Time to Foster Change

A Day in the Life

It’s 8:30 in the morning on a school day. My son should have been at school fifteen minutes ago. However, he is sleeping soundly after another restless night. It doesn’t happen on a regular basis, but often enough that we needed to ask his school to work with us regarding his insomnia. There are nights when he remains awake 3 or 4 hours at a time. If we forced him awake to make it to school on time it would not be a good day for anyone.

Therefore, I am so grateful to have found a school setting willing to accommodate my son’s unique needs. Being tired on top of already existing focus, sensory, and behavioral issues is asking a lot from this child. It has taken many years of fits and starts to find a school that not only accepts my son’s challenges but embraces them willingly with the hope of providing a productive learning environment where he can thrive.

My son is unable to sit at a desk for several hours a day. It is a struggle for him to sit still for an entire class period focused on one subject. It is useless to ask him to take a timed test with countless questions, it would take all he had to answer the first two. He is sensitive to a classroom’s temperature, lighting, and noise level.

A traditional school setting has never been an option. Homeschooling was the only choice available until we found this rare gem of a school. What makes this school different is all the issues that make learning difficult for my son are taken into account. In addition, the school provides a variety of different therapies on site (speech, occupational, physical, and behavioral).

The founders and administrators of this school get it. They understand that there is a desperate need for a particular environment such as this. There are so many other ways to evaluate a child’s intelligence other than standardized test taking. These kids are smart…they just need the right environment to show what they are truly capable of. I applaud such a school for thinking outside the traditional educational box and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. But, as amazing as this school is, it is indeed an unlikely find.

This is truly a shame because as each year passes there are more and more children born under the same circumstance as my son forced to face the exact same obstacles. I can only hope that this kind of learning environment becomes more of the norm in every community in the very near future.  All children, no matter what unfortunate circumstances they must endure, should be given an opportunity to receive an education at their own pace within a school setting that accepts them for who they are.

It is beyond frustrating to try and find the correct care and assistance that my son requires. It’s not just the educational aspect of this journey, it’s so much more. My son not only suffers from insomnia (supposedly from his ADHD), but also struggles with his speech, coordination, focus, anxiety, emotions, anger, hearing, sense of smell, eyesight, and tactile senses. I’m sure I’ve missed some others, but you get the picture.

When a human life is forming, just think of the mind-blowing process that needs to take place for the body and brain to develop. All the infinite moving parts that come together to bring into existence a healthy baby. Now add heroin or fentanyl (which is up to 50 times stronger than heroin) in the womb with a developing fetus. What do you suppose is going to be the outcome from this kind of exposure?

This baby just spent months of prenatal development exposed to heavy duty narcotics (the types of drugs that have killed hundreds of thousands of individuals). Common sense will tell you these infants will be born with issues. Special needs that will need to be addressed at birth and every day after. I know this because I have borne witness to this unfortunate reality.

My child has been to many so-called experts and each one has had a different opinion. It’s always troubling to hear things like “he’ll grow out of it”, “just give it time”, “it’s a phase”, or the ultimate go to “he’s got ADHD”.  I am very well aware he may have ADHD, but all the other issues he faces on a regular basis cannot be brushed off as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 

How does ADHD correlate with the initial root of the problem which is a developing fetus enshrouded in a cloud of opiates? How can an unborn baby spend months of constant drug exposure in utero and not be affected by some sort of development delay or permanent damage to one or all nine systems of the human body? How can ADHD be the only answer to my child’s numerous issues?

I know my son isn’t the only child out there facing these same hurdles. There are hundreds of thousands of children who were and continue to be born drug exposed. I know these kids are out there. Where are they? What other diagnosis did they get tossed into? What is it about fetal drug exposure that warrants these children to be overlooked?  Is society so ashamed to admit the existence of a drug culture that it can’t bring itself to acknowledge that these children even exist?

We have managed to wrap our arms around ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Down Syndrome to name just a few, and by doing so it has brought research, medicine, and practical solutions for the children affected by these disorders to the forefront. Can we please give that same hug to fetal drug exposure? Many of these children are being misdiagnosed into the above categories when their condition merits its own analysis and determination.

As much as I detest the labeling of children there is no escaping it. I feel the need to advocate another label for children like my son because mis-labeling him with one or more diagnoses that doesn’t fit can cause many years of frustration, time, and money. Not to mention the damage it causes the child from unnecessary medication to ineffective therapy. It wasn’t their choice to be drug exposed. We, as a society, could at the very least acknowledge their presence in our world.