What Back to School Means When Your Child Struggles


strugglesI have always loved the fall. The weather gets a bit cooler. The fall foliage brings a splash of color to our green landscape, and we families return to the routine of school and the bustle of fall activities. 

I was an enthusiastic learner.

Sure, I wasn’t always thrilled to be in school, but I was a good student who enjoyed learning new things. I loved the structure and expectations that school provided. New pencils and notebooks gave me a bit of a thrill in my brand-new backpack.

My son is my middle child, and he does not experience school in this way.

He had no clue what his school supplies were as he hauled his heavy backpack to school on that first day. He doesn’t know how I combed Staples and Target for exactly what he needed. He certainly didn’t help me label his supplies. I could have asked him (forced him) to help me with this.

But the truth is that he doesn’t care about it. And he wasn’t excitedly anticipating the first day. And neither was I. You see, the back-to-school excitement isn’t the same for a child who struggles in school, and it certainly isn’t the same for parents.

My son struggles with severe ADHD and so-called “high functioning autism” (formerly Asperger’s). He is likely also dyslexic. I’ve been dreading the start of school—third grade. As the years go by, the work and the expectations increase. He has a great team, but he’s complex.

Nothing comes easy to him, and it’s anything but exciting. 

Unlike other kids who had weeks of fun summer camps doing crafts and swimming, he did six weeks of summer school. The routine is important to him, and to his credit, he barely ever complained. I reassure myself that it’s “good for him,” but he notices that his older sister doesn’t have to be in school year-round. And it breaks my heart. 

I cry every year on the first day of school. One year older. One year further from the babies I once held. But every year, those tears are full of hope for my daughter and fear for my son. 

Will I get a phone call from the school that he’s had a terrible meltdown? Will he ever learn to read easily? Will he be able to make it through public school? College? Independent living? These thoughts constantly cycle through my head. 

So give a hug to your friends with children who struggle. They are struggling too. And to all you parents out there with children for whom school is a struggle, I stand with you. We will get through this next year together.

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Jasmine is a local mom who lives in Fairfield with her husband and three children (born 2010, 2013 and 2018). She is a psychotherapist with a focus on women in life transition, especially the perinatal period. Her private practice is located in downtown Fairfield (BetterSelfCT.com). Jasmine was born and raised in Connecticut but spent her college and graduate school years in and around New York City. She has worked as a psychotherapist since 2007 and is passionate about helping others to reach their goals. Jasmine is still trying to get the hang of this parenting thing, 10 years into it. In the two hours after her children go to bed, she enjoys a good glass of wine and watching the latest Netflix series with her husband. She also loves the beach, supportive mom friends and baked goods.


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