Aiden’s formal diagnosis came at the same he was starting Pre-K. As the school year started, we went through a crash course on Special Education. I remember during that time, I was still in the very early ages of coming to terms with his “condition”. I wanted to grieve about
the lost hopes and dreams I had for my first born. But I couldn’t. I had to snap out of the grief and focus on IEPs, Communication Tools, therapy schedules, etc.
I remember the first time we sent him off to ride the school bus. He couldn’t wait to get inside it. He didn’t even look at us. We waved, called for his name, cheered him on. We did not get a response. The bus drove off and Hubby and I were left with tears on our faces. Up until that day, Aiden had never been anywhere without either or both us.
Every day I would come home from work and the first thing I would do was check his backpack. I loved reading all about how he did in school for the day. His teacher wrote great notes. Via that little notebook, we found out about little milestones he achieved. He had great days. He had not so good days. He was learning! We were excited for our little boy.
We had to move out of our rental at the end of that school year. Sadly, our new place was zoned to a different school district. I remember how terrified we were at the thought of having him start Kindergarten at a new school. How was he going to adapt? How were they going to treat him? Will they be nice? Will they be kind? Was he going to love it or was he going to hate it? Was he going to be ok? In the end, Kindergarten rolled in and he fit right in! His teachers and classmates were very kind to him. He received the same accommodations as the previous school and there was continuity in the services outlined in his IEP.
By November that year, he was participating in the kindergarten concert. Now – “participating” means – he joined the whole class as they stood on stage and sang for the
teachers and parents. Aiden did not sing. In fact, the teacher’s aide was right beside him – keeping him engaged and calm so he did not run out of the stage or have a meltdown in the middle of the song. Aiden stayed and complied with the task throughout the whole song! Somewhere in the crowd, Hubby and I were holding back tears feeling so proud. What a milestone! Our Aiden was on stage!
My new work took us to a different State shortly after the concert. We uprooted and moved and of course, it meant Aiden had to move to another school (again). We were scared but, we were hopeful. We knew the change was going to be hard but, it couldn’t be that hard. If Aiden made so much progress in such a short time – I was fairly certain that Aiden will be just fine.
I quickly learned the differences between how Special Education was administered in the 2 States (Colorado and Texas). The programs are different. Some of the terminologies are different. The culture is definitely different! I realized I had been so naïve to think it all will be just fine.
With me constantly travelling for work, I would get phone calls from Hubby all the time saying Aiden had come home again with bruises. At first I thought, it must be my child having a hard time adapting to his new environment. Aiden is probably testing his boundaries. I did not like hearing about the bruises but, again – I have to be practical. I know for a fact, Aiden likes to throw himself unto the ground or unto the chain when he is having a meltdown. I was concerned but I asked Hubby to let it go. I asked him to just be patient. It’s going to get better.
Weeks passed. Months passed. As old bruises heal, new ones came on. As practical as I was, I have had enough. I wrote the school district.
My husband had spoken to one of the assistant principals already via phone. I wanted to follow-up on the conversation via e-mail as I am out of town. I do not believe an actual appointment/meeting was set to discuss the concern. And truly, while our concern is fairly serious, we believe that with your help, it can be resolved rather smoothly. We simply want what’s best for our child’s development and success as he attends Outley Elementary.
Because he is on the autism spectrum, he does come with challenges more than other children his age.
Yesterday, he came home with a mark on his upper back. My husband and I thought he may have thrown a fit and hit something.
Today, when my husband picked him up from school, he had marks on his arms. He had another mark on his back (lower portion, this time).
The back marks are not very concerning to us. We know our child and can very well vouch that these types of things may happen if he throws himself into something and may not be visible to the teacher or aide at the time it happens.
However, the marks on his arms concerns us because (1) they look like nail marks from maybe trying to restrain him and (2) because they are apparent, the information should have at least been volunteered to us either via phone call or at pick-up or via a take home note. I’ve attached the pictures for your reference.
The take home note only said that he was “out of control” and that “it went well”. It would be our preference that his behavior is described versus something as generic as out of control. I.e. – did he have a meltdown, for how long, what methods were applied to calm him down, etc. This way, we can provide feedback and/or reinforce at home.
We are very collaborative parents. We see the school as our partners in our child’s educational and overall development success. We really just request to be informed and be treated as partners. And of course, our child’s safety is very important. Marks like these should never be taken lightly but we know circumstances happen.
I would appreciate if you could look into this and put some measures in place so that we can feel comfortable knowing that Aiden is in a safe, secure, and empathetic educational environment.
The School District responded. They said that they looked into it and assured us that our son was safe. Aiden was just in the wrong program. So we went through the process of getting him assessed so he can be placed in the right program to where he can thrive better.
The bruises significantly decreased. But we found ourselves witnessing our son’s meltdowns worsen by the day. He began displaying “ticks” he has never displayed before. He became overly aggressive to where I could not even sleep at night without him waking up and trying to punch me!
Nothing at home changed so we started looking into what’s going on at school again. The daily communication notes from the teacher did not raise any flags. It did not explain the sudden spike in aggression.
Aiden came home upset every day from school. He would cry and hide under a blanket. He would begin to recover at night and then, back to the aggression and meltdown around 4AM. We found ourselves having to carry him all the way to the car so we can take him to where the school bus will pick him up. We knew something was wrong. He appeared too overwhelmed and distressed to go to school. Something at school was definitely wrong.
After several phone calls and in-person meetings with the teachers, principal, school district representatives – Hubby and I concluded that we just needed to finish the school year and move on from the school.
In hindsight, they may have been equipped to administer Special Education but they certainly were not equipped to “handle” our Aiden.
We found Aiden’s Kindergarten certificate inside his school folder in his backpack. They did not have even have a Kindergarten graduation ceremony for the Special Needs class.
Sad, hurt, disillusioned, disappointed, and frustrated – we withdrew Aiden from the school.