I was looking through photos last night and came upon this one of my son at his kindergarten field trip to the farm. Immediately tears sprung to my eyes.
This was the fall of 2016, not quite two months into school. He was already struggling immensely and all the focus was on behavior. Not the difficulties with writing. Not the boredom from the work being too easy. Not the sensory overload, executive function challenges, transition challenges, anxiety, and OCD tendencies. Just the behavior.
At this time he was on a modified schedule, yet even that was unsuccessful. He was labeled as "defiant." His acts were "purposeful." It was the beginning of the downward spiral.
Hindsight is 20/20. We should have removed him from the school setting much sooner than we did. We should have realized that each time we called a meeting and shared information about Tourette with the team, yet nothing changed, the fight wasn't worth the decline in our child's mental and emotional health.
We should have realized that without a mindset change within his team and the acceptance of the in-servicing and support from the national level of the Tourette Association nothing was going to change.
We didn't realize the extent of what went on behind closed doors when he was removed from the classroom. We have a better idea now. We've seen the impact. We've listened to the recounted stories by him and his siblings.
We've lived with the guilt of subjecting our 6 and 7-year-old son to the trauma of seclusion and restraint. Living with the effects of PTSD is horrific, both for him and us.
There is a better way. With improved education pertaining to disabilities for ALL educators. With improved mental health services, both at school and privately. With less rigidity in our schools and more focus on flexibility and creativity. With the realization that kids do well if they can. Behavior is communication. If the communication isn't conforming to what we view as appropriate, then we need to dig deeper.
This is an incredibly complex issue that involves change on many fronts. I'm not here to cast blame, but I am here to tell you that this issue needs to be at the forefront of education. It is my mission to continue to raise awareness and be a voice for change.
Look at this little boy. He is a child. He has Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and learning disabilities. He is gifted. He also spent a significant amount of his time in public education secluded, restrained, and punished for his disabilities.