My son, Noah, is smart, funny, creative, and kind.
When kids interact with him, they quickly recognize his sense of humor. For example, he was asked by classmates to do a second “roast” of fellow students because the first one he did was hilarious and clever.
He is a bit socially awkward in that he can’t always keep his thoughts from spilling out into conversations. But that happens infrequently and, when it does, the other kids are likely to give him a pass.
Labeled and Diagnosed
You’d look at my son and wouldn’t assume he has special needs, but he does. Noah was diagnosed with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD) in 2014. A pediatric neuropsychologist performed the tests and issued the diagnosis. Her credentials and the extent of testing gave us more confidence in the accuracy of the diagnosis versus the one issued by a psychologist after only one visit. That doctor told us my son suffered from OCD and ADHD.
Labels notwithstanding, my child appears to be “normal.” I don’t like that word so I’ll choose a different one – “typical.”
But two years ago, anxiety and learning difficulties – and not knowing how to keep his impulses in check – led to destructive behavior at school. The district decided to place him in a therapeutic day school because he was considered a danger to himself and other students. The good news is that after consistently demonstrating self-control in his new environment, he returned to public school this year.
He’s happy he’s back where he “belongs.” That’s his word. He feels he is more typical than his former classmates at the therapeutic school. But “typical” means something different in the public school system, and with his IEP, classroom accommodations, and class level placement, he is labeled “special needs.”
Most of the classes he attends are integrated but he does have an aide and is assigned less homework than his classmates (which he completes in a dedicated class during the last period of the day). He is allowed extra time – and a separate room – for testing and, overall, expectations for him are less than those for typical students. Although I’m thankful the staff closely monitors his mood and tries their best to help him be successful, I’m not sure how to measure his success.
An Uncertain Future
I’m proud of Noah for all he has accomplished and overcome, but his academic path seems less certain than that of his neuro-typical twin brother, and most of the other kids in the community.
While we’ve set up a college fund for both boys, I’m not sure if Noah will get to experience higher education. I see Noah struggling with executive function skills and I wonder if he’ll ever be able to be completely independent.
And while this post appears to be about Noah, it’s really about me. My uncertainty. My insecurity. My helplessness.
I don’t know how to plan for Noah’s future. I don’t know how to hope for him. Or how to dream for him.
And then I remember that there’s no way to know what the future holds for our children – neurotypical or not. I can go about my daily business and never worry about whether Noah’s twin will go to college or get a job or be able to live independently. I’ve been conditioned not to think about that. But life takes unexpected turns and plans can shift without any notice.
I guess I’m writing this as a reminder to myself that I can bend my somewhat rigid thinking. I can plan (and hope and dream) but with greater flexibility. And if there’s one thing that’s safe to hope for, it’s that both of my boys are happy, wherever life leads them.
Welcome to Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from special needs bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about having a special needs kiddo — from Sensory Processing Disorder to ADHD, from Autism to Dyslexia! Want to join in on next month’s Voices of Special Needs Hop? Click here!