When you’re planning out your future you never think that you’ll be raising a child with disabilities. You have this vision of soccer games, baseball practice, and throw in some hockey maybe. You imagine finding your tribe of moms that sit at games and practices drinking wine out of Chick Fil A cups and laughing about the insanity of it all. When you’re given a diagnosis for your child all those dreams fade and you’re put onto a different path. The less traveled path. You become a tired battered warrior from your up beat my life is amazing counterparts. Friends start to walk away because they just don’t know what to do and looking at your life from the outside is sad to them. Out of site out of mind. This past school year was our first year back in the public school setting. With a pandemic going on we were always on edge. We spent all major holidays from Halloween to Christmas in some sort of quarantine. Homeschooling became the norm, which is hard for a neurotypical child let alone one with disabilities. Whitman worked hard to get where he is today. I remember sitting in his IEP meeting, an IEP is an individualized educational plan, it helps teachers, principals, therapists, and para’s see what Whitman is capable of and to help him have the best and safest school year. Anyways, in his most recent IEP meeting they began telling us all the things that Whit couldn’t do how he will struggle all his life and that he knows he’s different and can’t do the work so they are recommending him to be put into a self contained classroom. My husband and I knew this was coming. We actually thought it would come in October or January but it came in March. The delivery was terrible I’d give it a solid zero stars would never recommend that that group of people be in the same room delivering bad news again.
- The first thing I’ve learned this school year is that the path less traveled can be painfully beautiful. Do I want Whitman in a regular classroom learning from his peers?! Yes. Who wouldn’t?! Do I want Whitman to excel wherever he is. Yes. Of course. So a smaller classroom with like minded peers promoting independence is the way to go.
- The second thing I’ve learned this school year is that my voice as person matters. I said person. I think our society gets so wrapped up into the title of mom. Whit’s mom is upset again, Whit’s mom thinks Whit needs. I love being a mom. It’s my favorite title but I’m Lindsey Elisabeth Campbell Althaus and I’m a person who has an opinion and a voice and I’ll use it to see that everyones needs are met. I said everyone because everyone deserves to have the best life.
- The third thing I learned this school year is that being a mom of child with disabilities is lonely. You go to the pick up and drop off and there are parents and grandparents all around talking about last nights game deciding who was in charge of the sleepover for this weekend and other various things. It’s a lonely place to be. Walking up and trying is so awkward because ultimately Whitman speaks with an AAC device, loves a good flap when he’s excited, and is very unsure about sports. Believe me we’ve tried.
- The fourth thing I’ve learned is when you find your tribe even though they aren’t in your school district. Love them hard. Take care of them. And they’ll take care of you.
- And lastly, being different is ok. Getting told that public school may not be the place for your child is ok. Taking the painfully hard path less traveled is ok. No one is the same. Everyone’s journey is different. On the days when different feels unbearable and I’m on my knees hoping that things for Whitman will get easier I try to remind myself that: Whitman is loved, he is safe, and he’s the happiest kid blissfully unaware that he is for the most part different. The things I feel are my feelings as a human being wanting what is best for my son.
Our life looks different than most. We don’t measure accomplishments by grades, awards, and banquets. They are small and can be missed by most if you’re not in the trenches with us. This year I learned a lot about who I am and how I want Whit’s next year to go. Here’s to a safe and happy summer and a path less traveled first grade!