Please Don’t Kill My Mockingbird

posted by Momo Fali on April 17, 2008

My (nearly) six year old son is developmentally delayed. He doesn’t have autism, aspergers or down syndrome. He isn’t living with cerebral palsy, has never had a brain injury, and extensive genetic testing all came back negative. He is simply behind.

Part of his delay is due to numerous health problems, hospital stays and surgeries. Every event, illness, and needle poke caused him to regress. This boy has had more medical procedures than most people have their entire lives.

The most noticeable delay is his speech, which came to pass because he couldn’t hear well for five out of six years of his life. We kept telling doctors, but my son kept passing hearing tests. When he finally failed a screening last year, we were actually relieved.

Before this school year started, I met with his Pre-Kindergarten teachers in private. I explained my son’s health history and his delays. They had been great when my nine year old daughter was in Pre-K a few years ago, and I had high hopes they would be wonderful partners in the game of catch-up my son has been playing. I failed to take into account that my daughter sprouted a halo when she was born.

These teachers, who had been perfect for my angelic daughter…well, I’m pretty sure that combined they have been teaching for 90 years. And in that time, I don’t know if they’ve had much experience with a special needs child. It’s nearly the end of the school year and so far they haven’t had much luck at keeping my boy in check.

I’m not going to sit here and say my son is perfect, because he’s not. He’s as ornery as the day is long. He has a wicked sense of humor, which is a particular benefit to this Mom blogger, but to his teachers…not so much. Yesterday, he told me he was pretending to be at a party, which is why he put mulch in someone’s hair. Confetti…Mulch. Potato…Po-taht-uh.

And, when they told me he disrupted snack-time the other day because he wouldn’t stop singing his ABC’s, it almost brought me to tears. Not because he was being bad, but because I can remember when we never thought he’d know his alphabet.

I took away toys, the computer, and TV to discipline him for not listening to his teachers. But, do you know how hard it is to punish a kid for singing, when you never thought you would hear him sing?

    Comments

  • OHmommy


    I got all teary eyed at the last line. So sweet.

    He is meant to be your son. 🙂

  • Kiera


    My 4 year old is dealing with similar issues. He also has hearing loss which has delayed his speech. I have a little fear in the back of my mind for the day he starts school, I’m hoping for the best.
    I feel joy for you because you recognize your sons’ improvements. Good for both of you and good luck with the challenges and milestones to come.

  • chefmom


    You have a wonderful son, and I think some teachers are burned out and only take to the “good kids”.(And I say that, in the sense, of the kids that are easy going, and they barely have to deal with) I had a friend who went through the same thing. They couldn’t find anything wrong with her son for years, yet he was WELL behind, so much so, they wanted to hold him back a grade. She happened to change pediatricians and he found that deep in her sons ear he had a blockage. The kid could barely speak and was always disruptive in class. ONLY because he couldn’t heat what was going on!! he had a surgery and within months there was a MAJOR change. Don’t let those teachers, make you or him feel bad. You’ve spent the past 5+ years nursing him to health, getting to know him, and seeing him become the strong, funny kid that he is. I say LET HIM SING!!! Curse those teachers, who may have been great in the past, but don’t seem to have the compassion for a kid, who may have never been able to sing. Sorry Momo, long post, but it frustrates me to hear this. I have a nephew with SEVERE cerbral palsey, who is making amazing progress, doing things that his doctors and teachers said he never would. Be proud Momma!!! He’ll get the discipline eventually 🙂

  • jennifer


    I loved this post, especially the last line. It GOT me in the heart.

  • AlisonH


    My daughter was seven and had passed all her screenings when one day I saw her at the school with a large ball coming flying at her from one side. She did not see it. I hauled her back to the pediatrician, saying, humor me. I know you tested her six months ago. Do it again.

    She was blind in one eye from a cataract and had bluffed her way through every vision test, trying to answer their questions like a good little girl. She had surgery and wore a contact ever after. (Imagine being in the grocery store and your 7-year-old going, Mom, I lost my contact, and the outraged reactions of the people around you.)

    I love your last line. That gratitude is intense. That daughter of mine–we had accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in our house when I was pregnant with her, and I came under pressure from a few doctors to abort her. If vision in one eye was the only problem out of all that… She’s 22 now, she’s fine…

    While you’re disciplining the kid to behave, tell him too how glad you are he can sing. Although, I don’t think I need to say that to you at all. He’s clearly got a superb mom and just the right one for him.

  • Monica


    Schools and teachers can be such a wonderful part of a family’s life…but they can also be a huge hinderance. Makes me think that the entire school system is just not the right structure for some, maybe most, kids. We (all parents) want our kids to thrive and become who they are meant to be: schools sometimes prevent that from happening smoothly. I’m thinking about home schooling for this, and many many other reasons. Have serious reservations about it, too, though.

    Beautiful post. Your children are lucky to have such an insightful mama.

  • Amy


    Oh this made my heart constrict. I hope you can work with the teachers! And I hope he can sing and sing (at any and all appropriate times when he won’t get in trouble of course)!!

  • Cathy


    Disrupted snack time by singing the ABCs? At preschool? Unless it was before snack started and the class does some sort of “thank you” to either the kids who helped pass it out or if it’s a religious school and they pray – what was he disrupting? I teach preschool and would never get upset about someone singing during snack time. Now – the other day I had some boys who decided it would be fun to pour the milk into the water pitcher and then dump it out. Yeah, they’re being curious, but still. Notes were sent home for that. Never for singing.

    Great post, by the way. I love the last line!

  • Michelle


    Oh, how I get you! My 3.5 yr old has spent this past year in a special ed classroom. I just found out Monday, that because his delays are not “delayed enough” and cognitively he is advanced, they are putting him in a regular Pre-K 4 classroom next year. Granted it has a Special Ed Teacher Full-time along with the 2 regular ed teachers. But, my daughter is in Pre-K 4 this year, and I think of the kids in her class compared to my son and it makes my heart clinch. Socially and emotionally he is still only 2. If he had been born on time, he would have missed the cut-off to start Pre-K 4 this year any way.

    He has sensory issues and isn’t potty trained yet. He can’t sit still for circle time and disrupts the special programs they perform for the parents. (yes, I’m very popular with the other parents, why do you ask?) Those kids are going to eat him alive.

    I’ve always tried to be his advocate. And, I don’t see a need for him to be in Special Ed forever, hopefully he’ll go to Kindergarten with just an IEP. But, I don’t know how to protect him without holding him back.

  • LaskiGal


    Oh . . . it is hard . . . would be very hard. He’s so boy. Enjoy the songs, momma. Enjoy ’em! BTW, maybe he’ll even sing more now that he’s got nothin’ to play with 🙂

  • Jodi


    You had me at the title.

    Sweet boy, sweet mama!

  • Xbox4NappyRash


    meh… I hate it when you make me not able to be a smart arse over here.

    very sweet.

  • Heather


    My daughter had lead poisoning when she was 2 and I was worried for years that she would have a learning disability or some other long lasting side effect. She is 14 now and sometimes I forget about those years that I worried constantly. She’s incredibly intelligent, and I can’t help myself from thinking, had it not been for the lead poisoning, could she have been brilliant? We never give up as parents, do we? Nothing is ever good enough for them, especially when they face a disability or setback.

  • Corey~living and loving


    What a wonderful post to touch our hearts.
    I am so glad he is singing. be sure to let him know how proud we all are of him. 🙂

  • Jaina


    You last line both warmed and broke my heart. I wish his teachers would give him the benefit of the doubt. He (and your family) will be in my prayers. I’m sure he will catch up and excel, sometimes it just takes a little bit longer.

  • Lisa


    My Dino is behind too-his is gross motor skills. He did not walk until 24 months due to low muscle tone. I know how you feel; I am sure if Dino was in trouble for running around during story time I would be ecstatic.
    Keep singing BOY 🙂

  • Sadia


    This is my first visit, and I think I’m hooked. That was beautiful. And really, shouldn’t pre-schoolers be allowed to sing any time other than naptime?

  • Ashley


    Awww…that last line broke my heart…

  • Michael C


    Wow. I am with everyone else on the meaning of your last thought. I had a lot of medical stuff when I was born and growing up (still do) and it put me behind in terms of math and analytical skills which did hamper my education and me getting into the college I wanted to and sometimes affects me in the job I have today.

    It is so great that he is singing. I bet it was the sweetest music of all for you!!

  • BusyDad


    Those teachers are only frustrated because they can’t think of a wittier comeback when your boy springs a zinger on em. Haters! From what I read on your posts, that kid is seriously brilliant.

  • piper of love


    He sings because he’s HAPPY!!

    And that’s mostly because he’s got such an amazing Mom who adores him… and does the right thing when he needs it!

    You are an AMAZING, AMAZING MOM!!

    I can feel how much you love him, he is blessed beyond measure, as are you. It’s all good!!

    Plus, you make me want to be a better Mom myself. thanks for that.

    Beautiful!

  • nola


    Stay on those teachers! I am sure with his parents he will do just fine.

  • The Laundress~JJ!


    (I hope this makes sense)

    I once had a student who I thought was literally perfect. And I didn’t know his history…so the beginning of the year after he charmed me with his brightness, personality and social butterfly ways….He acted out a few times, but I never thought…

    Anyway. I spoke with his mother about this behavior and she told me that it was related to the fact that he had severe delays as a young child due to ADHD and being on the Autism spectrum ….

    I never thought in a million years.

    So she continued to tell me that even though he acts out sometimes…she couldn’t believe he’s speaking, let alone socializing with his peers.

    I was amazed. I never saw it her way. But hearing his story and seeing him daily was an amazing thing…

    I hope your son’s teacher’s can see how far he’s come and respect that…not punish it.

  • transfattyacid


    I am tempted to say that is so sad… but do you know what? I’m not going to. Because it is not. This is a triumph of the human spirit and of compassion.

    The truth is that he is clearly a very special child, who has come through a great deal in his short life and is a credit to his parents who stood by him and brought him through.

    I remember your post from the other day about the baby monitors because of the children being premature – and my heart aches for you.

    We have a new born, after losing a much loved and wanted daughter to stillbirth, and I still chastise myself everytime I check to make sure the child is breathing… and I can only imagine how much you have been through to reach this stage.

    Yes he does have to listen to his teachers, and yes he does need discipline and structure in his life, but I feel your pain in the last sentence – and without sounding schmaltzy – I am kind of there with this little boy singing his ABC.

    And I thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Birdie


    wow. I don’t know what to say except I love you AND your sons ABC song. God bless that baby!

  • secret agent mama


    Wow. Mo. That moved me. (HUGS)

  • Anonymous


    Your son needs better teachers. A good preschool teacher can deal with that in an appropriate way without having to have a parent discipline.

  • cyndy


    I have some idea of how you feel; my stepson has ADHD and some other LDs, so we’ve been through some similiar issues.
    Maybe next year he’ll get a fresh, young teacher who will let him be himself.

  • Mommy Bits


    Wow. You got me with the last line.

  • Kimmylyn


    I think the world needs more like your boy. As busydad said, those teachers are haters because they have forgotten how to laugh and remember how to be silly and that live is to short.

    Heck it was the ABC’s..the teachers should’ve had the whole class join in.

  • Heather


    I always hope the teachers will love my kids as much as I do, but I know that is just never going to happen. I’m glad he sang the ABCs, and I’m glad that you are so proud of him.

  • Tara R.


    Our children share a lot of the same things… haloed girls, and sons with ‘issues.’ I really do understand what you are going through the schools and teachers, been there. I’d like to tell you the schools get better as he gets older, but I haven’t seen too much of that yet. We keep hoping.

    I wish I could have heard him sing too. ♥

  • katy


    ahhh…I substitute at schools and I try to allow boys like him a little more “flexibility”. But I hurt for both you and the teacher!

    Perhaps instead of thinking punishment, do some positive motivation – immediate short term rewards. If you are able to help out around the school, even if it’s not in his classroom, it helps to keep him accountable, and to hear him sing!

  • MommyTime


    Oh, your sweet boy! Good for him. I hope the teachers he has as the years progress are able to get what’s going on.

  • Stacey @Real World Mom


    “But, do you know how hard it is to punish a kid for singing, when you never thought you would hear him sing?”

    I can only imagine. Must have broke your heart. Lots of hugs!

  • Jared


    Punishing him for singing his ABCs? Not many kids knew their ABCs when I started Kindergarten, let alone Pre-K!

    I’d put money on it that he will accel must faster than the other kids now that he can hear better. I would think that he developed his own learning methods due to his lack of hearing…learning methods that most kids never aquire. If he can couple those methods with his new and improved hearing he will have something the other kids don’t.

    Everybody learns in different ways and at different rates. Your boy is pure genius in my book. Some of the stories you tell of him prove that he is (and will continue to be) a force to be reckoned with.

  • Bec


    I know it’s not the same thing, but I could let Erin get away with anything for a smile because I never thought we’d get one.

    PS. What made you think that your son had hearing problems?

  • HRH


    I love this. Thanks for the warm fuzzy story.

  • Selma


    That is a very moving story. I could never be upset at him for singing when you thought that perhaps he couldn’t. Why can’t teachers think outside the square? It’s so upsetting.

  • Jenn @ Juggling Life


    This is baffling. He was doing what someone his age should do–in every way.

    Did they “punish” him at school for the disruption. ‘Cause I’m not sure you have to punish him at home too. My daughter had a teacher one year with whom she just did not click. The teacher was a really great teacher, they just rubbed each other the wrong way. We finally decided, let school handle the school issues. We know who our daughter is and she’ll have a new teacher next year. Now we all laugh about the stupid things she got in trouble for.

    Sometimes a kid gets the mom that’s perfect for him. It sounds like your boy got lucky with you.

  • Mrs. Schmitty


    It’s hard for others to see what we do in our kids. My W. for example. He was born with a congenital heart defect. He very well could have died. He is wonderful now, though he’s always had a TON of energy. Most people can’t handle him this way sometimes. I look at him and know it’s better than what COULD have been.

  • Jo Beaufoix


    Oh sweetie that must have been so hard. You did right though, in that, he needs to learn that at school he has to follow some rules. But I hope he sang all the way home and keeps on doing it. Hug.

  • Mr Lady


    You don’t. Period.

  • holly


    um, i’m thinking that teachers today do.not.know. how to deal with children.

    punish a kid for singing.

    well, next, punish a kid for playing.

    kids should NOT SING OR PLAY!!!

    because we still live in the 50s.

  • LittlePaintedPolkaDots


    I am so happy that your little man is singing. Just precious!

  • Genevieve Hinson


    Oh yea. I know that feeling. My oldest son got into a spot of trouble in the eight grade. His teacher found him sitting in front of the VPs office, waiting.

    Found out from his one-to-one aide that he was horsing around with other kids at lunch.

    They didn’t settle down when asked.

    His teacher was so proud and happy for him. Why? Because he was acting socially appropriate for his age — with his peers. Not often one of her students did that (autism).

    She told me later — I know I should have said something but this was just too good.

    I was thrilled too.

    Love that he’s singing his alphabet! Sing away kid!

  • Velveteen Mind - Megan


    This is a simply wonderful post.

    This is why I read blogs. I forget that sometimes.

    There is a difference between a parent having a sense of humor, having a sense of gratitude, and making excuses for our kids. I hope his teachers know the difference.

  • meleah rebeccah


    I am CRYING over this post. Oh how awful to have to punish him for singing the ABC’s. That HAS to be torture….for you. sheeesh

  • Rachel


    So beautiful. This brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. You two were meant for each other. I pray that you will get the right teachers for him. They are out there, they are just harder to find but they are so worth the trouble.
    God Bless you and him honey.

  • soapbox mom


    Oh, Momo, what a beautiful post!

    I’m glad he sang those ABCs. I hope you hear them soon, too (if you haven’t already).

  • Jamie E


    right with you.

    I remember being happy that Ben said “I hate you don’t touch me” to someone instead of hitting them or trying to choke them….
    tiny victories…

  • Trackbacks

  • Trackback from It Marks the Spot - Momo Fali's
    Monday, 17 October, 2011

    […] When he was old enough, we moved him to a local preschool and into a classroom with a teacher/student ratio of 2/9. The teachers were attentive and patient and we kept him there through Pre-K, which, in the end, turned out to be a pretty disastrous school year. […]

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