A letter to my special needs son's school's principal
School has failed my son, who struggles with ADHD and Tourette syndrome. But here's hoping 7th grade in your special education program can turn it all around.
October 3rd, 2012
03:59 PM ET

A letter to my special needs son's school's principal

By Christina Janssen, Parenting

(Parenting) Dear Mr. Principal,

My son, Aden, started seventh grade today. He's the one who often sits in his guidance counselor's office because he's too nervous to go to class.

Remember, the kid who got two days of suspension because he broke your "personal space" rule by touching another boy's necklace he thought was cool? I want a fresh start this year, so it's time you heard who Aden is.

His trouble with school started early. He cried every day in kindergarten until nearly Thanksgiving. His teacher, on her last year after 36 with the district, put him at a desk alone, facing the corner. To keep us from figuring this out, she moved his desk back on open school night and parent-teacher conferences (during which she lamented his high-energy and "incorrigible" attitude). We found out in May, when my husband walked into the room unexpectedly with a forgotten snack.

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The diagnosis of ADHD came as third grade started. We gave him the meds, which his teacher appreciated. Still, homework was a battle. The teacher sent us notes, full of obvious tips she must have thought we were too incompetent to have considered, like setting up a homework spot and providing a snack. These rubber-stamp homework success tips did nothing to address the elephant in the room: the fact that a kid who reads at a level several grades below the one he's in is not going to be able to do, say, the social studies homework which involves reading a textbook.

Soon the medication's effects wore off. And the thing was, it was too late for any pill to make him love to learn anyway.

The next three years proceeded in the same way: We spent the first half of the year being scared by threats of his being left back, predictions of his never graduating high school if he didn't read more, even becoming a "troubled teen." Then with spring came the state tests, which he passed, literally, by a point or two. I was mystified, considering that he flunked nearly every in-class test. I asked how this was possible, and never got a straight answer. We pleaded for him to go to summer school, and the answer was always "He's fine! Summer school is only for the kids who don't pass the tests. See you next year."

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