Finding Ninee » Sharing our parenting and special needs stories with heart and humor.

When A Special Education Teacher Has Advice

Three years and four months ago, I didn’t want to take Mrs. M’s advice. I’d spent days cleaning and moving my son’s crappy plastic brainless toys into the background, so that his appropriate educational ones were more visible than usual. I needed my house to reflect what an engaged parent I was.

I wanted it to be obvious that we played, puzzled, and read, and I wanted to somehow show that certainly the fact that my son was Officially Delayed wasn’t my fault, although part of me will always wonder. Certainly, I can always do, or could have done more. Read one more book. Stayed outside for another 30 minutes. Something.

Except on the days when I couldn’t, blinking at the bright sun, stunned that it was only 1:00pm after a trip to the playground, lunch, a nap and a walk, wondering how to possibly fill the next seven hours.

But mostly, we played, even when it was with the crappy plastic brainless toys.

I sat on the floor with my son while we waited for them to come. Two special education teachers, scheduled to evaluate my little boy and talk with me about Preschool Autism Classroom (PAC) and noncategorical preschool (non-cat).

I remember feeling strangely calm while waiting for the knock on the door. There was no more cleaning to be done. Or, there was, but I felt okay about the state of the rooms they’d see.

I checked my phone for new email, and felt guilty about that because surely better mothers don’t check email while their son is three feet away from them (they do, by the way…they check it frequently, and there’s nothing wrong with that).

Finally, they came. And they were everything I needed. They were knowledge, acceptance, light, and hope. And they were in my living room.

They talked with me about Applied Behavior Analysis therapy (ABA), and about non-cat preschool. They interacted with my son, and Mrs. M made him laugh. She dragged him around the kitchen table on a blanket while I wondered how her 90-pound body managed to be so strong, and at her, who saw him for the little boy he was then, usually so shy and reserved. She had him laughing within minutes, while I cried at the kitchen table, wondering whether or not to take their advice.

Which special ed preschool is best?

Back then, I’d not yet let go of my dream. I imagined taking my son to a preschool co-op program – or a Montessori like the one I attended as a child  – three mornings each week. The visiting teachers recommended that I instead enroll him in PAC for 27.5 hours each week. I could choose whether to drive him there and back, or sign up for the short bus, although they didn’t call it that.

“But he doesn’t have autism,” I said to our visiting teachers, while wondering whether he did and being almost sure that he didn’t while wondering whether he did, because most three-year-olds spoke in sentences and said the word “water,” while my son asked for water by saying “ah.”

I didn’t want to take their advice. I didn’t want them to be right. I didn’t want to have my son in school for so many hours each week. “He still naps in the afternoons,” I pleaded. “How will that work?” “If he falls asleep, we’ll let him sleep, but we don’t have a scheduled nap time,” they replied. “Fuck,” I thought. “How will this possibly work?”

I agreed to try PAC for two weeks. Mrs. M knew more about it than I did, and I wanted to do what was best for my son even when the best for him wasn’t aligned with my dreams. To PAC he went, although not on the short bus, at least for that first year.

On the first day of school, I was a wreck. Convinced that he’d resist and cry. I did’t believe in “crying it out” when he was a baby, and I didn’t believe that I could walk away from him then, were there tears.

Mrs. M greeted us at the school entrance. She knew what she was doing. She had a wagon, a limp balloon that she blew up and then let fart in his face, and he never looked back at me. Although that first morning, I sat in the car, bawling for a long while, I took Mrs. M’s advice, and gave it two weeks.

I ended up giving it almost two years, at which point, I listened to her again when she told me that it was time for my little boy to move into non-cat.

Deciding on special ed preschool when your baby is still a baby

And then, we found grace in kindergarten. And now, he’s six. And talking.

Thank you, Mrs. M. I’m glad that I listened to your advice. To those of you struggling? When A Special Education Teacher Has Advice, at least consider it. I’m so glad that I did.


This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post of “I didn’t listen to anybody’s advice when…”
Host: Me, Kristi from Finding Ninee, and this week’s co-hosts are Michelle  of Crumpets and Bollocks  and Ruchira from Abracadabra

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  • Anna Fitfunner - That’s been our experience as well with our son; special ed teachers have so much wisdom to offer. Although, as time went on, we found that we became more discriminating in where we turned for advice. By now, with our son being a teenager, we find ourselves dispensing wisdom as much as receiving it. Ah, the life of a special needs parent! I truly never thought that I would find myself in these sorts of situations — just like your vision of Montessori!July 23, 2015 – 10:21 pmReplyCancel

    • Anna Fitfunner - Frist!July 23, 2015 – 10:22 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Anna, I never thought I’d find myself in them either and am so thankful for the early teachers and already am so much more knowledgable than I was!! Partly because of you and your comments and stories so thank you!!July 23, 2015 – 10:59 pmReplyCancel

  • [email protected] - xoxo.July 23, 2015 – 10:24 pmReplyCancel

  • JT Walters - I didn’t listen to my Ob’s advice when he told me “Nothing goes as planned after you have a child.”.

    I had to have an emergency c-section and was crying over my son’s ruined birthing plan. My OB told me he acted in my and my son’s best interest and he spent a whole day dealing with the emptional fall out of that ruined birthing plan.

    It was great advice though. You never know what to expect once you gave the baby. Having a child with to rare disorders one of which only 201 people in the world have and the other with a higher infant mortality rate than all the childhood cancers combined on top of autism has taught me that birthing plan being ruined was very trivial in the scheme of my parenting.

    So I trying and take one day at a time and enjoy it with my son. The plans are not important but the love that you share with your child ever day is important.

    I was really dumb to cry over a birthing plan and to not realize the incalculable variables of being a parent which would make any predictability model impossible let alone factoring in two rare diseases and autism.July 23, 2015 – 11:20 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Sorry that your birth plan was messed up – while I know that you’re right about the birth plan being trivial in the scheme of things, it’s still a bummer when things that we imagine don’t go the way we hope. Here’s to taking one day at a time!! And to your awesome boy and your awesome self!July 24, 2015 – 7:10 pmReplyCancel

      • JT Walters - You are the one who is awesome Kristi and much more forgiving to me than I am myself. I was stupid and could not see the forrest through the trees and had much bigger and much much more serious fish to fry.

        Thank you for understanding! I was really wrong though!!!July 24, 2015 – 7:18 pmReplyCancel

        • Kristi Campbell - Quit being so hard on yourself! You’d be angry as hell with me if I said the same. We DO have plans and it DOES suck when they go all to hell! <3July 24, 2015 – 7:38 pmReplyCancel

  • Janine Huldie - Aw, Kristi I know I can’t even quite imagine, but still, I am sure I wouldn’t have wanted to take the advice given, but just hope I’d have the courage and strength like you to do it if I had to. Hugs to you and can’t ever thank you enough for always sharing all you have been through up to this point.July 24, 2015 – 2:41 amReplyCancel

  • Ruchira Khanna - Happy to know that the outcome was a success, Kristi. Mrs. M was worth all the time and energy 🙂
    xoxoJuly 24, 2015 – 2:45 amReplyCancel

  • Nicki - You are the most wonderful mom and person and Tucker is such an incredible kid. Every time I read your gorgeous words I feel your love and generosity and beautiful soul. Thank you for writing this! <3July 24, 2015 – 3:20 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - You are so so awesome and sweet and amazing and I just adore you. Thank you for the encouragement.July 24, 2015 – 7:12 pmReplyCancel

  • Out One Ear - You are so me, Kristi. Or I was so you. And still am. Maybe all mother’s who have kids that struggle in some way are alike. I didn’t believe, and sometimes still don’t—what the experts have said to me. But as time goes on (and Lindsey is now 35), it is getting easier and easier to see the things that others saw way before I could. We all have our seasons of acceptance. You are an amazing mom. I love reading your posts.July 24, 2015 – 3:54 amReplyCancel

  • Christine Carter - Oh I just love that you took those brave steps in trusting this teacher and letting go of Tucker… as he thrived in the arms of Mrs, M! I’m so so glad that hill was climbed so you could see the mountaintop of success during these pre-school years!July 24, 2015 – 5:32 amReplyCancel

  • Nandhini - Hi Kristi,
    I am in the same exact boat now, where you have been three years ago. Even I am sending my daughter who just turned three to the preschool. Your blog is such an inspiration to me and it givesJuly 24, 2015 – 8:31 amReplyCancel

  • Nandhini - It gives me so much strength and courage to pursue my goals. Thank you Kristi.July 24, 2015 – 8:33 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Nandhini,
      Hugs to you – sending a three-year-old to preschool is SO HARD. In hindsight though, I really am so glad I listened to my son’s teachers. He went from not really talking to playing with Legos and making little conversations for the characters. I really do credit the early intervention and preschool with the strides he’s made. He is, of course, still behind but is truly a different kid than he was three years ago. Hang in there, mama! It does get easier. xoJuly 24, 2015 – 7:15 pmReplyCancel

  • Nina - You have the best stories, Kristi. And you’re such an inspiration not just to mothers of kids with autism but to anyone else who struggles to do her best for her kids. I’m so glad the teacher’s advice worked out well. Isn’t it awesome when we’re blessed with people who seem to be destined to meet us? Amazing progress for little Tucker indeed.July 24, 2015 – 10:36 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Aw thanks, Nina! I’m so glad that the teacher’s advice worked out too. I love when it all works out!!!July 24, 2015 – 7:37 pmReplyCancel

  • Tamara - Beautiful advice and outcome in this case, but not surprisingly because you and Tucker are so awesome.
    He’s progressed so much. I can see it leaping out of the screen.July 24, 2015 – 11:16 amReplyCancel

  • Allie - Absolutely! All our teachers have been Godsends – angels on earth! I don’t know what I’d do, without their advice.

    I cried the first day, too. I was so shattered, an administrator followed me out the car, because she thought II needed a friend. Oh, it was terrible.July 24, 2015 – 3:02 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I’m so glad that you’ve had such a positive experience with teachers too, Allie! I know that’s not always the case so I feel extra lucky. Awww to the administrator following you to the car. She was probably right – you did need a friend. Wish I’d known you back then!July 24, 2015 – 7:40 pmReplyCancel

  • Christine Organ - It’s so great that you have had kind and wise people to help you along this journey.July 24, 2015 – 9:02 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - It really is. They were such an incredible help and so supportive. I really feel lucky to have them in our lives.July 25, 2015 – 3:39 pmReplyCancel

  • Dana Schwartz - This is beautiful Kristi. You have to trust your gut as a mom, but sometimes you have to try out someone else’s instinct too. You are an incredible mom and human.July 25, 2015 – 2:24 amReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - For us it was his first grade teacher and I am so glad we took his advice and had our son tested. It was hard to do it, and yet one of the best hard decisions we made.July 25, 2015 – 10:45 amReplyCancel

  • Anna - There is no such thing as a brainless toy. Not everything needs to have a cut, dried, and hermetically sealed purpose.July 25, 2015 – 3:12 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - You’re right of course, although when looking at my house from an outsider’s point of view, it SEEMED that there were guilty, brainless toys. But obviously, play is play. Thank you for the reminder.July 25, 2015 – 11:26 pmReplyCancel

  • Lauren - I think that sharing your story can help so many others- because of your specific experience and because your story shows how hard these kinds of decisions are for parents. Should be required reading for special education teachers in training!.July 25, 2015 – 4:48 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I so hope that you’re right about our stories helping others. As my son gets older, I feel less okay about sharing about him, so appreciate you saying so.July 25, 2015 – 11:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - I love that picture. Is that Mrs. M? I think it’s excellent how far he has come. You’re an excellent mom for doing all that stuff first thing with seven more hours to go. Boy were those days exhausting! I can remember to taking Christopher to Barnes & Noble to play with the train just so I could just sit there and look at my phone.July 25, 2015 – 5:32 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Kenya, that IS Mrs. M!!! I hope she’s okay with me sharing. I feel like I cropped enough of her face out? He’s come SO FAR. OMG so far. And yeah, those early days. They were killer, wondering how to get through until bedtime. We used to go to B&N too!!! And a million other places.July 25, 2015 – 11:36 pmReplyCancel

  • Natalia Frost - Thank you for sharing your story, it’s so hard to make decisions but we always have our kids’ bets interest in mind, sometimes the path we take ends up not being the best but we have to try. I am glad things worked out for your little one!July 25, 2015 – 6:06 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thank you for being here, Natalia, and yeah, you’re right. It’s SO hard to make the decisions and to listen and to know what’s best to do!!! Thank you – things (in this case) really did work out!!July 25, 2015 – 11:37 pmReplyCancel

  • Stacey DeHaven Gannett - What a fabulous post, Kristi! Sometimes it is hard to know, but not wanting to know that you should heed to someone else’s advic. So thrilled that it allowed your son to grow and flourish. Have a great weekend!July 25, 2015 – 9:48 pmReplyCancel

  • Alison Wilkinson - It can be so hard to trust sometimes – there can be so much competing noise. Congratulations to you for making the best choice for your son and your family.July 26, 2015 – 2:57 amReplyCancel

  • Sandra - I find it so interesting that we (and by ‘we’ I mean all of us), as mothers, are at once so different and yet so similar. My children were not autistic, and yet I sat on the floor with the plastic toys and thought that I should have been doing puzzles or educational games. I breastfed three of the four, and the one I didn’t breastfeed has ADD. I’ve wondered and still do if it’s because I didn’t breastfeed. In the end I tend to follow this theory: If they don’t end up in juvi or jail, then we’ve been successful. I know: I’m a gem among mothers.July 26, 2015 – 6:08 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - LOL Sandra. I am digging your theory about juvi or jail. And yeah, it really is interesting how willing we are to blame ourselves for things, huh? Thanks, friend. You ARE a gem.July 28, 2015 – 9:43 amReplyCancel

  • My Inner Chick - The teachers at our school would just love you!!! xx So much better when we can all work together for the greater cause.July 26, 2015 – 4:52 pmReplyCancel

  • Emily - Oh boy can I so relate to this. I still remember so clearly the first time one of my son’s ABA therapists came to meet him in our crammed NYC apartment. I too was insistent he played imaginatively (he didn’t), although I couldn’t say he talked even a little. At the age of 2, he did not have even one word. I too wondered how we were going to fit in all those hours of ABA, plus speech and OT. No more napping I guess! I am still in touch with that first therapist, who believed in my son and brought her energy and enthusiasm to our apartment every day. She was the one who got him to utter his first word (not the speech therapist) and is responsible (in my opinion) for helping him reach his potential in every way. I am grateful she was in our life those years, and I can tell you feel the same way.July 27, 2015 – 2:59 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Emily,
      I love love that you’re still in touch with the first therapist who believed in your son! I feel really lucky to have had the timing work out the way that it did with Mrs. M. and am so glad that it was similar for you. I know too many people had to fight so hard to get ANYTHING. Thanks, you!July 28, 2015 – 9:45 amReplyCancel

  • Roshni AaMom - Beautiful, Kristi! So grateful that there are such wonderful people in this world!July 28, 2015 – 8:26 pmReplyCancel

  • Jolene @ Different Dream for My Child - As a former teacher, I so appreciate hearing positive stories about how the public school supports kids with special needs. Thanks for adding this to’s Tuesday special needs link up!July 31, 2015 – 12:01 pmReplyCancel

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