School Is History
By Ellen Thomas Author Of
THE BIPOLAR EXPRESS: One Christian Woman’s Life Journey In The Company Of A Child With Bipolar Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome.
“Time to get up. It’s the first day of school,” says an apprehensive parent of a child with mental disabilities.
First thought: “Could this be the year things will be different?”
A new backpack is filled with bright crayons, a composition book and sharpened pencils. The bed holds a child with an educational history. A past of making embarrassing mistakes that have made it difficult to make or keep friends and mishaps that teachers or administrators remember.
Fortunately, a battle does not ensue. The child rises and dons the new clothes purchased during the “Back To School” sales. He/She is eager for a fresh start and stands proudly for a “First Day Of School” photograph.
Most likely the excitement will die quickly as bullies sniff out the most vulnerable kid on the playground. Whatever disability the child holds will soon cause frustration and anxiety. Each day the parent’s fear grows and the mornings begin with, “I’ve told you three times to get out of that bed.”
But there is hope. Our daughter, who struggles with bipolar disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome and attention deficit disorder, began college this year. Her school, her history, was a constant metamorphosis from public school, to home schooling, to tutoring, to private school to virtual school but she preserved and a high school diploma hangs on our wall.
Here are a few things my husband and I learned riding THE BIPOLAR EXPRESS.
· Dreams Change. Your child isn’t going to fit a “traditional” model. You may have to try alternative education such as home schooling or virtual school. We used them all – repeatedly. Familiarize yourself with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Individual Educational Plans (IEPs). These may provide your child with services and accommodations necessary for access to a free appropriate public education.
· The Future Looks Too Difficult But Don’t Lose The Moments Of Celebration. You may not get to live day-by-day. It might be minute-to-minute but celebrate any small success. Keep your hope alive by not focusing on grades or trends. Focus on your child, he or she is more than their history.
· Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself. As a child moves into middle and high school, the journey becomes more difficult. You will be your child’s best advocate. Making sure your child’s education rights are being upheld can be exhausting. It can cause a financial and emotional toll on your mind, body and spirit. Take time to rest, spend time with friends and most importantly, your significant other.
The Greek philosopher, Plato said, “Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”
Your child is beautifully and wonderfully made. Discover and celebrate their talents, and interests. It’s worth the trip.