Loving my “F” Student

In the mail we received a single, blue piece of paper from the school my son attends. We didn’t know what it was. We opened it and it’s a 2012-2013 1st Trimester Deficiency Report letting us know that our son, who is 10 and has autism, is getting an “F” in Beginning Band. Also, this deficiency report lets us know that his “Academic GPA” is 0.00.

And my heart sank. A flood of emotions came to me. But mostly it was sorrow and anger. Sorrow because this report served as a reminder that my only child, who is doing so well in school this year, is a failing student when measured up to the regular curriculum. And this is only Beginning Band! Anger because the school should have stopped this notice from being mailed to us.

Does a slap in the face hurt any less if it’s an accidental slap? No.

This deficiency report was a slap in the face. The school could have just as well sent us a piece of paper that said, “Hey! Your kid is stupid! Remember?”

Follow up:

Braden, my loving son and “F” student, has autism and he’s on an IEP. He doesn’t receive letter grades like the typical students. That’s because he is not a typical kid, he has a disability that makes everything much more of a challenge for him. He has a neurological disorder that cannot be cured. His brain doesn’t work like yours and mine. (Though I’ve known that for a long time, it’s hard to write those words and even harder to re-read the words I’ve written.)

Somewhere at the school there was a communication break down. And this deficiency report got sent to us.

I know it was accidental. I know it somehow slipped through and got mailed to us. They didn’t mean it. Nobody talked to the band teacher, who is probably a really nice guy. Somehow it got into our mailbox. Considering all that, it’s still a sobering reminder of Braden’s many deficiencies, academic and otherwise. He’s not a regular kid and he cannot pass even a Beginning Band class. Not even close! An “F”!!!!!! 0.00 GPA!!!!

“Hey, your kid is still stupid! You thought he was enjoying school and having fun and learning with all the regular kids! But he’s still the stupidest kid in his class! And it’s not even close!”

As the parent of a child with autism, what would your response be if the school just came out and said that to you? Pretend they said that and you’ll begin to feel the emotions that I felt.

Yes, I know they didn’t say that. Perhaps I’m over-reacting. I’m emotionally volatile. I’m an over protective Dad maybe. But IF they said that wouldn’t you turn around and start beating the crap out of someone? I wouldn’t ask questions, I’d just go straight into action with arms swinging.

That’s my emotional response. That’s what I’m thinking. I’m letting you into my head. I’m human. I’m a man of the Lord, but I’m a severely flawed man. In that scenario I don’t know that I could control my anger. I pray that I could.

We got this deficiency report in the mail about 2 weeks ago. I’ve had it on the refrigerator. I took a while trying to figure out how to discuss it with the school without crying like a little girl while simultaneously holding back my anger. But I want to make sure they know how this little blue piece of paper affected me. And I want to make sure I never see another one of these things again!

I hope no other parents of kids with disabilities got similar deficiency reports.

I wrote a very carefully thought out email to the Special Education Administrator. I figured that email was most appropriate in this situation. Sometimes I like to rely on email and use it as a crutch of sorts. It allows me to express how I feel without showing how I feel. And I did express the sorrow and anger we felt as parents.

My email was well received. In response, the special ed administrator sent us a heartfelt apology and she subsequently looked into the matter and got some answers as to how/why the deficiency report was sent. It was in error, of course. She gave us more details than that, but the details won’t interest you here. Bottom line; it was a mistake.

Dun, dunnnn, dunnnnnnn (music). Just another day of drama for us as parents of a child with special needs. “F” student or not, we still love our little boy!