Why Sending My Son To A Residential School Was The Best Decision I Made
Post written by Miriam Slozberg, Blogger at MomCrib
My son, who is 14 years old, is not like the average teenager. Most 14-year-old boys are already thinking about dating, may still have an interest in collecting comic books, baseball cards, or anything else of that nature. They are also quite independent when it comes to walking to the closest store, or making their own microwavable dinners. Some even cook, and many like to hang out with their friends.
My son is different. He still has a strong interest in toy cars and motorcycles, and even though he can make his own simple meals, he needs help with many other tasks. He also speaks like a kindergartener and is not nearly as independent as a typical boy with the same age. My son has autism and ADHD. Even though he is on the higher functioning end of the spectrum, he has complex needs. His autism is mild, but his ADHD is severe, and that is why his condition is complex.
The Early Years
When my son was born, he had inhaled meconium. As a result, he lost some oxygen even though the doctors did their best to give him as much oxygen as they could. He is still on the higher functioning end of the spectrum. He has the ability to learn and grow, becoming a contributing member of society. He can become at least semi-independent. However, even though he is not the worst case scenario as far as autism goes, he still has significant special needs.
There were signs of him having a disability since he was a newborn. He was in intensive care for 10 days, and he was abnormally fussy as a baby. It took him longer than it would take the average newborn to get the nights and days sorted. At 2 months of age he smiled and was able to hold onto toys. These were good signs. However, he did not have an interest in interacting. That was very strange for us, as my daughter was very interactive as a baby.
He started walking at 14 months which is a little out of the average range. He said a few words by the time he was 2. His tantrums were so severe that the situation was worse than the average ‘terrible twos’ phase. My daughter was a good toddler and rarely had those ‘terrible two’ tantrums. As time passed by, we realized that my son was a difficult toddler. He was still not interactive. He only enjoyed doing puzzles, and watching things spin.
The Autism Diagnosis
The daycare workers who watched him during his early preschool years said he needed to be assessed for autism. That scared me. Even before he was officially diagnosed, my son started going for ABA sessions. They were very expensive. The therapy helped him with his tantrums and his behavior had improved. Unfortunately, as he got older, more significant issues started coming into play.
Even though my son was always verbal, his language skills were very poor. He developed unhealthy fixations which are common with autism. This issues became more difficult to handle as he got older. Fortunately, he is completely potty trained. It was a long road to get him there, especially to be night trained. We had to get specialists help.
Help Along The Way
My son went to different schools for ABA therapy, which also included speech and occupational therapy. Because of his complex needs, he could not be fully helped by all of the schools. He is on medication for the ADHD, but it does not helps so much. However, his ADHD is a lot less severe than before.
The older my son was becoming, the more apparent that the age gap between typical boys his age and him was widening. I became more and more depressed. I had gained over 100 lbs in a span of 10 years because I had completely neglected my needs. I could not tend to my typical daughter’s needs because depression was taking over my life. My marriage was suffering. My side freelance business was suffering. I started it when my son was at one of his schools and had seemed to have been doing well there. I felt like I was going through motion in life. I could not find joy in anything.
My husband and I worked with him by doing what was instructed by the therapists, but he would not cooperate. I literally could not do anymore. I had a black cloud of depression engulfing me. The only thing that gave me hope was that the organizer of the place. She ran a residential school. The school provided the structure that kids like my son need 24/7 so they would evolve and grow. She was proud to say that she was successfully able to get kids that were much lower functioning than my son to become janitors! That gave me hope. If these kids could be helped, then my son certainly could be as well!
Finding the Right School
That said, I got my son to that school. He needed to learn the life skills we tried to teach him at home. He needed to be educated the way he was able to learn. The only thing that was an issue was the funding. Though, after receiving a letter from my psychiatrist stating that my mental health was crumbling, and that my son could no longer be at home – we were able to get him placed into that school. It was also noted that I went for therapy and tried different antidepressants which did not work.
I was very stressed and had to invest a lot of money to get a full psych assessment for my son, but it was all worth it. It helped me find a way to meet my needs again and re-become a fantastic mom to my daughter. My marriage needed work too, so I needed to find a therapist. I was finally in the right frame of mind to do s
- The Play Project Autism – A New Approach to Early Intervention
- Mightier Bioresponsive Games|The Emotional Regulation Tool for Autism
- Advice for Sending your Autistic child to Preschool
- Getting Organized as an Autism Parent
Sending My Son To A Residential School Was The Best Decision I Made
My son left home September 2017 at the age of 13. Since then, he has learned a tremendous amount of skills, his communication has improved, and he is far more independent than I could ever imagine. Though he will always have a disability, he will be able to contribute something to society once he becomes an adult. He loves to hang out with others now. He has friends, and maybe he will even have relationships when he gets older. With his own unique sense of humor. I am positive that he will be okay.
I am proud to say that 4 months after my son had left, I finally made the decision to take care of my health. I have lost over 40 pounds since this past January, halfway my weight loss journey. I feel so much better physically, and mentally. I no longer have those nightly scares of reflux or sleep apnea. I have a lot more energy – I am able to focus on my freelance business, my marriage, and my daughter. I see my son every Sunday for a few hours. The visits are usually pleasant. He enjoys the school where and is anxious to get back when our visits are over.
Tough Choices for Parents of Special Needs Children
The message of this article is that parents cannot always meet the urge of their special needs kids, and that is okay. Being a martyr will help no one – neither you, nor your kids. Sadly, martyrs are seen as heros of the society, whilst if you tend to your own needs, you are seen as a heartless and selfish person. That needs to change!
Not to mention, if there are other kids in the picture, this situation will not be beneficial for them either. You are not a failure if you are unable to provide what your child with special needs requires. The best thing you can do is look into how you can transition your child into a residential school. It is a very difficult process but is well worth.
Planning for you child’s future
Additionally, think about planning for your child’s future. This could mean investing money in a disability account or look into group home or assisted living placements for adults. This way, you won’t have to worry about what happens to your child once he turns 18. Your siblings will also not have to worry about potentially having to care for him once you are unable to do so.
I know that my son will never be 100% independent. I hope that he will be independent enough to need minimal help as an adult. I am also happy that my daughter will not ever have to worry about taking him on because she deserves to live her own life.
Sending My Son To A Residential School Was The Best Decision I Made
My son is becoming a lot more aware as he matures. I hope that he will get better and better so he can prove others wrong. But that is out of my hands. I have done what was best for everyone involved. Sometimes your kids with special needs are not able to live at home, because they need to be in an environment that best for them to thrive.