When Stink was first diagnosed with Tourettes, I was still holding onto hope that he would attend the Catholic school of my youth. He would play sports and go through the Sacraments and be just crafty enough to be adorable in his skinned knee navy shorts but obedient enough to get straight A’s on his report card be head altar server. It was an awesome dream and so much fun to fantasize about!
Then all the kids from his preschool got their acceptance letters into kindergarten. Stink did not.
Given I had no indication whatsoever from his preschool teachers that he would not do well at the private gradeschool (he always had glowing reports on his character, behavior and cognitive/motor abilities), I made an appointment with the grade school principal.
She was five years younger than me, but acted like a stern sixty year old. As I sat there, looking at her somber face in front of an oil painting of the Good Lord, she informed me that Stink seemed very immature at the intake interview.
“He’s FIVE!” I responded, flabergasted.
“Yes, but he didn’t exactly hold his pencil correctly, and with thirty kids in the classroom and one teacher, we don’t have a lot of room for extra attention.”
“Why in the world, then, with that many children, would I want to spend 10k/year on your school?” I asked, incredulous.
“For the Christian environment,” was her clipped response.
“Oh, yeah, I’m really feeling the love here!” was my retort.
So off I went, enrolling him instead in a local charter school. We’re all different religions and sexualities and neuro make-ups and all kids are honored and get this: It’s free and the teacher student ratio is 22 to 1. Jesus would be proud!
My advice to you, today, is to be sure that the school your son or daughter is in does not reflect what you, as their parent, want. Your child is not supposed to live your dreams. They are supposed to live theirs. And that means being supported in a place that best fits their personality, disposition and academic requirements.
I love my charter school! I have the best communities of moms and dads I could ever ask for. (Literally, there are 15 parents at any given time I can call and say “Please pick up my child… I’m running late!” and boom – DONE. Community is everything. And not just any community. A community you are comfortable in.
Here’s a response from a reader here, Leanne, who spoke in my last post about the importance of talking to your child’s school about any issues they might have in order to best ensure their educational success.
Yes, my son is on Intuniv for tics. 2 mg in the morning, and then the generic form (guanfacine) 0.5 mg afternoon (because you can’t cut the Intuniv pills in half but can the guanfacine). My son seems better than he was December 2011 when we got the diagnosis……I believe because of the Intuniv. We didn’t put him on it until June 2012 and only did then because he was SHOUTING HIS WORDS and I can’t even tell you what that was like. Horrible.
He waxes and wanes. I was scared to death of him starting middle school. I truly was (yes public school). So I went into middle school before it ended for the year last spring and met with the principal and counselor and let them know I had an incoming son with Tourette’s who would be there in fall. I had printed off information from the TSA website on what it is, and I also printed off an “introduction paper” on my son and paper clipped a picture of him as well so they would recognize him when he came in.
I had a friend go with me. I had stuff about him that I thought would be important, like that he loves math, doesn’t like reading much, loves sports and does a lot of them, and of course explained the tics. I also had the name of his neurologist and prescriber and phone numbers on there. That way if they had any questions, they could ask them as well. I actually cried when meeting with them but they put me right at ease and told me they were there for him and wanted him to have the best education opportunities possible. I then went back with him two days BEFORE middle school started to meet again with the counselor and take another tour of the school and met with all of his teachers and explained about his tics. Anything you can do to put his mind at ease, your mind at ease. The counselor told me that if his tics got loud they could make accommodations such as letting him go to counselor office or bathroom to “let them out” if needed. There are several things schools can and have to do to help, like a 504 plan I think. There is a lot about school on http://tsa-usa.org/
He does have loud vocals waxing and waning. Some teachers have allowed him to chew gum in class discretely (so other kids won’t want some) and that helps his vocals, so do gummy candies but I try not to do much sugar. He “disguises” it as well with his words in sentences going up and down in volume. I was petrified of middle school for him. But I did all I could BEFORE he got there which I think is huge. Your mind can take you down some dark, scary roads that don’t even turn out to be true. I think if you met with middle school staff your mind would be put at ease. This got so long…….there is just so much I could say because I have been there, I do understand, and will continue praying for you. I will answer any questions any time.
* Photo taken 3 years ago. These kids are still best friends. So much of that has to do with the school. It’s a school that advocates for diversity and togetherness with no bullying policy. I AM SO GRATEFUL!
Check out more posts about Tourettes at the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome where this blog is syndicated.