I would say I had the bright wide eyes of any first time mom. My baby was perfect in my mind and his future was as bright as it could be. I was convinced he would change the world. Now, I still think that is likely true because my oldest child has tenacity like none other, however, let’s just say my vision of how that would look vastly changed over the next few years.
I remember his first temper tantrum, it was over leftover indian food, yeah strange for a 12 month old kid, but he loved it! That was the first indicator, then there were more uncontrollable tantrums, running away from home at the age of 3, and so on. I read every book I could get my hands on about boys, parenting, took every seminar listened to podcasts and even hired a child behaviorist to work with. I knew that he would not fit in at the local school district school. With 30+ kids in a class he would automatically get labeled the problem kid – and once that happens it is hard to change. And I still knew he was amazing enough to change the world. So, we dove into homeschooling, not knowing what else to do. Well, we got kicked out of our co-op group because he couldn’t listen or sit still and was biting the other kids. (Did I mention I had 2 other babies during this adventure?) So we enrolled him in a private school. My husband complained every month about the tuition, but our son was happy, thriving. He wasn’t having any behavior issues at all. I couldn’t believe it. I was so grateful, felt so blessed we had found a solution.
Then summer came. And things got crazy again, with 3 toddlers underfoot and being pregnant (not that I knew I was, but that is a story for another time) I could not provide the structure that was necessary for him to thrive. Well, I had to step away one day for everyone’s happiness and safety. The boys were all outside playing and I was in the basement putting clean sheets on the beds. It was silent I was actually accomplishing something that would stay put for at least an hour and it felt good. And then I saw two police officers outside my window walking toward my backyard. “That’s odd”, I thought.
I ran upstairs opened my back door and asked what was going on. My kids had come inside moments before and were happy and cheerful, they even told me I was a great mom. I thought they must be here by mistake. The officers informed me that someone had called and said my home was being vandalized. I got a puzzled look on my face and we walked around the the house…and stopped.
My two garage windows on the west side were completely broken.
My oldest son came out and around the corner. The officers said, “do you know what happened here?” My oldest, he was only 4 at the time says, “yeah, I did that. It’s okay we will just buy new ones!”
I had no words, nothing. I was in shock. I didn’t know whether to yell, scream, cry, there was nothing. After making my boys clean up the mess and all the glass they could and getting them into bed I spent the next several hours on the computer looking at boarding schools. I was clearly an unfit parent and he had to have more structure in his life. Needless to say there is only one boarding school in the United States (I actually didn’t consider looking outside the US….) that takes children at 5 years old, which he still wasn’t so I would have to endure another 6 months, its a Catholic military school in Anaheim, CA. At least he would be close to DisneyLand, even if he couldn’t go. n that current state $60,000/ year in tuition didn’t matter to me I was going to figure it out.
Well, thankfully my husband talked me off the cliff when he got home (he traveled for work Sunday-Friday most weeks, so I was flying solo during the weeks and occasionally lost it).
Needless to say, with all the background. I knew a few things about my oldest son.
1. He was going to need a highly structured environment to be successful
2. I was not actually capable of doing that at home and he would need to go to school
3. He would only be successful as a school that has smaller class sizes where he could get a lot of personalized attention
4. I would need to have him evaluated for learning disabilities, mental health, etc.
Suddenly, the perfect child I has birthed was not so perfect and I had to face whatever the doctors were going to tell me was ‘wrong’ with him.
I cope with stress by running, I would run and cry for miles. I even did it inside at our local gym, my music was so loud in my ears I couldn’t hear myself, but I am sure everyone else heard. And I am sure they all thought I was crazy. But I had to process and it was one of the best ways I knew how. After weeks of this our appointment arrived.
Diagnosis – ADHD, IED (intermittent explosive disorder- haha yeah he explodes intermittently, that a diagnosis??) dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalclia. That was a lot, but truthfully not as bad as I thought. It would be another two years or so and COVID that created the perfect storm before we got his Autism diagnosis, even though as a mom I knew what it was.
After being on the waitlist for Spectrum Academy, a charter school which specialized in kids on the autism spectrum, we got in. I cried, tears of joy after so many years of not knowing how I could help him succeed in school or life, I found a place where I was sure he would succeed.
And he did.
He had no behavior issues, was one of the most liked kids at school and he even had friends for the first time in his life. We were thrilled. Life at home had also improved as he became better at self regulation. Needless to say, we have been on quite the journey through his education. He now attends a private school in a 2:1 classroom for most of his subjects. We found a school that was willing to work with him individually, a teacher who has more patience than I can understand, and a staff who is willing to push him when he needs it, and be flexible when he needs it too.
When it came to our oldest son, we needed a truly customized approach. He broke every mold people tried to put him in. With him and our other 4 children we have learned through much trial and error that we could not force them into any type of box. Each has needed a unique education tailored to their needs and interests.