Conversations in My Head about School

Collecting Rocks

I have begun thinking about next year. Cam will not be going back to school. We get that now. He still has difficulty processing relatively quiet days. So, the overstimulation and social demands of school, coupled with his high anxiety, would mean disaster. Please don’t tell me to “just try it.” Please don’t say, “all kids have to go to school.” Don’t say, I’m “isolating” him. Don’t tell me how hard it is going to be “on me.” My husband and I thought of all of this. For long stretches, it seemed like all we thought about. When people offer this kind of advice, I want to reply: “Use your imagination. Of course, we had these thoughts. We considered the obvious drawbacks. This was not our first choice.” This is not something we decided lightly, on a whim, as if it was on the menu at the pancake house.

The stakes are high. Cam’s mental health is at stake. And, we wouldn’t be so far outside the box, so very outside that we miss the box, if we hadn’t thought everything through. Cam has autism, not a cold. We believe asking him to tough it out in school is beyond his capabilities right now. Yes, I know some kids with autism do o.k. in school. Of course, I know that. But, a lot don’t. A lot are hurt, psychologically damaged, and broken. Trust me when I say Cam is at risk for that kind of outcome. Don’t ask me to pretend that isn’t the case, so everything can seem fine. It isn’t fine.

So, what do we do? People sometimes look at me as if I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to raising Cam. I want to yell, “Bingo! I don’t know.” That’s just the problem. I don’t really know.

Yet, I do have some information. I have studied this stuff. I am past the period of reading several hours of research a night, but I’m still current on all the recent thinking. And, of course, I know Camden.

I know when Camden is happy, and I know when he is not. And, by unhappy, I don’t mean simply crying or whining or expressing displeasure. I mean very bad things: hurting himself, hurting us, hitting the dogs, throwing furniture, tearing up his room, kicking the door, banging his head, screaming, and cursing like a sailor. When a child hurts like that, you re-evaluate everything. Everything is on the table. Conventional expectations lose their importance. Happiness is not simply a pleasure; it is a marker of mental well-being. Learning to read seems trivial. I know that sounds strange, but it truly is. Keeping Cam safe, safe from the disorder in his head, from an inability to process a world that is often experienced as threatening, chaotic, and nonsensical, is all that matters. Learning about Pilgrims, finger-painting, duck-duck-goose, making maps and pie charts, all comes second. I wish I could explain that in a compelling way to concerned family members and disapproving teachers and therapists.

IMG_1736So, the plan is to keep Cam home next year. We will give tutoring a try again. If we could add one hour of tutoring a week each year, Cam will gradually gain a solid academic base. Our main goal will continue to be happiness and stability for Cam. As he grows more comfortable in the world, more trusting of people, and more confident in his ability to be present in groups, we will add to his education. And, at that point, we will re-consider school.

6 thoughts on “Conversations in My Head about School

  1. My child was hurt psychologically by his inept school district after years of success it dramatically fell apart Do what you know is right for your child!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is excellent, thank you! it helps me feel better about the decision to pull our girl out of school as her dad battles cancer. I doubted the decision as much as the school did but when she told me she can’t handle school, I believed her. As I read your article I realized that if I had not the results would have been traumatic for her. She simply can not cope with the hardness of school and with the hardness of watching her dad bedridden by cancer. After feeling so bad about her academic life dropping, I appreciate your writing. We made the right decision just as you and your husband did.

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  3. You do what you know is right, mama. I know all the thinking you and Dad have done. I have been there. Cam trusts you to do what is best for him. Blessings and hugs on you all from my little corner of the autism universe!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your child is very fortunate to have parents who understand him, and will go the extra mile to provide for his emotional well-being. You are right- that’s way more important than the ABC’s and duck duck goose! Treasure your time with him. Just imagine, if it weren’t for his having autism, you may have chose the mainstream route and missed out on so much life, love, and learning with your son. Best wishes for a great year!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I wish I had figured this out earlier. We removed my 10 year old from school after every year getting successively worse. He was labeled ODD, then anxiety disorder, then Asperger’s. It was obvious that he wasn’t “getting used to it”. PTSD is exactly what I have been thinking related to my son’s school anxiety. His trigger got so short at school. He is so much less anxious at home, and he chooses such interesting things to learn. You are so strong and wise. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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