When the Path Through School Isn’t Easy :: Raising an Atypical Child


And so it happened . . . it did; it really did. Something I knew would happen, eventually, but at times felt impossible. It took six years from start to finish. Sometimes, looking back, it felt like it took 600 years — but no, it didn’t. 

Six years in all . . . six years just like the average child, but that’s just it. My middle born isn’t quite like the “average child” in America. In fact, he is quite far from average, if you want to know the truth. And honestly, that is okay with me.

What could this amazing feat be? Simply put: He successfully finished his elementary school years and entered middle school. 

The Non-Typical Behaviors

I know, I know; lots of kids do that each and every year. I have even had one of my own, my firstborn, do this VERY thing. There was no major emotion tied to it for me. It was just the next stage in her life. She likes school, she does well, and she has a wonderful group of friends. She was READY for middle school. I was ready FOR her.  

atypical childBut this time, it is different — very different. My middle child is a complex soul. He is wicked smart and extremely energetic. As an infant, he met each and every milestone early or right on time. He was speaking in paragraphs at 18 months and had the fine motor skills of a ninja. Sounds great, right? Except it wasn’t. Parenting him through the toddler years was not just the typical toddler meltdowns or being hard-headed. It was more — much more.

Once we passed the “terrible” toddler years, we didn’t seem to progress on to typical pre-school behaviors. The academics, he mastered. He mastered them in a heartbeat. It was the “everything else” he wasn’t mastering. The listening to directions, keeping hands to oneself, and keeping emotions in check were far from being mastered. We were on the verge of being kicked out of the employee daycare center. Our whole family seemed to be in a downward spiral, and we looked for something, anything, to stop it.

My husband and I have been in the education field for 20 years now, so we knew what we were dealing was far from “normal.”  And so, answers were sought, appointments for evaluations were made, and therapy started for our son all at the tender age of four and a half.  

The Other Side

And here we are, on the other side, and living to tell about it. Pretty amazing, if I really think back about the enormous mountain we trekked just to get him to be successful in school. All those tears and frustrations, prayers and praise, and thorns and roses had a purpose. They had their place and time. And they were exactly what we needed to keep trudging ahead.

Trust me, it has been hard and long, but the outcome has left me something along the lines of amazement, relief, and gratefulness all rolled into one emotional momma. The best part? We weren’t going this alone, even though at times it felt like it. Our son had a team of professionals devoted to his success and happiness. He not only had outside therapists and doctors, but also special education teachers and counselors, general education teachers, paraprofessionals, and even a gifted and talented teacher meeting his needs.  

His parent/teacher conferences included not just us and the teachers, but also up to 10 different people helping us make decisions that would guide his education. Seemed extremely overwhelming at the time, but reflecting back on it now, how awesome it has been to have all of those minds working on a common goal.

They pushed him to do better, be better . . . even when he didn’t want to. They taught him coping skills, right along with multiplication facts, the history of the Alamo, and how to dissect an owl pellet. He learned how to tell people he was unhappy (the right way) and how to deal with disappointments he encountered day in and day out. He learned even though school work comes easily to him, he struggles with other things, such as social skills and interacting with others. He learned each day is a new day — a fresh start.

And to think, when we attended his first admission, review, dismissal (ARD) meeting, one of his goals was to growl less at people (yes, I said growl). Makes me chuckle now, but at the time I thought, “Oh, dear Lord, what else is coming our way?” It hasn’t been all rainbows and lollipops, and still isn’t. We have our own daily struggles, as well as periods of time when I would rather run and hide in my closet and eat Ben and Jerry’s ice cream than face another day.  

atypical childBut each and every school year, things get better and better. They really do. Nothing felt better than waking up for school on that last morning of fifth grade and breathing a sigh of relief: He did it! We did it! On to the next stage in childhood: the middle school years! Oh, man . . . I am not sure I am ready for that stage. Ready or not, here it comes. 

To all of you mommas of children who march to the beat of their own drum: You’ve got this. They’ve got this. Hang in there and enjoy the ride. For when the destination is reached, it is far more beautiful than the average journey. Yes, it may be more difficult — but, oh, so worth it!

Previous articleAround Cowtown :: Family-Friendly Events October 2018
Next articleFWMB Announces New Additions to Its Writing Team
Anna moved to Fort Worth fresh out of college in hopes of finding a job. She quickly landed a teaching job on the northside of town and has officially declared Texas her home “for the time being.” Spending the last two and half years in her “cloffice,” she devoted all of her evenings and weekends to online lectures, grad school assignments, and research. She recently graduated with her masters in special education with an emphasis in dyslexia and acquired a strong dislike of statistics and APA7 in the process. Married for 21 years and a mom to three teens, she spends her free time recouping the thousands and thousands of hours of lost sleep that motherhood gifted her. When not napping, you can find her listening to her favorite crime podcasts, singing showtunes, or attending any school event that involves her talented offspring. She openly shares her journey of parenting a neurodiverse teenager through the unpredictable, yet rewarding, days of high school to help families like hers.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here