Educating a child with special needs is no straight line from A to Z. While navigating the complicated maze of education has been a daunting task for my son’s father and me, the most intractable challenge we face has been simple: money.
Under federal law, children with disabilities are entitled to get a proper education that will meet their needs. In theory this is great, but in practice it’s something entirely different. I’ve learned these laws simply are not fully functional. My son, for example, falls between the spectrum of children who are typical and those with more severe special needs. His school doesn’t have a program for kids who are somewhere in the middle.
Even though it is illegal to not meet a child with special needs where they are, the economics of the situation are challenging. Hiring teachers and creating classroom space for say, one or two children, is just not what most schools want or can do. This means children like my son are usually placed in environments with children whose needs and skills are significantly different from their own. This impacts their esteem, their drive and their behavior. My son’s father and I could sue the school system, but I don’t believe that the result would be an expeditious change for the better, nor would it be a happy educational experience for our child.
I would often have the feeling of walking across a tightrope across two skyscrapers, no net below, with (my son) sitting on my head.
Last year, my tax return said I earned around $15,000 for the entire year. Not working full-time has given me the opportunity to be truly available to my son. But as he’s now 7 years old, I feel that being able to buy what my son needs is the fastest solution to the less-than ideal education he’s receiving, which is why I’m now enrolled in a mortgage brokerage program.
My hope is to be able to earn enough to take my son out of the public school system (losing all the services that the public school must legally provide), and incurring the costs of not only tuition, but also of speech therapies, occupational therapies and behavioral therapies. This is a major commitment for me (requiring a bit of a leap of faith), but to continue on the way we are is too disheartening.
When my son was first born, even before I started the process of learning how to best educate him, I would often have the feeling of walking across a tightrope across two skyscrapers, no net below, with him sitting on my head. I’d tell myself “Just go forward, don’t look down, keep focused on getting to the other side.” This feeling arises with some frequency as we work to find a school and tools that will help our son thrive. In addition to trying to increase my income, my son’s father and I are looking into educational programs, such as the Waldorf system, that might work for our son and our family.
Just as I would not feed my son a fast-food, sugary diet and expect him to be healthy, I cannot send him to a public school and expect him to thrive. Like all kids, he needs the proper nutrients in every aspect of his life. Obtaining high-quality anything in this country requires money, and when we can’t or don’t pay for the best for our kids, they are the ones who suffer. God bless the millions of moms who walk this path with me, heartbroken that while they desire to see their babies flourish, they can’t afford to give them what they need in order to do so.
I’m sure that they feel lonely, but they are not alone.