Oh yes we can

September 25, 2012

It’s been a while since you and I have talked about special education. Part of that was because we were embroiled in a legal battle with our home school district, and part of that has been due to the increased readership of this blog. With kids you have to be careful of course.

Luc began classes at the Norman Howard School a few weeks ago. Prior to that he attended BOCES I. We loved BOCES I. Loved it. Not everyone who is there is happy here but for once in his life Luc got lucky. He was placed there emergently at the end of the school year in 2009. He went there with a 1-1 aide and a behavior plan. If you live in this world you know how difficult it is to  attain a 1-1 aide for your child and you also know how difficult it is to graduate from one, and a behavior plan.

Honestly….. all they did at BOCES was meet him where he was. They took a broken kid and gave him tools to succeed. Within a year they tore up the behavior plan, dropped the 1-1 aide. He was performing in the school chorus and the school black light show. I remember crying…. literally crying when I came to school to watch him read the Pledge of Allegiance on the morning announcements.

A few weeks ago Caurie Putnam wrote a beautiful blog on what it is like to be the parent of a special needs child. I can’t find it at the moment online but check out her site right here. One of the things she wrote spoke about……. meeting milestones you never thought you would, and celebrating them.

Our son didn’t ride a two wheel bike until he was nine years old. We went to an amazing program called Lose the Training Wheels by UNYFEAT. Check out the  video here. Those of you who followed along with us that week remember how emotional and wonderful and amazing it was.

You celebrate the milestones you never thought you would have. You learn to cherish each victory because these kids don’t have them all that often. By the time these kids are 10 years old they have been doomed by the world and doomed by our system. And we have to keep championing them along.

The only reason we left BOCES I was because Luc outgrew it. We loved every single person there… teachers, classmates, everyone. They got him at the ground level. The woman who served him lunch in the cafeteria … she got him.

The Norman Howard School isn’t for every kid, and it’s difficult to get into. As you remember the process began just about a year ago and our home school district gave us the fight of our lives. We hired a special education attorney and …. let me tell you it was a brawl.

It came down to the district admitting that thy had failed him in his placement way back in kindergarten, and now we were behind. I paid my life savings to a lawyer for the district to finally admit that. Worth every penny.

That first day I dropped him off, and my heart about stopped. Would he make friends. Would he fit in. We had fought this fight for so long. We fought it long and we fought it hard and…. here we were. A few hours later I got an email from one of the teachers that he was doing just fine.

As we are in week four things are settling. We are adjusting. He comes home happy. He’s learning. He’s making new friends. He’s dreaming. He’s being an 11 year old kid and last night for the first time in our lives we fought the “I don’t want to do my homework” battle. It was my first battle with that, and believe me I was grateful for it.

You take these little moments that seem so ordinary to those with children who don’t have special needs….. you tuck them into your heart and you cry and smile and hold it tight. Learning to ride a two wheeler. Buttoning your own shirt for the first time at age 11. Figuring out how to operate a lock in 6th grade. Those are the things we celebrate. Those are things most parents don’t even think about.

I am my father’s daughter. My parents taught me well and you don’t realize how well you were taught and prepared for life sometimes, until you are the parent. Once we got the acceptance to the Norman Howard School….. I knew it was the right fit. To me it was so crystal clear and to our home district…. it wasn’t. That ignites something inside of you that is completely unexplainable.

I never yelled. I never screamed. I never threatened. I put everything I had on the line. Because I believed it was right. It’s how I was raised. I looked at it factually. Objectively. If you can do that and if you can go after it with every bit of your soul then you have to.

I have one shot at raising this boy. We have one shot to teach him how to be a good man. There is no room for wrong placements in education. They did it once and they won’t do it again. I told you that if I had to spin this earth backwards to make this happen, that I would.

So I did.

A system does not always know what is best for these kids with special needs. A system that’s proven to fail and a system that gets another kid to make it right by.

Not my kid.

If you live in this world then you know the fight. If you don’t….. you look at us as people who can’t control our children or people whose kids won’t amount to anything. You go ahead and keep thinking that. If you know anything about me you know I thrive on being the underdog. Tell me we can’t. Tell me it’s impossible. Tell me it can’t be done.

And I will show you exactly how it can be done.



  1. Norman Howard made my son feel ‘normal’ again. I didn’t have to get to the point you did. But I remember the tears of being read to for the first time, and your words brought those tears and feelings right back. I am SO happy for Luc! Congrats and have him tell Mr. and Mrs. Wagner that Devin Jackson’s mom says hi! 🙂

  2. Unbelievable!

  3. Your blog gave me chills this AM. We keep pushing the school district to do what is right by our daughter and it can be a difficult battle. Good job standing up for your son and knowing what was right for him.

  4. Mary, this brought tears to my eyes. We lived across the street from each other, yet I had NO idea what you’d been dealing with all this time! You and Curt are awesome parents, and I have no doubt that Luc is growing up to be an equally awesome young man!!
    – Ann

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