In my last Educating Teddy post, which you can read here, I did, because it’s been so long I was like, where did I leave off?
Anyway, we were in the midst of the due process lawsuit we filed when Teddy was in 3rd grade. We had gone through almost two years of the school being upset by Teddy for “making noises”, hitting other kids when they called him names, and finally shutting down because school had become an awful, unsupportive place.
But it hadn’t always been like that. No, it hadn’t.
In kindergarten, Teddy had a wonderful teacher who accepted his quirks, his noises, and embraced him for the curious, inquisitive, intelligent and unique child he was.
And you know what, he had a great school year in this environment.
It didn’t take extra money to create this success. It didn’t require special services, therapies, the stars being in a certain celestial alignment. No. It simply required compassion and empathy on the part of his teacher.
When the necessary ingredients of compassion and empathy were removed it all fell apart.
Maybe I am oversimplifying matters. Maybe I have just forgotten the pain because I am now a dozen years removed from this. But I don’t think I am. I remember the pain well. I remember it like I was drowning. I was in water, just below the surface and I could see it, yet despite all my attempts I could not get to the surface, I could not get my head above the water and to the air I needed. I remember the suffocating feeling. I remember the anxiety. I remember the panic. I remember the tears. I remember being alone. I remember knowing only a few other mothers who knew what I knew. I remember hating picking Teddy up from school with Meg in her stroller, Buffett, our dog, on her leash. We would walk the one block to school and then spend the next 20 minutes with the special education teacher listening to everything Teddy did wrong that day. I remember feeling like I wanted the ground to open and swallow me up so I didn’t have to keep standing there listening to how my son was such a problem for them. Yeah, I remember.
But like I said, it wasn’t always like that, at the same school, in kindergarten, I picked Teddy up like all the other parents. No long discussions. Instead I picked him up in relative obscurity. He waited with his class at the front of the school and came running when he saw Meg, Buffett and I. Often with several classmates in tow because, well, that’s what happens when you bring a dog to an elementary school.
What changed was the teacher, not the kid.
And the emotional and financial cost of arrogance and ignorance, of not being compassionate and empathetic, was substantial.
The cost was high emotionally for Teddy and that cost added to the school system’s financial costs as they paid for Teddy’s counseling as well as our attorney’s fees. Several thousand dollars were spent because adults could not put aside their need to be right, to do things their way, to listen and show tolerance towards a child.
Let me say that word again.
Tolerance costs nothing, save putting aside ego. And for a system dependent on the money of others, where budget is always a major concern, wouldn’t they want more of something that is free and effective?
Well, four weeks after our due process suit was filed, Teddy was finally removed from the self-contained emotionally conflicted classroom and placed in a regular education class and had a wonderful end to the school year.
Because in addition to a full-time aide, he had a teacher who enjoyed him once again.
She said and I quote, that Teddy was “charming and delightful” and enjoyed how interested he was in learning.
Not only did she appreciate Teddy, she had experience teaching children with autism and told me she how much she liked working with them. “They are fascinating children,” she said.
For almost eight months we had been begging, pleading, to get Teddy removed from the self-contained class and all along she was right there, two doors down from his EC class.
It took a lawsuit and several thousand dollars to move Teddy two doors to a healthy environment with an experienced, compassionate and empathetic teacher.