How an Autism Mom's Dreaded Call from School Turned Out to be a Good Thing
by Erin Mast-Hampshire
When we first got pregnant, we decided I was going to be a stay at home mom. I wanted to enjoy everything about motherhood. As the boys got to be school aged, I wanted to go on field trips, to be the classroom mom. I was dedicated to my kids and making every memory possible.
Sadly, when you have 3 kids with disabilities, 2 with autism, that dream changes. I no longer had a choice. I had to stay home. I had to be available 100% of the time. When the school called, and let’s face it, they called a lot, I had to answer. Luckily, I lived 5 minutes away.
Erin's son working on a science project.
One day, I got a dreaded call from the school.
My oldest son was in a crisis and needed to be restrained. I walked into the building to see him, kicking and screaming, while two adults carried him down the hall to a secluded area.
Think about it.
Anyone and everyone who walked in that building was witness to this event.
This is when things changed for me.
I had fought, tooth and nail, to keep my boys in an inclusive, public school, their community school. But at this very moment, I quickly realized this is not where they belonged.
I was sick to my stomach. Removing my children from public school and
putting them in a special education program was devastating. It removed any chance of normalcy, or so I thought. It removed them from their community. This was the hardest choice we ever made.
Here is what I learned throughout this process...
My kids are just as important as any child in the school system. They deserve to learn in the way they find most helpful. They do need accommodations. They need extra time. They need patience from their teachers.
His public school teachers were unable to provide that. Making that move, as difficult as it was, was the best choice for our children. I still must advocate. I still need to ensure their IEP’s are being followed.
I still get phone calls about them needing my help. And I still lose my temper at times. But, I also know that my kids are valued. The staff is flexible. They come home happy. And they are all learning and growing.
Maybe they are not learning in the initial way I had planned. But plans
are made to be broken, right?
My plans, they don’t matter.
What matters is that I have amazingly polite children. They are sweet kids. And they are happy. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
After all, inclusion and diversity are about empowering every human being, regardless of their differences.
Erin's 13 year old son with his Transportation Project
Erin's 3 sons
Erin Mast-Hampshire is the founder of the John W Hampshire Foundation for Autism and also a resident of Wayne County, NY. She is mother to three great kids, two who happen to live with autism. Erin has spent many years as a full-time fundraiser and volunteer for Autism Speaks and as a parent advocate. She is currently finishing her Master's degree in Mental Health Counseling.