by: Melissa Sadin
As the parent of a child with moderate to severe attachment trauma, I have struggled for years to provide my son with an appropriate educational program. I have worked as a special education teacher and an administrator, so I know the lingo needed to get what I want at an IEP meeting. However, I was startled to discover recently that I wasn’t sure I knew what my son needed. My son always makes it very clear to all involved when something doesn’t work for him. The things that do work, however, are much more subtle and harder to see. My son has never said, “Oh, I like Mrs. Soandso. I feel safe in her class and am able to process language better there so I perform better academically.” The closest we get to that is, “She’s okay, I guess.”
Over the years, however, I have been able to catch the subtle signs of certain teaching strategies that work better for my son. I knew when my son felt safe with a teacher, and when a teacher had too much of their own baggage to be available for my son. Although managing his education was essentially a full time job, I felt reasonably secure that we were doing right by him.
And then we looked up and found we were staring high school square in the face. It’s much harder to stay on top of 5 different teachers and the rigorous academic demands of high school. Of course my now 16-year-old man-child was escalating his aggressive behaviors and in typical teenaged fashion, telling me very little about what was going on in school. I am lucky, however. I happen to live in a school district that has always valued and welcomed my input regarding my son.
So here I have a school that is falling over itself trying to accommodate my son. I have two, sometimes three, out of five teachers willing to understand that my son, above all else needs to feel safe to learn. Despite all that, I’m tired. Bone tired. And I realize that I cannot keep this up. I can’t support my son through high school as I did in the lower grades. So what does a mother do?
I spent time as the principal for a special education school for kids with behavioral problems, and I know that my son won’t feel safe in that kind of setting. Many out of district schools for kids with learning disabilities do not offer enough academic rigor. Home schooling is not an option, as I know it is for so many who have kids with trauma. Finally, after exhaustive research and soul searching, we found a private school where all the instruction is one-on-one. My son was thrilled when we visited the campus. The school district, bless their hearts, are supportive and willing to pay tuition and transportation. I hope this is the answer for my son. For those of you still searching, you have my understanding and support. It’s hard enough living with and loving our children with traumatized brains. Finding a school that understands them should not be this hard.