Many families seek us out post diagnosis or after years of their community school doing the best they can do for their student. At Park Academy, students receive the curriculum that works for them in small class settings during the school day. Parents, teachers and administration work closely together to ensure that students have the resources to reach their potential. This is one parent’s reflection on their family’s path to Park Academy.
Written by a Park Academy Parent
This was an easy topic. I can just list multiple adjectives. Describe how my child now has his learning needs met, as well as his social and emotional needs. All in a typical school setting; minus the negatives we faced in public school. I can describe how my son’s confidence and self-esteem have rebounded. He is blossoming. The sense of relief I feel as a mom, and the positive impact on our entire family.
But then I thought, how did we get here? Not why, but how? Unfortunately, it isn’t a pretty picture. For my son, Park Academy was the final option after five years in the public school system.
Never did my son reach a benchmark in any academic subject. Never. Not even in kindergarten. He is my oldest, so I really didn’t know exactly what to expect. I was told over and over again “He’s a boy, they mature later than girls,” “he’s a late bloomer,” “one of the younger ones,” “he’ll be fine.”
He never advanced out of the learning support he received. Never advanced to a higher reading group in class. He was always in the lowest reading group, every year in every class. In the later years, no one wanted to partner with him for schoolwork knowing he couldn’t hold up his end. The resource room became a way from him to escape the classroom. In fourth grade the girl sitting next to him asked him why he was so dumb—twice in one week.
We hired a private Orton Gillingham tutor twice a week for three years. He wasn’t allowed to meet with her at school, so it was either before or after school at home. She taught him how to read. She was amazing.
At school, as a parent, I had never fought so hard for so long for so little return.
In first grade, I heard a teacher humiliate my son in front of the whole class. Once, a teacher screamed at me and stomped out in the middle of an IEP meeting, followed by the principal. Another time, there were 8 people sent to represent the district at our annual IEP review. By the end of fourth grade, my son was still at kindergarten, first and second grade skill levels. But was deemed to be making adequate progress.
Is there anyone to blame? I don’t know. Do I beat myself up for not figuring it out sooner? Not so much anymore. It is becoming a distant memory now that we are in our third year at Park Academy. Was it an overnight success? No. However, there was a difference in him within one week of attending Park Academy. His attitude about going to school had shifted. His head was held a little higher. His anxiety about school was diminishing. Evening meltdowns stopped. After six months, his good-natured self was back. I didn’t realize the level of stress he had about school until it was gone. A lot of emotional wounds to heal and lost time to make up.
That is why my son attends Park Academy.
Is everything perfect? Of course not. His school experience now falls into the “normal” category. One where he also experiences successes and advancements, and where trying his best counts. I still advocate for my son when needed. The difference, is that I am heard and problems are resolved.
At the moment, he is experiencing some typical “middle school angst.” You have no idea how happy that makes me feel.