Dear Joy, I”m writing this response with tears in my eyes. So many emotions I’m feeling for you at the moment… don’t even know where to start.

I’ll start here: first, thank you for sharing your story. I think it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give to the world — especially when we’re sharing the raw, painful, un-pretty, authentically human testimonies that one can only hope will convince others that more empathy is needed in this world. Period.

Second, I’m not here to give you advice or criticize in any way, because I’m certainly no one to judge. And besides, I’m sure you’ve already tried all the things. (But, I do agree with the person in another comment who suggested reaching out to NAMI.)

Third, I want to say that I believe you 100%, I want to validate everything you’re saying, and I want to let you know that I see you, I hear you, and I’m sending all the love in the world your way because God knows, you deserve it.

I can relate to your story, but only on a tiny fraction of it. The main difference is, I worked in the classroom with these kids. At the end of the day, I got to say goodbye and send them home. I got to breathe, and I got to go home to my own family, where I’d count my daily blessings — because, for all the problems my own family had, by the grace of God, they weren’t anything like the problems I had to deal with at school.

I worked in the Resource dept. of special ed for the public school system — primarily serving elementary school students with IEPs — and it was a joy to work on goals and targeted skills with these students. But over the years, I watched helplessly as we received more and more “behavior” kids than kids with specific learning disabilities. (And when I say “behavior” kids, I’m talking about all the “Dominics” of the world.) Students who came from similarly traumatic backgrounds, that none of us — not even the most seasoned special ed teacher or psychologist in the building — knew quite how to handle. Support for those of us on the front lines with these kids? It was either non-existent, or non-helpful (i.e., made things worse).

Over the years the number of these students increased tremendously, and the out-of-control behaviors amplified markedly. I went home physically spent, with a migraine, and crying on a daily basis. So did my co-worker, who was the main teacher. But she also went home daily with black and blue thighs — from where one particular student repeatedly head-butted her so hard and for such a sustained period of time each day, that one day’s bruises turned into the next day’s, and the next… and just never healed.

My co-worker and I saw our classroom go from being a sort of happy, lively “home base” where we’d plan for the day, bring students for quiet testing accommodations, and lead small group instruction for math and ELA, to a classroom that was nothing more than a war-torn “holding pen” for violent, abusive, destructive students. (Keep in mind, I’m talking kindergarteners and first graders — 5 to 7-year-olds. Kids that were so incredibly violent they had to be removed from the their own regular ed classrooms on a daily basis and sent to our classroom, since there were short periods in the day where we did not have students, and because there was nowhere else for them to go.)

We all knew our school wasn’t equipped in any way, shape, or form to give these students what they needed, but the process of removing a child from regular ed to special ed involves so much paperwork and red tape that it’s a miracle if it happens at all — not including the fact that parents have to be on board as well — but trying to get students like this placed in the right school was outright impossible. There’s only one school in our entire district that serves students like this. And with a max. of 4 students per classroom, you can imagine how long their waiting list is.

By these children, I (and my co-worker) had been called every vulgar name in the book, cursed at, screamed in the face at, given the middle finger (among other awful hand gestures), and had inappropriate, sexually-charged hand (and body) gestures thrust upon us. (Again, by 5, 6, and 7 year olds). We were hit, kicked, beat, spit on, coughed/sneezed/peed/pooped/vomited on, had everything from pencils to books to desks thrown at our heads and bodies, and plenty of other daily horrors. We also had to protect other children in the room from these kids, and somehow, we were still expected to give “quiet testing” and other IEP accommodations in our classroom/holding pen.

At any rate, I could go on and on for days describing the same type of behaviors you deal with regularly (as well as the same abuse cycle, including the remorse and ensuing giddiness/sugary sweet part they exhibit to try and connect), but the point is, I hear you. I get it. And I’m saying that from only experiencing a mere fraction of what you do. Like I said, I could leave these kids and go home to my family. Yet, I still had the effects of PTSD from years of dealing with multiple abusive children.

Adults who say, “not me! That would never happen to me!” simply have no idea.

I sure hope you get a break soon, or at least some meaningful support. I didn’t intend to write a whole book here — sorry for that. Just know that you are seen and heard. And appreciated. ❤

Written by

Seen in HuffPost, Scary Mommy, etc; heard @ NPR, SiriusXM, TIFO podcast & more. Gender dismantling trailblazer. Political news junkie. TikTok aficionado. Mom.

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