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When I Found Out My Child With Disabilities Was Not Welcome to Return to School


No parent should have to find out late Friday afternoon before the first day of school on Monday, that their child with disabilities is not welcome to return to the school that has become her home, such as it is, for the past two years.

It is not simply the sting of rejection, but the searing knowledge of what exactly discrimination feels like.

It is tasting firsthand what retaliation looks like when you, as a parent, attempt to advocate for your child.

Prejudice comes in many forms. It is insidious, harmful and even toxic.

It is hearing the word “no” over and over and over again, simply because those in power wield that power like a dangerous weapon, carving up lives, caring little for the detritus left behind. It is leaving the children and families left to pick up the pieces by themselves.

How do I even explain to my child, “You can’t start school tomorrow with your peers?” Where do I even begin?

the author's daughter smiling, next to her dog

This isn’t the first time. We have been trapped in an endless battle with our school district, with our child, our lives, our health and her future all feeling like casualties. We have heard it all, one excuse after another, from overburdened caseloads, to apathetic educators and disingenuous administrators all claiming they accommodate others’ disabilities, but not my daughter’s.

Somehow, despite the battle scars, despite the spiraling each and every time, I am meant to fight on. It is my daughter’s bravery, her courage, her perseverance and her struggles that lend me strength. It is an invitation to a family dinner, a supportive call, an understanding text, those are the lifelines that keep me grounded, and even afloat.

And still, it is so difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to trust that someday it will be different. That someday it will be better, and maybe just a little easier.

That those who are obligated by law, will actually do the right and just thing. That fairness will have a place, that your progress will matter, that we won’t have added labels and start falling through the cracks. That we won’t be failing where we could have excelled, or terrified our child’s safety could be compromised.

It seems so much of my child’s educational needs have thrust me into roles for which despite my every effort of trying to be an endless educator, progress monitor, advocate, somehow my efforts fall short at every turn. The disappointment at those who can provide for her and outright refuse to do so, rains down on me like shrapnel.

My child’s autism and disabilities because of her rare disease do not define her. She has so much to offer. She is the beacon, and her bright light will not be dimmed. I won’t allow it. She loves to smile, laugh, sing and dance. I wish those in power would take the time to truly consider how their actions, refusals and denials of services impact not just my daughter, but our community and society as a whole.

All I ask is of them is to open their eyes, and see the invaluable gifts she has to share.

All I ask of them is to consider her feelings, give her a chance at life, and give her opportunities to help build a meaningful future.

Have you dealt with challenges to have your child accommodated at school because of their disability? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Credits: Jennifer Ryan