As difficult as it is having special needs kids, I thought we were doing well.

As in, I thought life was good and we are making the most of a situation that you just don’t sign up for.  We are good as a family, the kids are healthy and happy, we haven’t completely lost our minds yet (although tonight we were close), we have a pretty good support system set up for the boys with day treatment and school and therapies.

We are doing everything you are supposed to do to help your special needs kids succeed.

And I (naively) thought that other parents looked at us and thought- they are doing GREAT!

And then I read the comments on an article about the growing costs of special needs education and I felt suddenly like I live in crazy denial world.

Do people really look at my kids and think they are a waste of time, effort, and money?  Do they really think that they should not have a public education?  Do they really think they should just be institutionalized?  Do they really think they are to blame for all of the budget woes of a school?

My kids are not on the severe end of the spectrum, but they aren’t on the aspergers end either.  They are firmly planted in classic autism and they have a long road ahead of them.  I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t know what is going to happen in the future.  I don’t know if they will grow up and have jobs or leave home or have families or all of those things you just expect to happen when you have a baby.  I sometimes doubt it.

Then I have moments where I think *maybe* they will?

But to get there, they need all the help they can get, and that includes (but does not end at) the free and appropriate public education that every child in America is guaranteed.

We don’t ask for much.  I am not demanding they receive ABA on Minneapolis Public Schools dime.  They are (so far) pretty happy kids and we don’t have many behaviors that limit where they can be and who they can be around.

I am pretty sure the most extravagant thing the boys have ever received was a bus all to themselves for the first 7 months they were in school.  When they were 2.  But we didn’t ask for that, it’s just how it worked out.

I have many doubts about their ability to be mainstreamed, but they are 4, so we have time to see how things pan out there as well.  I am completely OK with them being in a closed classroom.  One commentator on the article suggested if they were unable to mainstream that I should just home school them.

I don’t feel equipt to home school my kids and have no desire to- special needs or not.  Why should that be my only option?

Some people say that no extra money should be spent on any one student.

I don’t think that is entirely fair.

There are some demands I think are a out of the range of what is “appropriate”, but I think most parents who sit down to write an IEP have pretty basic goals and needs for their kids.

Another comment that really caught my eye was that some parents of special needs kids are only sending their kids to school for the free babysitting, simply because they need a break.

Do you know any parents who are not rejoicing in the streets at back-to-school time because they need a break from their kids?  I think that is a universal thing and I will totally cop to being happy as hell that my kids are in school full-days because I simply cannot give them the structure they need at home 7 days a week.

That doesn’t mean I’m pulling one over on the school district.  It doesn’t mean they are not learning at school.  It does not mean they are not thriving there (and our definition of thriving is probably much different than yours).  It does not mean they should get anything less than any other kid.

I wonder if people who think this way have any idea what it is like to raise a special needs child.  If they have any idea of the stress and isolation and havoc it can wreck on your life?  I am guessing they don’t, and if they do they have chosen to turn a blind eye to the struggles, because I can’t imagine anyone telling someone to their face that their child was unworthy of a public education and should just be locked away simply because that child is different.


I know I shouldn’t read comments on stories like that- I guess I just expected a little more from my Minnesota neighbors.  Maybe this is part of building my thick skin.


  • Shannon

    I would like to discuss this post and others you’ve written with you. Is there any way to contact you directly? Or please email me.

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