Since receiving Corban’s ASD diagnosis in December of 2011, navigating through the public school system has been a series of highs and lows. There have always been the teachers and staff who made Corban’s experience the best it could be, those who did more than take an interest or fulfill a job assignment, those who willingly, passionately, and tirelessly worked hard to make a difference in his life. And to those teachers and staff members, we are eternally grateful. They showed me how good the public school system experience can be.
On the flip side, truth be told, there have also been times when I’ve been profoundly dissatisfied and frustrated with the school’s response to Corban’s challenges and struggles, which so often involved strategies designed for neurotypical children.
Stress and anxiety levels for children diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome are always high, especially when they are trying to navigate a confusing school system. Our kids are extremely sensitive to so many outside influences that they have no control over and which impact their ability to perform routine tasks: noise, heat, light, movement, the hum of fluorescent lights… Add to that Corban’s experiences with bullying, his avoidance of sensory-overload classes like music, his constant illnesses, the academic expectations, and repeated social rejection, and the resultant stress has steadily turned Corban from a student who loves learning to a stressed and anxious child who hates and dreads going to school each day. The bottom line is that a stressed brain doesn’t learn the same way a calm and relaxed brain does.
All of this has made me realize with certain clarity that for my child the public school system is not the best learning environment. I want to give Corban the greatest chance of achieving his highest potential. My gut is telling me that the environment has to be addressed as a first step. So in five weeks, my son will exit the public school system and enter a sixth-grade accelerated cyber classroom, and I’ll be sitting right beside him.