M is eight years old. His August birthday makes him one of the youngest, if not the youngest, child in his third grade class. His IEP dictates that his day will be divided between this typical third grade class and his special education "Functional Academics" room.
Every Monday, I pull a stack of papers from M's backpack. The stack, surprisingly and wonderfully thick, is his homework to be completed during the week and turned in on Friday. The stack includes short stories with comprehension questions, vertical addition sheets, worksheets to practice time and money and handwriting exercises. Each afternoon, I sit with M at the kitchen table as he works through the stack. It is a cozy spot, tucked into a small nook of our kitchen and facing two windows that overlook our front yard. I will usually set out a cup of tea for me and crackers for M to snack on as we work. I guide him as needed and help him stay on task, but M's ability to do these works independently is increasing. I am fortunate to have a son who loves school, loves to learn and happens to be surprisingly motivated to do his work.
M and I sit together as he adds coins and tells time to the hour and half hour. He reads sentences to me and I help him with the words he unfamiliar with. I am well aware that his third grade peers are perfecting multiplication tables are devouring Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.
But take a good look at me....see beyond what you think a mother of a child with special needs might look like, and you will never see a prouder, more appreciate mother.
You see, once upon a time, not so long ago...we were told that none of this would be possible. We were cautioned that perhaps we should lower our expectations for our son. All too often conversations about M always seemed to include words like 'won't' and 'never'. Harsh words that fall hard onto a devastated parent's ears.
These lessons, while never easy, were essential. This adventure, which at times has admittedly scared the hell out of me, has made me a better mother. Today I am a mother who is wiser and more confident and I am grateful to sit with my boy at our kitchen table on a snowy afternoon watching him do what we were once told was impossible.