For two of my three sons, back-to-school time is exceedingly pleasant and is a near-replica of the squeaky, shiny ads that proliferate your newsfeed and television and mailbox this time of year—new outfits, backpacks, and lunchboxes, school supplies, a return to routine, and a few obligatory jitters.
Aside from the details to which we, as his parents, must attend to set him up for success, I just look at him and know, on so many levels, school is different for him. And try as we might to ensure that his educational experience mirrors that of his peers, that he is afforded precisely the same academic opportunities as the rest of the world, the very nature of how hard we have to work to make that happen says it’s not the same.
And while our son will have new outfits, a new backpack and lunchbox, and all the school supplies he needs, he is also going back with a new prescription, a strict medical order to ensure he is getting adequate nutrition throughout the day, and a new IEP—as well as all the complications and side effects that accompany each of these.
In six days, our sons will pose for their “first-day-of-school” photo on our front steps. They’ll be smiling—all of them. And I will be, too—happy for their growth, their progress, for new beginnings and for learning opportunities.
But part of my heart will be heavy because back-to-school should be nothing short of amazing; but for children with special needs and their parents, it is often anything but.