"He did not have a good day," his teacher told me as she shoved him in my direction.
On a typical day, the entire class comes out to the playground to be picked up by their parents, but on this day, Sky had an appointment, so I got there five minutes before the final bell and waited for him outside the classroom. As I neared the door, I heard his teacher say, "Sky, if I have to hold your hand all the way to meet your mom, I will." It was not a kind gesture of support, but a threat made to him in front of his peers. Ducking out of sight so my presence wouldn't make it more difficult for him to pay attention for those last five minutes, I only glanced in long enough to see that he had returned to his desk from his cubby and that she was grasping him by the collar. He sits in the front of the room, so all of his classmates could see her holding him this way. When she brought him to me, she had her hand on the scruff of his neck. Because he sometimes needs hands-on direction, there are times when I guide him gently by the neck, so I didn't think anything of it. None of what I was seeing really registered. Only as we were getting into the car did I realize that her grip had left a red mark.
By all accounts, this is a good teacher. One of the best teachers in the district. She has her classroom set up to encourage maximal functionality for a kid like Sky. There are sound-deadening head phones, multiple opportunities for movement, and various visual cues taped on the walls throughout the room. If Sky needs to be away from his peers, she has places for him to go so that he can do his work. Her language is clear and direct and easy for him to follow. But somehow I saw this break down yesterday. And I worry about what I am not seeing during the numerous hours he is there without me. This is any parents greatest fear, but it is worse when your child has language issues and when he has trouble reading social cues. There are always pieces missing that make it impossible see the whole picture.
Ren and I have spent hours working with the school and Sky's teachers to make sure that they understand his challenges and have some concrete interventions in place when he is having a rough day. Sometimes the interventions don't work. Sometimes it's annoying as hell to have him in class. I get that. But, it doesn't change the fact that Sky's issues are real, they are persistent, and they will continue to challenge us for many years to come. He will make progress. And he will regress. This is how it goes. Life with a kid on the spectrum is the most brutal of marathons. No matter how spent we feel and no matter how shredded our muscles get, we still have to get up each morning and run the race again.
I have no choice but to deal with what I saw yesterday. To talk to the principal, the special ed consultant, and his teacher. Don't worry, I will say what needs to be said. I just wish, for once, that someone in the room could actually grasp what it is like to live with and fight for a kid on the spectrum every. single. day. Just once (tomorrow would be fine), I'd like to wake up and not have to fight some version of this very same battle.
Schoolhouse Blues (part 1) is here. More about Sky and school here and here.