By CSF Mom Brit Bell
I am a divorced mother of an 8-year-old boy with special needs. My son, who is in the second grade this year, has been fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship the past two years through the Education Tax Credit Program, which has made it possible for me to send him to Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy in Londonderry. Without this program and the private donations (not state funds) that fund it, I would not be in a position financially to choose the educational model that best fits him.
However, the NH Senate is considering a proposal that could jeopardize the ETC Program, threatening my child’s ability to get a good education and our hope for his future. I am very thankful that representatives this week voted to table one bill that would have repealed the ETC, and I sincerely hope they leave the program unchanged, allowing it to continue to help my son and hundreds of other children who benefit from it.
My son’s special needs are not recognized in the public school system. He is not dyslexic, he is not autistic and he is not learning disabled in the traditional sense. Because of this, he does not fit into the public school guidelines, which would allow him an aide or an educational plan to assist him in learning the same material as his peers at a slower pace.
He was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder during his kindergarten year, and last year his pediatrician prescribed medication for ADHD.
These two things combined mean my son needs a quiet atmosphere to learn in, the ability to move about freely during the day and individualized, focused assistance whenever needed. A lot going on around him causes extreme anxiety and loss of focus. He learns best by doing (as do most humans) and requires the ability to move around throughout the day. He retains information best without the pressure of time constraints, and needs to know he can proceed to the next learning objective when – and only when – he is ready.
With this information, and the drive to change my son’s attitude toward school and learning, I researched learning models best suited for children like my son and found the Montessori method a great fit for him.
I could not be happier with my choice. I cannot express in words the positive impact the opportunity to send him to Montessori school has had on him and his educational future. To say he has excelled over the past two years would be an extreme understatement.
Before receiving a scholarship, he dreaded going to school. He would come home in fits of frustration after school days full of tears, with no sense of self-confidence because he couldn’t understand why the lessons being taught were so hard for him to grasp when his peers had no problems. This frustration led to him calling himself stupid and dumb (words no parent should ever have to hear their 5-year-old say about themselves), and telling me he “hated school and would always hate school.” All these negative emotions, and he was only in kindergarten.
Once he entered the Montessori school, his attitude completely changed. He was “getting it.” He started to regain self-confidence. Now he loves going to school, feels pride in his educational progress and looks forward to school every day. This is all a parent can hope for when it comes to their child’s education.
Children need the pride that comes from learning and understanding what they are learning because, unfortunately, often what follows continuous frustration is failure and quitting. Every child is different and every child learns differently. There is no “one size fits all” educational model. Because of this, parents should be given the choice to decide what is best for their child’s educational needs.
Without an ETC scholarship, parents like myself would be forced to send their child to a school that does not fit their educational needs. Our children are the future, and it is our job as parents and leaders to ensure all children, regardless of one’s income bracket, are given the chance to be the most successful adults they can be. This begins with education.
This post was originally published as an op-ed in The Concord Monitor.