T. didn’t always go to a great pre-school. When he first moved in with us the State’s special education service referred us to a school. As first time parents of any kid – let alone one with special needs – we trusted the experts. He went there from May until July and I will feel guilt forever that he was ever there. Here’s the lesson parents – trust your gut.
There were so many warning signs. My husband and I were constantly meeting with the school’s teachers and administrators both separately and together.
He didn’t walk at that point. Often when I picked him up he was sitting on a particular teacher’s lap. She was usually hunched over him with a sort of sad expression on her face. After weeks of this I told her I didn’t want to see our son on her lap. I wanted to see him crawling – moving. I got the sense she thought I was jealous of their relationship. I might have bought into that B.S. if she hadn’t started crying after yet another school meeting and told me she was going through a divorce and her kids hated her. Maybe I wouldn’t want mind a little kid who couldn’t move too much sitting on my lap either.
My husband and I talked about the school endlessly at night. I talked to my sister. I talked to two friends at work almost on a daily basis – both were parents. After a while they were all saying you don’t like this place. They said, “You don’t trust these people”.
A couple things brought it to a head for us. I showed up early one day at lunchtime. There were a group of about 8 kids and 4 teachers sitting around a table eating. I saw a teacher sitting behind our son with her arm around him from the back shoveling yogurt in his mouth. My first thought was this is how they feed retards. That’s ugly. I know that’s ugly but that’s what I saw and felt. I made a conscious effort to be calm and maintain my composure. I thought what I said was “What are you doing?” in a sort of oh, so, curious tone. But, the look on the other kids faces and the fact some had stopped eating their spoons in mid-air told me I sounded like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. I then said, “We don’t feed him like that.” What I wanted to say was, “Hannibal Lecter gets feed that way”. That situation prompted another talk with the teachers because he feed himself at our house.
The straw that brought the camel’s back was when I again showed up early and I found our son screaming uncontrollably and sweaty restrained in a chair behind a closed door with a woman sitting over him. I asked, “What is going on here?” She replied a little too calmly, “Speech therapy.” Really? Did she really think what she was doing was a therapeutic?
I got him out of the chair and asked why he had been locked in. She said, “Because, he tries to get away.”
That was funny to me like a Kubrick film – devastating, unforgettable and historic.
That was the day I realized I was capable of hurting someone who hurt our kid and the day I realized I would trust my instincts. I became a parent that day. And, T. went to a new school.