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

School is Starting and I Think I’m Okay with Second Grade. Maybe.

“If I’m the size of a nine-year-old, why am I only seven?” he said. I think about what to say to my not-so-little little boy, but I wait. I don’t want to imply that tall or short or anything between is good or bad.

It just is.

Like the shape of our thumbs. Who our parents are. The color of our skin.

Our ability to form words or to not be able to.

To run. To be friendly or shy.

I tell him that size is something people see but it’s not one of the best things that makes us who we are. I talk about kindness, and remembering ourselves and other people when we’re angry or sad.

“Like when I was in preschool and got mad and hit my friend with a music instrument?” he asks. “Something like that,” I said. Amazed at the memories he has but couldn’t tell me about back then.

“So even though I’m the size of a nine-year-old, I’m still going to second grade, right?” he asks. “Exactly,” I said. We talked a little about school starting, and about how he’d asked a girl on the playground for a kiss. How she said no, and how that was okay. How it was even better that he’d respected her “no.”

We went swimming, and later, I told him about when I went to second grade. About how we moved to a new home that year. “I want to stay in my house forever,” he said. Which made me want to, too, in spite of our tiny crappy yard.

I thought about telling him about The Rickys, but didn’t, because I wasn’t sure whether me kissing a boy when I was six would make him feel good or bad. He’s so hard on himself already.


ABA therapy is both wonderful and really really hard. Like hard hard. So often, the therapy goes against a mom’s instincts and we have to learn. It’s the little moments. A kid, hitting when you’re not listening. Seeing the antecedent, and knowing why the behavior happens.

Rewarding and walking away.

It works, but it’s hard. When my son was small, and in preschool autism classroom and not talking, he couldn’t tell his classmates to step away when they got into his personal space.

He lashed out. He hit. He kicked. He made them get out of his space, even when that meant removing them from it physically.

On one of the first days he was potty-training, I dropped him off the same as I always did. Along with the other parents, I usually stayed as long as possible. Glimpses into our kids’ worlds back then were both mama-bear protectiveness and educational, because each of us was learning what to say or do when (fill in the blank).

A boy from his class ran into him, and my son kicked the boy. His teacher, doing ABA, yelled “NO!” and walked away. He cried so hard that he peed in his pants.

I went to him, and his teacher pulled me away as I cried. I can’t even type this without crying. It sucked that bad.

His teacher and I spoke for an hour. I thought about home-schooling but knew I didn’t really want to. I knew his teacher knew more than I did about this.

And you know what? She helped him talk. He started talking. She was right.


Summer’s almost over again, and so I booked a trip to the beach even though we’d agreed that we were done traveling until a visit with my family in October. We did other things for my son’s birthday this year (DOLLYWOOD!), and that we can be at a beach in three hours seems like we need to go. And so we’ll go. After all, school’s starting again soon and days at the beach are limited.

One day, my son will want to go to the beach with friends, and both of us will be grateful that I’m not there with him as he kisses a girl, or doesn’t. He’s going to respect her “no” though, as if I were there. At least, I’m planning and working on that.  
boy playing on beach
I think about yesterdays at the beach, and 
I think about school starting in a couple of weeks, and I’m glad we’re going to the beach, and that we had an epic Minecraft birthday cake to celebrate seven. I’m grateful to my son’s preschool teacher who helped him speak, and to another who helped him get ready for second grade this summer. Finding grace in kindergarten lingers and continues to soothe my anxiety about his school days.

I think about kissing, and first crushes and school. About Gillian, and fear and shyness, and fall leaves crunching under our feet. About how the mornings are too cold for shorts and the afternoons being too hot for pants.

About my son, growing and learning, and about us having a couple more weeks of summer.


I sent an email to the principal the same way I’ve done each year and haven’t yet heard about placement. Turns out, they put a lot of the special needs kids together, which I get but am not fully sure of.

With days before the beach, and weeks before second grade, I’m going to continue to breathe and feel that grace will lead us, that the best teacher will teach him, and that the best me will be as involved or as removed as makes sense.
kristi rieger campbell finished post for finding ninee
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s topic is “Back to school…”
Link up with me (Kristi) from Finding Ninee.

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  • JT Walters - What an inspiring blog about your and Tucker’s success. I am so glad your son had that preschool teacher but you had a lot to do with him talking. You never gave up and you never surrendered. How pain those years of silence must have been for your family and how much joy you must feel just to hear his words.

    Damn proud you know what an antecedent is!!

    This blog was really inspiring as a parent with autism who still does get to hear my son speak.

    You and Tucker are showing the world is he way.

    Being big will mean he will be popular. Large males are anthropological lay preferred.

    You are proof a Mother’s love is still the best rememdy!!

    What took you so long,I have been waiting all week for this??August 19, 2016 – 12:15 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - THANK YOU. And yeah, I know I helped him talk too but honestly in the early months of testing and evaluations, many people told me he’d catch up when he was ready to talk. That he didn’t “need to talk” because he wasn’t in daycare and I knew what he needed without him asking.
      And yeah, he I think enjoys being tall but honestly, I think it affects his coordination sometimes AND it makes him look older, which isn’t always good when developmentally, he’s younger. Also I’m not very tall, and my brothers aren’t very tall, and they are amazing. I want him to know that physical stuff doesn’t matter so much. Like the fact his eyes are the color of sea-magic? They’d be just as gorgeous if they were the color of lava-magic, or any other color. You know?
      ALSO LOL to the “what took you so long” comment. That’s really sweet. Thank you.August 19, 2016 – 9:29 pmReplyCancel

      • JT Walters - With all the barriers you have manage have confidence in your ability to negotiate the rest. He does have majestic sea ble eyes as Alex has eyes of blue emeralds. They have to have a little pride.

        You have taught Tucker well except how he describes Trump. Not good Sister!! Those words are going to fly out at the wrong time.

        You are making it out of the world of having a none verbal child into a more normal world..let go of some of the worries now. You and Tucker are trail blazers. Rejoice in that victory and yeah seriously it takes a long time to get your posts and you know I wait all week for them.August 19, 2016 – 9:43 pmReplyCancel

        • Kristi Campbell - I’m letting go of normal because what is normal anyway>>>> for real. And it’s not just me, teaching him that Trump is EVIL like the fruits of the devil, it’s all of his favorite YouTubers too because Trump is terrible and where did that come from here???August 19, 2016 – 9:47 pmReplyCancel

          • JT Walters - Evil is not the word I am referring to…just be prepared for the on to which I refer to fly at a really inappropriate time. Look you are a lover not a hater…let go of all of it, it is out of your control.

            You’re a loving compassionate person, don’t let this election change you.

            I am working with Alex going to high school and following your lead. We both have a lot to pray about. Prayers and crossed fingers everything turns out well. Btw, if T is near 80lbs he will hit puberty soon. It is strictly by weight. That will not be fun for you if he goes through it in second grade.August 19, 2016 – 10:16 pm

  • Dana Dominey Campbell - Love as always…August 19, 2016 – 12:35 amReplyCancel

  • Allie - I wish I was going to the beach. I hope you guys have a great trip. Also. I think you should call the principal. He should has responded back. And a co-taught classroom was always goo for us – a mix of typical and mild special needs. I found it was easier for him to fit in. In second grade, it’s really hard to tell the difference. I promise. Another benefit – the teacher is better trained to deal with all the personalities. But that’s just my opinion. xoxoxAugust 19, 2016 – 7:00 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I wish y’all were coming to the beach with us. Not too late for another road trip??? The school here is really weird about placement. I think it’s because the teachers move around… and it’s a really good district which also means the parents think they have all this control (which we should and in part, do) but GAH. I keep waiting for the letter or email. I hate waiting. And thanks, I know second grade it’s harder “to tell,” but I also feel like it’s getting easier if that makes sense. xo xo xoAugust 19, 2016 – 9:32 pmReplyCancel

  • Lisa @TheGoldenSpoons - School is hard on us mamas. When my youngest was in second, that was the year she was bullied and threatened. They year the principal was incompetent and did nothing. The year her teacher was so sweet but so young and didn’t know what to do. It was the year my mama bear claws came out like never before and we decided to move them to a different school.

    On the other hand, I loved second grade. My teacher that year was one of my favorites and we read “SuperFudge!” I can still picture my second grade classroom in my head. Is that weird?

    I hope Tucker has a great second grade year and that you do,too! XOXOAugust 19, 2016 – 7:49 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - It’s SO hard. I remember when you switched schools. I guess I’ve known you for a long time (AWESOME!!!). But sucky that the principal did nothing 🙁 OMG I forgot about Superfudge! I hope that Tucker has a great year and that you and your family does too, Lisa!!!August 19, 2016 – 9:36 pmReplyCancel

  • Katy - I’m glad you went to the beach. I feel your anxiety and fears in your words about the upcoming school year and they echo mine with my own kids. I just want it to be alright and not a long year, ya know?August 19, 2016 – 8:35 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - We’re going on Sunday, and thank you so much for getting the anxiety and fears about school. I know what you mean as far as alright and not a long year…August 19, 2016 – 9:37 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - That is amazing that he remembers what he couldn’t articulate at the time. I’m so not ready for 6th grade that I can’t even right about it. I think I’ve been anxiety organizing all summer so everything with be – um- organized. So I can at least say, “There’s that.”

    P.S. I felt you choke up when you cried when the teacher pulled you away. 🙁August 19, 2016 – 10:17 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - It’s SO SO amazing that he remembers stuff that he couldn’t talk about. I’m shocked all the time. And yeah, organizing. “There’s that.” It’s something though, right?
      xo to yeah pulling away.August 20, 2016 – 12:05 amReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Oh and I forgot to mention that Turcker will appreciate his height later. So give it a few years and he will love being taller.August 19, 2016 – 11:39 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thank you for that too. I know he’ll appreciate it. That I do. I just hope he knows it doesn’t matter even if it does ,you know?August 20, 2016 – 12:06 amReplyCancel

  • My Inner Chick - Hello, sweets,

    Is Tucker mostly in the classroom or resource room?

    Do you like the principal, teachers, special ed. teachers, paras?

    Wishing you a wonderful new school year! xxAugust 20, 2016 – 10:02 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Hey Kim!
      He’s mainstream classroom with some support (they put all the kids with delays together and then there are two special ed teachers – it’s not perfect, but last year was enough for him). So far, I’ve loved his teachers and special ed and speech person. And thank you!!! xxAugust 21, 2016 – 9:18 amReplyCancel

  • Kerry - Oh, Kristi, this back to school stuff still causes me so much anxiety. I couldn’t even figure out where to start to write about it. I hope Tucker feels less of that than I always did. Second grade was one of my better years, I’d say,, as that is the year I got my braille teacher and she started to teach me braille, more seriously, even though my mom took the classes and had begun to show me the basics.
    Every summer, as it comes to an end, even though I don’t go back to school anymore, those old feelings creep up. I have to tell myself to relax.
    This year I am feeling it for my nephew, who starts JK in a few weeks, but is so small and such the little guy in my mind. But I suppose it will always feel like that. He’s getting more and more excited, but keeps inviting myself and his grandma to come with him and sit in his chair.
    It’s so wonderful to have some of the special ed services that now exist, hopefully even more than when I was a kid, but it’s never easy. It is hard to fit into school to begin with, and made that extra bit of hard when any differences are obvious.
    Here’s to a greatly successful and enjoyable year for you and for Tucker.August 20, 2016 – 6:26 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Kerry,
      You know… second grade was good for me too and I so hope it is for Tucker. I hear you on lingering feelings of anxiety though – it’s hard, right? And awww to your nephew starting JK. That’s adorable he keeps asking you to come with him and sit in his chair. I hope he loves it (I was freaked out about Tucker starting preschool here but he did really well — thrived, in fact). I hope your nephew has an easy adjustment period and loves school!
      Thank you!!August 21, 2016 – 9:23 amReplyCancel

  • Ender-Chan - I parodied A Chorus Line’s I Hope I Get It because school is a performance. I don’t know if any of you like musicals, but it reflects my sentiments on every coming school year. I really need the grade.August 21, 2016 – 3:24 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I think your take was super creative and awesome!!! Good luck with school coming soon 🙂August 21, 2016 – 11:04 pmReplyCancel

  • Tamara - The Rickys! Oh, I do love me some continuity.
    Scarlet is going into second grade and she’s smaller than many kindergarteners. They’re all in different shapes and sizes!
    Cheers to it. Ten days from now for us. I’m all kinds of nervous but the show goes on.August 27, 2016 – 11:42 pmReplyCancel

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