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

Will School Crush My Special Needs Kid?

Every once in a while, the truth that my baby is no longer a baby, nor a toddler, catches me off guard. I’m reminded by little things,* like when Tucker asks me to carry him, which I used to do oh-so-gently, barely able to trust myself to carry him up the stairs, and remembering to “mind his head!” Later, I carried him more easily, slung on a hip, while I fed myself, went about chores, and peed. Today, it’s hard to carry him up the stairs, or for more than a block or two, coming home from a playground.

I’m caught off guard when I catch a sideways glimpse of how huge his feet have gotten, and end up doing a double take, marveling at how my once teenytiny human is becoming a little boy. Is already one, no matter my level, or lack, of preparation.

His entire foot was smaller than my fingers.

His entire foot was smaller than my fingers.

Mom laying with new baby on bed

LOOK at those tiny chicken legs!!!

I marvel that he will become an elementary student, a hormonal teenager, and, one day, much too soon, a man.

As Tucker’s vocabulary, social desire, and increasing understanding of emotions and the world around him expand along with his feet, my pride, amazement, and worry grow.  He’ll be entering kindergarten this fall.


It doesn’t seem possible that four and a half years have been filled with his giggles, his tears, and the fact that he turned my heart upside down in the best of ways by mattering more to me than anything else. I feel immense gratitude over the fact that he now wakes me up in the morning by climbing into my bed, rather than crying at me from his, and that he enjoys the simple act of burying me under a mountain of pillows to crash into.

He often follows that play with “Wake up, Mommy.”

“Wake UP, Mommy. Both your eyes.”

Seeing him grow and absorb is a wake-up in itself. A both-my-eyes kind of wake up.

While today, he is not aware that his language, handwriting (if you can call it that), and his childhood milestones are grossly behind those of his typically developing peers, one day, he may be.

And that, my dear friends, fucking terrifies me.

Today, at work, a friend who has a now grown, dyslexic son and I were talking about school. Kindergarten. Private. Public. Elementary. IEPs and advocacy for special needs rights.

While I understand that each school experience is different, her words continue to rumble, cycle through, and ferment in every part of my brain.

I feel Worry.

Grief, at how his experience may be.

“He will feel dumb,” she said. “It’ll probably happen around the third grade, and it will crush him.”

“By that time,” she said, “it may be too late. There’s no fixing low self-esteem.”

There’s no fixing low self-esteem.  There’s no fixing low self-esteem. There’s no fixing low self-esteem.

Her personal experience with public school was nothing less than horrific. Her son’s, too. While I’m terrified, I am also hopeful.

Although I obviously have continually evolving dreams for my little boy, they do not include excelling at particular school subjects, nor getting into Stanford. To me, now, that doesn’t have anything to do with the Point of All.

I’d like for Tucker to be his best him, whoever he is, and whoever (whomever?) he becomes. And I believe that in order for him to be his best him, that it’s critical that he not feel like a dummy.

I dread the potential day when an insensitive teacher asks him to perform an impossible-for-him task, in front of his class, feeling like she’s doing him a favor. Making him “man up.”

I dread the mean kid asking Tucker why he is allowed extra time to complete his exams, if he’s even taking them, and I dread the innocent child who asks my son why he can’t read a certain something. I dread those kids’ parents. Which means, I maybe dread you.

How is my son expected to be his best him, for all of his life, if he feels like the him that he is – is something less than?

Is it true that school can crush a child?

Will School Crush My Special Needs Kid?

Yes. I fear so.

That school has the ability to crush those that we love the very most is why some special needs families end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on primary education (and also why I want The Best Special Needs School in the Worldtaking donations).

It is, in part, why my friend Jen from My Skewed View continues to home school her son, who has Sensory Processing Disorder. She home schools him because teachers judge. Parents judge, and students judge. Early on, she “came out” to other parents in a home school tribe. She shared about her son, and rather than embracing her, and him, the parent that Jen confided in told her older son about Jen’s son. He, of course, turned around, and told all of his peers. And all of a sudden, Jen’s son was “that weird kid.” No wonder she keeps him at home (uses with permission).

You, and your kids, are the people who have an opportunity to help my kid to live his life with peace, self acceptance, and to become his best him.


I don’t think it’s very complicated. We have the power to make the world a better place for all of our kids.

My friend Kerri from Undiagnosed But Okay will fill you in soon, on her blog, but has led an initiative in her community to educate elementary and junior high school aged students about special needs.

Their motto is “Every kid has a challenge. What’s yours?” The children participate in activities like doing art with the opposite hand, and filling out an anonymous paper saying what their personal challenges are.

A young student said that it was “Catching butterflies.”

A fourth grader wrote “My mom died.”

We ALL have challenges. While I did fairly well in school, had an (over)active social life, and friends, I had challenges. Differences. My dad raised my brothers and I from the time I was in ninth grade. While this is not the time to get into my challenges, the fact is that we each have them. Whether it one, or, more likely, many.

I think that before we worry about our children’s potential leadership skills and meaningless campaigns about whether or not the word “bossy” is good or bad (NOTE that I said the campaign is meaningless. My friend Deb from Urban Moo Cow contributed to an amazing pro/con article about the word “bossy” that is thought-provoking, well-written, and raises some really important points and you should check it out, as the article and their view points are very meaninful), that we need to focus on what’s the most important piece of childhood development is.

Please, can we begin to educate our children on worth? Let’s educate them on the magnitude of self-importance, regardless of ability and challenges.

Let’s educate about worth within their differing abilities. Let’s talk.

Let’s explain autism, Down Syndrome, PPD-NOS, developmental delays, sensory processing disorder, tics, and mental health issues.

Let’s explain culture, skin color, eye color, sock color preferences, and sexual orientation. Let’s explain that everybody is important. Let’s educate on empathy and wonder.

On that if your baby were the one who may feel “retarded” and bullied, you’d want me to listen.

Let’s educate on Being Human, 101.

It feels like a start.

will school crush my son

This has been a too-late finished Finish the Sentence Friday Post.  Today’s sentence, “I’m done with school, but…” and was contributed by April of 100 Pound Countdown so show her some clicks, m’kay?

Your hosts: Janine: Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic
Kate: Can I get another bottle of whine?
Stephanie: Mommy, for Real
Me (Kristi): Finding Ninee

*Kenya – Don’t Mind the Little Things

  • Janine Huldie - Trust me I am totally shell shocked on my girls growing up right before my eyes, especially Emma starting kindergarten, too in the fall. seriously, where did the time go? And yes my girls are not learning disabled, but still this milestone and so many to come now scare the daylights out of me. So, my heart truly goes out to you and on some level and right there with you, too.March 20, 2014 – 10:11 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Janine,
      Thanks so much. I don’t think our kids need to be anything other than our kids for milestones like kindergarten to scare the heck out of us. It’s scary, letting these people who we are consumed with love for go out into the world and have to fend for themselves in situations we’re not sure how they will deal with. It’s hard to believe we’ll both be planning 5th birthday parties this summer. Time – too fast.March 21, 2014 – 5:47 pmReplyCancel

  • Courtney Conover - Okay, I am positively swooning over that photo of you and Tucker. Although I can’t see your eyes, the way you are looking at him…Now THAT’S love.

    Your post is timely for me because we’re in the midst of researching pre-school options for Scotty, although he won’t go until fall of 2015. He has made tremendous strides with his language, but I have wondered whether his pronunciation issues will dissolve…or whether there will be traces of it in certain words by the time we enroll him. And if the latter is the case, I worry — like, All. The. Time — that he will be made fun of, and, of course, how this will impact his self esteem.

    Great post, Krisit. (I plan to e-mail you soon because I want your take on something related to this topic…)March 20, 2014 – 10:24 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Courtney,
      Worrying whether they’ll be made fun if is, I feel, the very hardest thing of all. It’s already scary to send them to the huge world to interact on their own. Add an issue adds another layer of fear that’s hard to shake. I have a funny (crazy maybe) helicopter mom thing I did that I’ll share with you in reply to your email. I’m glad you’re already looking at a lot of preschools. I think you should check them all out and only go with one you’re more than comfortable with.
      And thanks so much. I love that photo too even though it’s not the most flattering because it’s just life, ya know?March 21, 2014 – 5:51 pmReplyCancel

  • Lady Lilith - I can relate. I have a sister who was born with down syndrome. As we all went to a local private school, my sister was a problem. She was high to smart for a special needs class but struggled in a regular class. In the end, my mother put her in the same school as us in kindergarden. From the very first day, the kids were told to ask away. In the end, they needed up accepting her with an understanding. They were not informed of her diagnoses of Down syndrome because it was not necessary.
    I actually remember one of the girls coming up to me and asking me why she talks funny. I told the girl that every day when school is over, my sister goes for help to teach her to speak. If she does not understand what my sister is saying, that is okay and she can ask me to translate.
    It worked brilliantly and she loves it.March 20, 2014 – 11:07 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I think having the kids be able to ask is really helpful because if they think something is off limits, it gets more different. Being able to ask questions is important – every kid wonders about differences. Sounds like your mom and family did the right thing for your sister which is awesome.March 21, 2014 – 6:01 pmReplyCancel

  • Don - Your work friend sort of sounds like an ignorant bitch to be quite honest.

    Kids can be really mean, yes, but they can also be really sweet when they understand that a kid with special needs is still a kid. In fact, some kids will go above and beyond to befriend or protect such a kid. Tucker will be fine I’m sure. Growing up is hard, yes, but he has a mom who will kick ass and take names on his behalf and he’s a handsome little man. That helps, right??

    Okay, I’m done before this turns into a dissertation nobody wants to hear. Lol.March 20, 2014 – 11:55 pmReplyCancel

    • Courtney Conover - Okay. I don’t know you, Don, but I really, really like you.

      Nice comment.March 21, 2014 – 7:26 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - And this is why you’re my common law internet hubs. And yes, that helps. Thank you.March 21, 2014 – 6:09 pmReplyCancel

  • Kelly L Mckenzie - I wish and hope that Tucker will not be crushed or become aware that he is “not up there with the others.” I really do Kristi. Hopefully with you being on guard he will manage to avoid that. Both my kids were in classes with special needs kids and they were made very aware that there was zero tolerance for any derogatory cpmments or actions. I never heard of any and hopefully there weren’t. And yes, bring on the Being Human 101 and 201 and 301 and 401.March 21, 2014 – 2:26 amReplyCancel

  • karen - i am sobbing right now….blows my nose….i need a minute.

    okay actually took a minute to compose myself, LOL

    I feel your same worries, I think bullying is so out of hand right now and no kid is safe. You wear the “wrong shirt”, say the “wrong thing”, or don’t fit in with the “popular kids” and you are done.

    When students feel weird about coming to reading services I always explain that we are all awesome in some areas and need extra help in others. I love reading, breaking words into syllables and phonemes, but give me a math problem that involves letters…I’m done. I can’t handle auditory information, but excel when I read it. I need my information organized with colors while my hubby prefers a large notebook with just one color ink.

    I worry about Anthony in kindergarten too, I worry that he will feel less then, be humiliated, feel stupid, not have any friends. I empathize with you and wish there was a way we could guarantee them happiness and success in school.March 21, 2014 – 6:00 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Sorry Karen!
      You’re right that bullying is out of hand. Especially cyber bullying. It’s horrible that kids can gang up on somebody so anonymously – it’s awful.
      Also you so rock for being such an excellent reading coach – mostly because you take the time to explain to kids that we’re all awesome at some things. I think that’s such an important reminder. I like the visual of your organizational skills too as I’m the same way! I’ll later remember an appointment because I can picture it in red or something on my calendar or on a piece of paper.
      A guarantee would be sooooo nice….sigh.March 21, 2014 – 6:17 pmReplyCancel

  • Misty @ Meet the Cottons - Being Human 101 sounds like an amazing class! sign me up!March 21, 2014 – 6:08 amReplyCancel

  • Sarah - Yes. Like you, I am fucking terrified. Every minute of every day. The Dude and I were teachers for years and so we know how it happens. We know every school has bad teachers and bullying can happen in every classroom. I love on fear and anger of the people who will try to break her, and I hope I have the strength and skill to hold her together. Not to mention the funds to send her to the school she needs. Because we will when it becomes necessary. It’s a small comfort, but I’m
    Glad I know another mother going through this at the same time.March 21, 2014 – 8:06 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I’m glad I know you too Sarah and soon IRL! Whoot! We need to make a date for the carousel and you’re coming to LTYM right? And yeah, the fucking terrified part really sucks, especially because it’s not the kind of terrified that involves falling off a bridge that I’m not on right now – the school thing and bullying and all that goes with it IS there. I do think that you have the strength to hold her together and that I do (hopefully) for Tucker, too. xoMarch 22, 2014 – 2:56 pmReplyCancel

  • Katia - You may have posted this too late, but it’s the first one I’m reading and WOW. As a somewhat anxious human being and parent I constantly dread my typical son being treated the way you describe. I worry that the fact the doesn’t celebrate Christian holidays will make him feel uncomfortable, I worry that someone will give him the cold shoulder when he engages a complete stranger in conversation. I worry and dread just like you but I can only imagine how far more overpowering your dread is. You’re a wonderful mom. You’re trying to change the world for your son with your Our Land and with posts like this one. So are Jen and Kerri. I think that “what is your challenge” is an AMAZING initiative and I will help in any way that I can to spread word of it because I want a better world for my son too. Sniff. I love you.March 21, 2014 – 9:31 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Katia,
      Sigh, there really is so much to worry about as parents, isn’t there? It’s terrifying. I love the idea of “What’s your Challenge?” too and completely plan on doing something similar once Tucker reaches elementary school age. I have also been thinking of doing something like it for Our Land – hopefully Kerri will help me out.
      I love you too Sweets. Big..March 22, 2014 – 2:58 pmReplyCancel

  • Dana - I understand your fears, Kristi. And maybe school would crush a kid who had no one in his life to support him, love him, teach him, and raise him up. Tucker has all of that in you and your husband, and that is really strong armor to protect him from being crushed. He will get some bumps and bruises that other kids may not, and that’s not fair. But crushed? Nope. You won’t let that happen, and my money’s on you.March 21, 2014 – 9:46 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Aw, thanks, Dana. Your comment made me get a little teary. Thanks for betting on us. You rock.March 22, 2014 – 3:04 pmReplyCancel

  • Kerri - Oh my friend. I fear that day, the day that crushes our child and our hearts. Part of me rejoices that Boo may never know and shudders at the fact her sister will. I think we need to create the Our Land curriculum and make it as important as the mandatory common core math Abby has to learn.March 21, 2014 – 10:11 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Yes to an Our Land curriculum! The whole world could use being human lessons sometimes, right? And yeah, I know what you mean- and am not even sure what’s worse, that our kids notice their differences or don’t…March 22, 2014 – 3:06 pmReplyCancel

  • Crystal - I completely agree with Dana, Kristi! Tucker has amazing parents and so much love! With your support and encouragement, he is and will continue to blossom. I think as parents we fear our kids being ridiculed, failing, having their hopes crushed, and so on. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing. It’s working my friend. 🙂March 21, 2014 – 10:27 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Aw, thanks, Crystal. It seems that you’re right and that all parents worry so much about school, or life, crushing our children’s hopes, and self esteem. Thanks again – I appreciate it!March 22, 2014 – 3:29 pmReplyCancel

  • Anna Fitfunner - Hi Kristi:

    My son is autistic. He’s 14 years old now, and has been in public school since Kindergarten. There’s no question of him “passing”, and never has been.

    When he was heading into Kindergarten, we were concerned that he would be unsuccessful — both socially and academically. What we experienced was that the kids in his classes adopted him and took him under their wing. Admittedly, some of them were more in tune with him than others, and we worked hard to reward those kids that were friendly with him. But the bottom line was that our son was well accepted, and had a social life in elementary school for which we had not even hoped.

    The key for that, in my mind, is that we were completely open with the kids and parents from the very beginning about our son’s autism. Not that we could hide very much — he had lots of atypical behaviors. But we found that if we behaved as if other kids and parents would naturally just accept our son for what he was and is, then it got a lot of the baggage out of the way.

    I’ve seen that same approach work with other developmental disabilities as well. Our neighbors has a son with OCD and Tourette’s. I’ve watched when kids will come up to him and ask him about some of his atypical behaviors. His response “that’s just the way that I am.” The other kids seem to accept that, and interact with him (or not) on those terms.

    This is not to say that everyone will always be friendly with special needs kids when you are open about it. There are plenty of people who can be mean or nasty. But the reality is that the world has lots of mean spirited folks. The way that their mean spiritedness triumphs is if we give them the sense that somehow we, as special needs parents or special needs kids, are defensive or embarrassed about who we are and who our kids are.

    So, Kristi, I think that you’ll have a school journey with some bumps and bruises, but your kid is going to be okay.

    No — really — I think that he will be okay, and likely even better than just okay!

    AMarch 21, 2014 – 10:47 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks so much, Anna, for sharing your experiences with your son’s school history and I really appreciate the perspective. I do think that being open and honest about our kids goes a long way – not acting embarrassed or anything because honestly there’s nothing to be embarrassed about – they are “just the way they are.” I love that so many children in your son’s life have taken him under their wings and supported him. That gives me a lot of hope and encouragement and relief.
      I really appreciate you taking the time to share and for coming by! Thanks again and have a great rest of the weekend!March 22, 2014 – 3:32 pmReplyCancel

      • Anna Fitfunner - Hi Kristi:

        One more note: our neighbors with the son with TS+ were over last night. Their boy had some ticks going on. I was talking about them with the Mom, and I lowered my voice because their son was in the next room. The Mom looked at me and said “no need to be quiet about his Tourette’s. We’re not embarrassed about it, and we don’t want him to be embarrassed either.”

        I stook (or rather sat) corrected.

        Keep me posted on Tucker’s progress. I bet he’s going to have a blast in Kindergarten!


        AMarch 22, 2014 – 6:30 pmReplyCancel

        • Kristi Campbell - I would love to keep you posted on Tucker’s progress and how interesting that she told you not to whisper. While I understand that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, kids don’t always like to know we’re talking about them at all so I think it’d have been my instinct to whisper, too.
          Thanks again, Anna!March 23, 2014 – 5:50 pmReplyCancel

  • that cynking feeling - The secretary from the preschool called me at work on Wednesday. She began the call with “Your son is fine.” However, my stomach still had butterflies as she scheduled his kindergarten transition meeting. I’m terrified with what will happen this fall. I don’t know if his school is prepared, but we don’t have other options where I live. Ugh.March 21, 2014 – 11:54 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Ugh – the school’s name showing up on the display in the middle of the day is so heart-stopping! We have our kindergarten IEP/transition meeting at the end of April and I’m already nervous and trying to not even think about it much. Here’s to both of our boys having the best kindergarten experiences possible. To friends and kind, loving teachers…March 22, 2014 – 4:46 pmReplyCancel

  • Emily - I’m not going to sit here and try to relate my own experience to what you have ahead for you and Tucker, because I know that each child’s journey through these school years can be different, whether or not they have special needs. I couldn’t agree more that we ALL have challenges and i try to drill that point home to all my kids all the time. What I will tell you is that I completely understand your fear, because our instinct is to protect our kids as much as we can, even when they are older and near adulthood I am discovering. That mama bear instinct never goes away, but I’ve also learned that each time our kid encounters what I like to think of as bumps in the road, it makes him stronger and more resilient. As painful as it is to watch them weather that bump, just remember he’ll be stronger for it. That being said, I wish someone (hint, hint) would start the Best Special Needs School In The World, because it’s needed, bad.March 21, 2014 – 12:09 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks, Emily. I know you’re probably right and that you know exactly what I’m talking about and have dealt with the same issues – even though I know these things usually turn out fine, and that so many kids on the spectrum end up making friends who look out for them, it’s still terrifying.
      Soon as I get some funding, I’m all over the school!March 22, 2014 – 4:48 pmReplyCancel

  • clark - “He will feel dumb,” she said. “It’ll probably happen around the third grade, and it will crush him.”

    “By that time,” she said, “it may be too late. There’s no fixing low self-esteem.”

    I will say this: she is wrong*.

    There! that was simple.

    You know how so synchronistic you and I can be in writing Posts for the FTSF, today is no exception except the relationship is sideways, so most readers (of both Posts) may not see it. But you will, so I will say:

    I had a 3rd grade event that was horrible and I am still here, maybe the experience was not fun (but at least I have some stories to tell)… lol
    I had a clark for a mother and the other footnoted points in my Post today, make clear that, in my opinion, the totality of my experiences in early school years more than offset the difficulty I encountered in 3rd Grade. (I know! much as was the case for all of us at that stage in life)

    You and Tucker, in every way I am able to see, are doing fine. You love him, He loves you. Done.

    …as to this woman, a more mature friend might suggest that you politely tell her that you disagree with her, but then again my first impulse is to suggest that you simply tell her to ‘fuck off’,

    I enjoyed reading your Post.

    *for those followers of the Wakefield Doctrine, this woman fits the criterion for a specialized subgroup (roger with a strong secondary scott) that we commonly refer to as ‘face eaters’… space does not permit a full explanation, stop by and askMarch 21, 2014 – 12:49 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks Clark! And Sister Ismelda or whatever the fuck her name is sounds like a total asshole! Who says that to a third grader? And you still remember it with total clarity. I’m glad that the rest of your school experiences were Good and outweighed that crap at the age of 8. You rock, and I love that our posts are parallel, once again.March 22, 2014 – 4:56 pmReplyCancel

  • Echo - I’m not going to lie or sugar coat things. School is scary. School for a special needs kid is terrifying. IEPs, Meeting, Behavior Charts, Phone Calls, E-mails, Trips to the school.

    As parents, we do what we have to for our kids! I wish Tucker all the luck in the world and hope that school goes well for him!March 21, 2014 – 12:53 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks, Echo. And yeah, you’re right of course that the IEPs, meetings, phone calls, it’s all a LOT. Thanks so much for the luck wishes – I send the same your way.March 22, 2014 – 4:58 pmReplyCancel

  • Triplezmom - Oh, so many thoughts swirling in my head. School doesn’t have to be horrible, but it can be. So much depends on the specific school and the specific teachers. Have faith in yourself, and Tucker, that you’ll know what’s best.March 21, 2014 – 1:34 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks so much. I do have faith in him. I try to have enough in me, and I am very much hoping that he has loving teachers and aides and classmates. I appreciate your comment!March 22, 2014 – 5:03 pmReplyCancel

  • Deb - I love when you write so passionately about him. And the photo of the tiny, tiny feet — omg!!!!! I really hope Tuck doesn’t get crushed in school. I hope you can shield him, somehow.

    Thank you for mentioning my piece. I believe that a world where female leaders are embraced *is* a world that is better for your son, for my son, for everyone. And I completely understand why a campaign encouraging leadership in young girls is the last thing on your mind. But for those girls whose dreams are crushed by cultural expectations, the campaign may have some meaning.March 21, 2014 – 2:51 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I agree that the girls dreams are VERY IMPORTANT, and necessary to having a world that is the better place we all want. I just don’t like the campaign for some reason – it feels manufactured and fake to me, but maybe it’s just a reaction to the whole author. Not sure. Anyway, I did really like what YOU had to say about it of course. I hope that Tucker doesn’t get crushed, too. Sigh.
      Hope today’s move is going well, Deb. Thinking about you!March 22, 2014 – 5:08 pmReplyCancel

  • Jhanis - How do we protect our kids from the cruelty of the world? I’d like to know too. We hope and pray and then we pray harder that our love will be enough to make them feel safe. Hugs to you mama.March 21, 2014 – 3:31 pmReplyCancel

  • [email protected] Menopausal Mother - I think a major part of the school experience (whether it will be successful or awful) depends on the teacher. Scope out several schools until you find the one he likes best, and find out who the best Kindergarten teachers are—and who your son feels the most comfortable with. I had some horrible school experiences—bullied quite a bit, so by the time my own kids were ready to start, I made sure all four of them had the best possible ones during elementary school. On a side note, my youngest daughter is finishing up her degree in Special Ed. She has been doing an internship at some of the schools here and loves it. I’m going to tell her to start reading your blog—I think it would be very helpful to her!March 21, 2014 – 3:58 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I think you’re right about the teachers, Marcia. Looking back at my own school days, I can remember a few amazing teachers. Most were okay enough and one was horrible and never should have been allowed to teach sixth graders (Mrs. Haney). I remember reading about some of your growing up experiences and I’m glad that you ended up checking out your kids’ teachers so much. I love that your youngest daughter is finishing up a degree in special ed! That’s awesome! I hope she loves it as much as she does her internship. Please too, feel free to have her ask me anything if it would help having a parent’s perspective!
      You rock!March 22, 2014 – 5:28 pmReplyCancel

  • Piper George - School is terrifying for parents. I worry every day that my daughter has been hurt, or had her confidence knocked or her self-esteem beaten down by random, thoughtless comments. If we could go with them and watch them interact, would it help them? It would so help me!March 21, 2014 – 4:33 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Oh it would SO help me to go and watch too! Although I’m not sure my son would actually want me there…maybe if we could hide somewhere and only come out if there was an injustice or a problem? Yeah, that. 😀March 22, 2014 – 5:34 pmReplyCancel

  • Tina Morley - Here’s my favorite part of your post:
    >He often follows that play with “Wake up, Mommy.”
    >“Wake UP, Mommy. Both your eyes.”
    >Seeing him grow and absorb is a wake-up in itself. A both-my-eyes kind of wake up.
    I love how you put it. I’ll pray for your decision with Tucker’s education. He needs kids around him, but I totally understand all the moms who have found homeschooling to be a more beneficial environment. “Perfect love casts out fear” (it’s a Bible verse) and I think you are needing that right now. Blessings, Tina
    March 21, 2014 – 5:59 pmReplyCancel

  • runningnekkid - My son is fourteen, has struggled in school since the third grade, and knows that he is far behind his peers. He is not crushed. He has moments of anxiety and self doubt, but on the whole he is a very cheerful and self confident person. And while I’m usually pretty slow to toot my own horn, I will submit that my son is able to accept his challenges as well as he does because I model acceptane for him. Every time he gets frustrated with what he can’t do in school, I redirect him to an activity that he does well. Every time he compares himself to another child, I show him that everyone has challenges. It’s what you do with Tucker, and what’ you’ll continue to do no matter what happens with his education.

    Will school be challenging? Probably. Will it crush him? Probably not. And he’ll have you to thank for that. I am so, so positive that this is the truth. And I wish you all the luck, strength, good sleep, and coffee in the world! 😀March 21, 2014 – 6:56 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks so much! I think that your practice of showing your son what he does well when he’s frustrated is exactly the right thing to do and plan on remembering this advice as Tucker gets old enough/aware enough to realize that he’s behind his peers in whatever it is that he notices.
      Cheers to you for reminding your son that everybody has challenges. So true. And thank you for the luck, strength, good sleep and coffee wishes 😀March 22, 2014 – 9:00 pmReplyCancel

  • Yvonne - Oh Kristi, I wish I could say to you he’ll be fine and know that it would be true. I think it will – not because he won’t have challenges, but because he has you.
    School is hellish at times, at least that’s how it currently is for my older daughter (won’t bore you with the details but it’s to do with pressure, exams, coursework etc) but at 16 she can cope with so much that she could not have done even two years ago. What I’m trying to say here is that even if there are bad times, they won’t be forever, and they don’t have to scar forever either. I worried so much when my daughter was struggling with friendships, being bullied, getting ill – but she’s doing okay. I do think we can make a difference and I do think you will!March 21, 2014 – 7:26 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks huge, Yvonne, for acknowledging that school CAN suck and be hellish, and that you’ve experienced that first-hand. School can suck. It sucks more for the kids more likely to be bullied and all of that. I appreciate you telling me that the scars don’t last forever, and that your daughter is doing okay now….
      I think we can make a difference. Just talking to our neighbors makes a difference (and I need to talk to my neighbors more).March 22, 2014 – 10:59 pmReplyCancel

  • Bianca @ Rant Rave Crave - Hearing you talk about your son growing up definitely brought back a lot of memories. My son is only 21 months old but I just got around to making a shadow box of his coming home outfit from the hospital & it’s hard to believe how much he’s grown. I know your friend probably didn’t mean to, but her words came across just a bit scary to me! I’m glad she didn’t sugar coat things but man!

    I too worry about bullying, both by teachers & fellow students. I agree that we should all celebrate everyone. Enough with the negativity!March 21, 2014 – 7:27 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Yes, enough with the negativity. Here’s to celebrating growth, shadow boxes, and finding ways to be positive. Thanks so much for your sweet comment. And I know my work friend is just trying to be helpful…based on her experiences. I also know that I hope they are not the same for us.March 22, 2014 – 11:01 pmReplyCancel

  • Roshni - Just beautiful, Kristi, and I can only imagine how this all seems so terrifying to you! I hope your message carries through to the widest audience…I certainly will do my part to share this article with everyone I know!March 21, 2014 – 7:32 pmReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Steck - We’ve come a long way, Kristi, but there is still so far to go. I hope Tucker finds his niche where he excels and fits and has lots of friends who love him. I think we all feel that same way for our children, regardless of whether or not they have special needs.March 21, 2014 – 8:10 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I agree that we’ve come a long way. I mean looking at special needs in the 50’s and 60’s is almost horrifying now, but you’re right. We do have more to go. And thanks so much because you’re right – special needs almost don’t matter when it comes to the worry sometimes.March 22, 2014 – 11:13 pmReplyCancel

  • Kim - I hope that your child is never crushed in any way!! School and especially teachers, should never make any child feel singled out. The whole push in schools these days is supposed to prevent exactly that kind of thing.
    My hope is that you are part of one of those truly great schools full of caring teachers!!!March 21, 2014 – 9:06 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - My hope is the same, Kim and thank you so much. It’s all so dependent upon the teacher it seems. My dad calls it the 80/20 rule where only 20% are awesome. Here’s to him being wrong and most being amazingly loving teachers who will inspire my special little boy!! Thanks so much!!March 22, 2014 – 11:21 pmReplyCancel

  • Natalie D - There is so much in this post. School can really make-or-break a kid, you’ve got that right. I was a “different” kid growing up, and I knew it, so I tried hard to fit in. I still remember that pain, and my education suffered because I stopped trying. Sigh. I wish I could go back and tell young me that it didn’t matter.
    I applaud you – we DO need to educate people about special needs, and kids who are “different” (I use that term loosely, as no one is “different,” because we’re all different).
    I hope regarding Tucker’s schooling, you’ll find the right fit for him.March 21, 2014 – 9:47 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks, Natalie, for recognizing that school is SO so important in our kids’ development and self esteem and ugh. I remember the pain of trying to fit in too. And I hate that part. We are all different. You’re right about that. Thanks so much for your perspective.March 22, 2014 – 11:38 pmReplyCancel

  • Angel The Alien - I think educating people and promoting acceptance is the way to make sure school doesn’t “crush” kids anymore. Something can only be scary or weird if you don’t understand it. Many schools work on getting all of the children to conform to certain looks and behaviors. For a while I was a 1:1 aide for a little boy with special needs who was mainstreamed. I was supposed to discipline him for every little thing he did that was different, because, in the principal’s words, “The more we can get G to LOOK like the other kids, and blend in, the better.” I really think it is possible to create a school environment where kids accept each other’s differences and move on. But the teachers and parents have to be “all in” to make it work.March 21, 2014 – 10:46 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks, Angel. I think you’re right that the principal was wrong in wanting the kid to “LOOK like” the other kids – I mean really we are all important and none of us look the same as others right? so yes, let’s just spread acceptance and wonder and understanding for everybody, no matter what we all look like, right? I can even put that to the fact that I look like a grandma and am a mom to a 4 year old because I had him at 40! Thanks as always for your perspective.March 23, 2014 – 12:07 amReplyCancel

  • Kathy Mills - My own elementary school experience was not a great one and I had so many worries about my kids heading into kindergarten even though they are not special needs kids. I can’t imagine being in your shoes. Just the fact that you are so aware of the pitfalls that he may face makes you ahead of the curve, his biggest supporter and his best advocate. I get the feeling that he’s going to be okay with you on his side.March 21, 2014 – 11:23 pmReplyCancel

  • April Grant - I agree. School will crush him. But as I watch my ten year old grow into a pre-teen, I watch him struggle as he is a busy body… not quite ADHD, but I’m sure his teacher would love that diagnosis so he can be removed or drugged. But he has you as mommy! As long as someone is on his team, I think he’ll make it through ok. March 22, 2014 – 1:09 amReplyCancel

  • Lisa @ Golden Spoons - I’m in! You can sign me up for Human 101 right now. I think a lot of it depend on the teacher and the overall environment. My middle daughter is in third grade and I helped with a special St. Patrick’e day snack this week. A couple students from her class were out with the EC (Exceptional Children) teacher. Another child came and asked if she could have two of the “shamrock floats” we were making to take to those two kids so they wouldn’t be left out. The teacher had suggested it. That teacher teaches Human 101. However, when I was teaching special needs preschoolers and one of my behaviorally challenged kids would “fall out” in the middle of the hallway, I/we got plenty of stares and one teacher once asked “What’s wrong with him?”

    I hope school doesn’t crush Tucker. He will face some tough things – all kids do – but I am sure that with a wonderful, loving, and supportive mom like you he will be o.k.March 22, 2014 – 8:35 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - YAY for signing up to Human 101 now and you’re right that so much of it has to do with the teacher and the settings. It breaks my heart that some of this is not more federally mandated and I think I need to write about this soon but also am already overwhelmed when it comes on to taking that stuff on. I love that your kids in class were so mindful and considerate of the kids who had been pulled out for stuff.
      And I hate the teacher who dared to say “what’s wrong with him” – talk about somebody who should not be teaching, and the exact person I’m terrified of Tucker coming into contact with at ALL AND knowing that he probably will….
      Thanks again Lisa, I appreciate your perspective as a mom and as a former teacher.March 23, 2014 – 12:11 amReplyCancel

  • kimberly - My son says the same thing,”Wake up. Both eyes.”
    It all starts in school. Every child needs to be aware that yes, we are all different and that yes, we ALL have our own challenges big or small…but we are all the same…as my kid says “We all have the same junk.”
    And as parents and teachers, we have to reinforce this. That is where things go wrong. Adults not understanding it themselves.
    I’m excited to hear what is in the works!March 22, 2014 – 9:22 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - He does? He says “WAKE UP both eyes?” OMG how awesome. We do all have the same junk. Big the same junk. And yeah, that’s what we need to teach. To learn. To spread and to sing from the roofs (ok I won’t sing because I suck at it but you’re alright at it right?). Thanks, Kim.March 23, 2014 – 12:31 amReplyCancel

  • Mike - Sorry I’m getting here late, Kristi. I totally get the “wake up with both eyes…” part. Very cute indeed and irresistible, of course. You nailed this spot on with everybody being important. And even further with educating on being Human 101. Tucker is so very blessed both within himself for what he brings to us as readers and me as an individual in what I continue to learn through you sharing here. Not only does he have the best parents ever but I so know he will thrive and succeed always. Yes, so many daunting tasks ahead but he will prevail beautifully. Blessings to all of you, always, our friend.March 22, 2014 – 1:10 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Please never apologize for coming over here late, I know I’m very late to so many of my favorites including you and the crap you’ve been dealing with the last week with Phonenix’s health is mind-blowing and worrisome and I just so very much hope he is okay. Here’s to being Human 101 and that applies to our lovable dog’s points of view as well. Sometimes, they’re more human than we are. Blessings back our friends.March 23, 2014 – 12:39 amReplyCancel

  • Lisa @ The Meaning of Me - Too many words and thoughts spinning in my tired brain to really comment properly here.
    But I loved this to pieces…wake up with both your eyes. How freaking cute is that? I love it.
    To this whole thing, I sum up my swirling brain in a resounding YES! Too many people are just so damn…ignorant. And that’s where the judging begins. I think I have to come back to this one again later.March 22, 2014 – 11:01 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Wake up with both your eyes is something I love too – because while Tucker means it very literally (because who doesn’t squint with one eye when a four year old says it’s good morning time when sometimes it is but often it’s not…but also because so much of waking up to life is the both eyes part right?). Hugs, Lisa. I know you’ve been super overwhelmed. I hope everything calms down for you soon.March 23, 2014 – 12:42 amReplyCancel

  • Kristi - Being Mom to my kids has given me tons of experience with the public school system, from 504s/IEPs to the gifted program, and I’ve also chosen to homeschool some of my kids some years.

    When I attended a meeting for parents whose children were being recruited for a gifted program, one of the parents asked how to explain to placement to the child. The teacher wisely said that she tells children that classes are like shoes. You want to wear a shoe that is your size, otherwise your feet are uncomfortable. All shoes are good–they protect your feet from the elements–but you are most comfortable in shoes that fit well. Parents choose classrooms that will be the best fit for their children. You will know what is best for Tucker.

    Remember, you are Mom. Your influence outweighs whatever bad ideas he might get from school, and the good things he learns will only reinforce what you’ve been telling him his whole life–that he is capable and important.March 23, 2014 – 12:33 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - You know, until you just said that you’ve home schooled for “some” of the years, I don’t think I even considered that as an option. I always have looked at home schooling as such a permanent thing. Thanks for the wake-up that it’s not (not that it’s something I’m hoping for, as I’m not but definitely will consider if it makes sense)..
      I love the analogy of comfortable shoes because it makes sense. I only recently realized that the school’s being all “it’s about the program” was not realistic nor true because it’s NOT about the program, it’s about the kids (which is good but also not because some kids need the program but don’t need some of the kids who need the program more if that makes sense). It’s all so arbitrary and shifting as it should be but it feels like it should be more stable too. Thank you for the reminder and the encouragement. I appreciate it a lot.
      HE IS capable and important. In whichever ways he is, and that’s enough.March 23, 2014 – 1:10 amReplyCancel

  • Bob Totans - Everything you wrote is so true. The real world, as well as the school system, can also be a cruel teacher. As you’re doing so well now, always keep the child-like spirit of joy and wonder in the heart and mind of your son (also in yourself), and the lesson learned will be well worth the struggle.March 23, 2014 – 4:00 pmReplyCancel

  • Daphne Honoré - Thanks for sharing, Kristi. The truth is, school terrifies me too. Maybe all of us. Life can be crushing in so many ways–do we really need to start that at 5?!? I’ll be interested to hear about the choices you make for, and later with, Tucker regarding his education. The good news is that for now, we do have lots of choices. The bad news is that none of them is perfect. Sigh. I miss the infant days when I could control everything…except how much sleep I got!March 24, 2014 – 1:33 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks, Daphne. And you’re right – school likely terrifies all of us. I miss the infant days too – it felt hard but all of the choices were ours then. I hadn’t thought about it like that. (but do enjoy more sleep these days)March 25, 2014 – 10:34 amReplyCancel

  • sarah | LeftBrainBuddha - Oh, Kristi, this is so good! While I work with older students, I have noticed that kids don’t really ‘notice’ the kids who get extra time, etc., or make a big deal out of it. I think something like 11% of kids have IEPs so there are so many accommodations and modifications that students get it. They know that equal doesn’t mean same. I’m not saying teasing doesn’t exist, but I have always seen such amazing respect and kind treatment of special needs students by other kids in my classes. And I am teaching my children about how we are all different and some of us have different challenges. I love the slogan of Kerry’s campaign…. So much to ponder here!! Tucker has an amazing advocate!!March 24, 2014 – 7:11 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I love the slogan too, Sarah and thanks so much. I think part of why I’m worried is that this next year, there are 125 incoming kindergarten students and only four of them will have an IEP. Last year, there were 12. On one hand, maybe he’ll get more attention but still, it makes me nervous. Thanks too for the reassurance that so many kids treat special needs students with respect and kindness. That’s really the most important part of it all.March 25, 2014 – 10:37 amReplyCancel

  • Gary Sidley - The huge amount of love you feel for your son oozes from every word of this post. The only other thing I’ll say is that, whatever he faces at school, or in the broader world, your unconditional affirmation will compensate for any knocks to his self-esteem.March 24, 2014 – 8:01 pmReplyCancel

  • Erin - Oh girl, this was so well written. The most heartfelt I have read from you thus far. I hear and KNOW your worry. Gosh I knew it so well last August before I sent E off to preschool. And I know I am going to feel it again and again throughout his life. What I do want to tell you from my teacher self- is that I promise you, there will be teachers who will love Tucker. And who will more than just love him, they will advocate for him. They will guide him. Look out for him. Seat him with the kids who will love and support him as well. I know this, bc Kristi, I try to do this for my students. I try to see them for the son or daughter they are. It can be daunting sometimes. Especially when often the child makes it tough on you. But most of the time, that is ESPECIALLY when they need me. I am not rare, mama. There are plenty of kind people who understand that each child deserves a shot to shine- in a non-crushing atmosphere. You are right, it starts with us. It starts with other parents, other teachers, other children- seeing the differences, knowing they are there, and being okay with it. Thank you for putting your feelings out there.March 24, 2014 – 11:00 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Erin, I’m so glad that you’re a teacher. And you’re right – I do know that there will be teachers who will love and look out for Tucker and students who help him as well (I hope).
      He’s been really lucky so far with amazing teachers. That said, he’s not to a point where he realizes he’s different and I worry about the day that he does. Hopefully, when (if) that happens, he’ll have some amazing people at school who will remind him that he is exceptional as he is and that how old you are when you can cut along the lines isn’t what matters in life.
      Thanks so much sweets!March 25, 2014 – 10:50 amReplyCancel

  • Nina - Oh Kristi, every parent needs to read this.

    I LOVE the motto “Every kid has a challenge. What’s yours?” You gave me some great tips on how to educate my kids, not just with special needs but on the challenges everyone faces. Because you’re right—everyone has challenges, and the exercises you showed were pretty great ones to start (writing with your opposite hand, talking about a challenge you may have).

    I also think phrasing our worth within our abilities is another topic to examine. First, because no one person can do everything, and that should go to show that there are exceptional people around us even if they don’t do everything.

    Second, sometimes we need to stop comparing ourselves to others and instead use our own internal measures to gauge our progress. One person’s newest achievements, even if already done by others, is still great if that person has shown to have grown and improved.

    And lastly, we’re all worth it, abilities or not.

    It’s really scary sending kids off to school. Mine will be starting a new one this fall, so he’ll have to adjust to a whole slew of new people, buildings, rules and routine. Kids are resilient though, and pliable, and I hope that our kids’ transitions to school will be more positive than negative.March 25, 2014 – 10:21 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Nina, I love the idea of everybody having a challenge, too and agree that finding self worth through abilities is not a good measure of who we are (or who we’re not) and that nobody can do everything. Cheers to each person achieving things still being important no matter when it happens, too!!
      Thanks so much for your awesome comment. I appreciate it.March 25, 2014 – 12:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Gail Gerard - Having a special needs kiddo in public school isn’t always a picnic. But I feel like we essentially have no choice whatsoever as there are no private schools near here (we couldn’t afford it anyway), only a handful of magnet/charter schools (which we have no hope of getting into and one has a really bad reputation) and I don’t feel qualified to homeschool my son. So we struggle on, making the best we can of the situation. It is what it is. March 25, 2014 – 10:45 amReplyCancel

  • A Morning Grouch - Ugh, the fear. The thought of anything crushing your child. Devastating to even think about. Horrifying, from any parent’s perspective, but especially for one whose child has school-related challenges. I agree that we need to educate others, since greater undrestanding and suppot can make all the difference – for everyone. I run a program called LINKS where students get elective credit for learning about the content – which is Autism – and being paired up with a peer in the building, acting as a friend, mentor, role model – depending on the needs/desires of the peer they are paired with. A lot of schools are starting to do similar things. The program itself isn’t new, but the boom in how many schools have them IS. I’d start asking around now if similar programs exist (might be called something else where you are). April 18, 2014 – 12:37 amReplyCancel

  • Yvonne - It’s odd that although I read this before, there are bits I’d forgotten. That part about his self-esteem being destroyed and your friend saying low self-esteem can’t be fixed really stands out for me today.
    What the focus on raising self-esteem has done is to make people think the way to feel good about ourselves is to be above average. Obviously, we can’t all be above average. It’s impossible. So instead, it’s much more helpful to teach compassion,including self-compassion. Then we can feel okay even when we don’t succeed. Self-esteem emphasises differences, so creates a sense of separation; self-compassion emphasises what commonality and fosters connection.
    There’s a wonderful book by Kristin Neff, a professor at The University of Texas in Austin and has spent years studying the effects of self-compassion. I wrote a review of her book last year on my Inquiring Parenting blog. I won’t post the link here in case that makes this comment disappear into spam. (I’m never sure how that works.) But I’ll share the post for you in G+.
    You already have tremendous compassion for Tucker and with you as a mom he’s going to be okay! Honest!June 5, 2014 – 10:42 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thank you so so much, Yvonne. I think the concept of self-compassion is much better than the one of self-esteem and had never thought about it that way before you mentioned it. I will most definitely keep it in mind and am heading over to G+ now to read your post. I appreciate your really wise and thoughtful comment. So much! xoJune 5, 2014 – 10:53 amReplyCancel

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