, and support. Parent conferences were full of stories of all the things he’s doing well, instead of a laundry list of complaints and the things he’s lacking. He is making friends. He is a great student.
He has brought home numerous class awards. They are not only serving his needs, but they are serving him well.
And today, I watched with tears as he crossed the stage and got a folder full of awards. But the one that meant the most? An award for most improved student—a student who practices determination and effort every day despite his challenges.
So, after three years of struggles, questions, challenges, pulling my hair out, crying, and asking God “Why us?” I have finally figured out the secret. And I want to share it with you and spare you the trouble we went through.
Every single child can excel and succeed.
And if they’re not, they are not in the right place. Find your place. Be your child’s voice. And if you hear, “We can no longer serve their needs, let me be frank . . . run away.