Monday, April 20, 2009

Almost a year after entering residential school…

This week I thought I would stretch back to my archives and pull some oldies from when I first started blogging 10 months ago. As you know I started this blog to help me deal with the reality of sending Meghan to a residential school. And over these few months, many people have found me (this blog) for that very same reason: they are facing the same reality of having to send one of their own children to a residential school.

It’s interesting because back then I definitely thought that some visitors to this blog would condemn me. I thought they would tell me that I was “giving up” or “how could I send my child off to residential school,” or an “institution” for those who didn’t understand. I thought this because I, too, thought it of others who preceded me and had done it to their own children when my daughter was still very young.

Back then I had no idea what the future would hold for me, for my family, and for Meghan--and it scared me to death. The “not knowing” about our children is the horror in anyone’s story--as in any difficult situation or traumatic event. I can honestly say that I thought I was as a fighter, and fighting for daughter (for my children), and was determined to make her a success story. But by sending her off to a residential school was surely the start of just giving up and surrendering.

This was the main reason for writing this blog: A form of therapy, reaching out to others, helping others, seeing my words reflected back at me to completely comprehend what was going on…all of it. And I found myself pulling away from Meghan—physically and emotionally, as if to protect her and to protect me. I would find myself searching for an escape—reading books, spending time with friends… anything to detach myself from my failure. "Failure." It’s interesting to see this word and think of it as a common word used when one is failing at school, or a job, or a project…but not parenting. Failing your child is inexcusable. And no matter what anyone said to me in support of this decision, I believed it was a failure on my part and an end to her success story.

And now, after almost a year, I realized that I was wrong—terribly wrong. I realized that NOT sending Meghan to her residential school (and I’m stipulating her school) would be the true act of failing her. By not sending Meghan to residential school would be saying that I didn’t believe in her, her future and her ability to succeed. What I thought was selfish on my part—sending her away to school and in the care of strangers who could do a better job?  Was instead sending her away to a school with “many” trained teachers who could help her. I realized that this was a gift with a disgusting name in a cold and uncaring disguise. A gift to her.  A gift to me. And  a gift to our family. It was gold.

I also came to realize during this crazy, surreal and transformational year, that this was just the start of her success story.

17 comments:

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

Such a beautiful post, Holly. So glad you were able to stop seeing it in a negative light. You're right - it's a gift, and it's only the beginning.

Shea's Mom said...

Great post! Very touching.

Thanks for sharing your story with us.

XOX

Danna Banana said...

Beautiful. Brava. I could NOT have said it any better.
Thank you for being brave enough to say the scary things. They are the same for me and my situation.
Your words are giving me hope and courage.

Mama Mara said...

Your blog undoubtedly is saving many families from some of the anguish you went through in making this difficult decision. How wonderful!

Anonymous said...

I guess that's how some parents look at it to make themselves feel better. Personally, after hearing too many recent negative testimonials about these places from other parents, I couldn't do it.

Danna Banana said...

In Holly's defense. I'm sure for every appropriate-safe-effective residential placement there are dozens of poorly run programs.It is the parents' responsibility to do the homework and find the right place and no one is obligated to place their child in harms way. Deciding against residential placement based only on anecdotal negative stories is lazy. It takes a hell of a lot of work to find and fight for good programs. These children deserve our best efforts. Don't be afraid to look outside the box and raise everyone's expectations for appropriate interventions.

Holly Nappi Collins said...

Perfectly said, Danna!!

Danna Banana said...

Got your back girlfriend. Go fight win.

Anonymous said...

I've been in the industry long enough to see that residential placement is almost always the end result of really poor ABA and inconsistent intervention when a child is young. School districts waste a child's early years by giving a child pathetic intervention and then when the child is 12 or 13, suddenly it is the "child's fault" that they are so severe and the only way they can be "handled" effectively is through a residential setting. It is a travesty and people don't seem to learn from this. Here is a message to parents--educate yourself and fight to get your child effective and high quality early intervention to avoid residential when they are older. It makes a difference, believe me. It truly is shocking what some parents accept as "high quality" when a child is young.

Danna Banana said...

What is even worse is when you HAVE moved heaven and earth for quality programs and they still aren't enough. Can you imagine the horror, pain and despair of seeing your child needing more than you can give????
That is what this is about "Anonymous"! Go home and enjoy your autism free quality of life!

Anonymous said...

Well gee "Danna Banana" looks like from your blog that a hearing officer decided that your children do not belong in a group home so you (as YOU put it) can "get your life back". It also sounds like they did not receive good early intervention if you are joking about sitting there watching them put Life cereal in an air conditioner. And no my life isn't "autism free" as you claim. I work at it 24/7 very intensely.

Anonymous said...

Interesting reading. I have 2 children with autism, too. And a typically developing child. I can relate to all of what is said here. I am surprised that other parents of autistic children pass judgement about your placing your daughter in a residential setting. So many factors contribute to that decision: what kind of marriage you have, how much both parents are involved in the dealings with school/doctors/IEPs and all the other things that go along with having a severely affected child, your financial situation, your ability to deal with stress, your mental stability, your partner's mental/emotional stability, and so on. I continue to keep my severely affected son home, but not a month passes where it crosses my mind that this is a hard f'ning life. I suspect I will keep him home for as long as I can, but it's a slippery slope everyday. There is no silver lining, but I do believe that having a child with autism gives us an enormous sense of purpose in life. And it certainly has changed my perspective of what's important in life, and what I can tolerate. I do believe we all become more than we imagined when these children come into our lives. All the best to you with your daughter's placement in NECC residential. We are in the Day school at this time....

Kind regards, W. Howell

Steve said...

Guilt, doubt, hope and acceptance. These are all emotions I run through daily as I face the void left in my life after I placed my son in a residential facility. As a severly autistic child with aggressive behaviors, I had to face to truth, My abilities and love were not enough.

Your comments give me hope that the oppressive feeling of failure will someday pass.

Thank you

serenity please said...

I don't have an autistic child but I have a severely disabled 16 year old with bipolar. After 5 hospitalizations (3 months)in 2 years. We have decided it best for our daughters future to send her to a therapeutic residential school to help her grow into the healthy beautiful young lady we know she can be. Her doctors, therapists and the public school believe this will be best for her.

I, as her mom and number one advocate, am not sure. I want to be able to keep her safe, teach her, and love her at home.

She has been there for one week. She hates it. She cries hysterically. Begs me to take her home. I'm so desperately sad!

This post has given me hope. Thank you! I know that God loves our children and wants the best for them but it is so very hard to watch them suffer.

Anonymous said...

As a parent with an autistic child I know what you had to go through.
Imy son iss 17 and I am struggling with that decision right now he gets very aggressive toward me sometime. But still it is so hard to put him in a residential.place. I pray every day that god will help me to do what is best for him.
Good luck everyone.

Anonymous said...

The point when one sends their child to residential places is when feels that they can do nothing more. I have had to fuss and fight a lot to get the help my son needed so badly. He reached 14 and was finally diagnosed with autism which I knew he had. He got increasingly angry confused and upset I could not longer manage him. His violent outbursts were getting worse and youngsters outside would make fun of him. I was terrified each time he ran out that he would get hurt or maybe hurt someone. I could no longer keep him safe. After a year and half I had to accept residential as getting help was a really big struggle. My lad is 15 now and has been in a residential school for 3 months now. It is far from where I live and I go to see him for a weekend every month which I feel is not enough but I also feel that I would not be helping if I saw him more and it is also distance and financial problems that come into it. The staff at the school are great and he is getting on very well and they are getting him off the medication that he was on that totally zoned him out. I phone him every day and sometimes he asks to come home and a lot of the time he tells me that he has to go as he is helping woth dinner or cpoking some cakes or biscuits with staff. The hardest thing is to give the care of your child to others and to let go. When I leave it is like my heart hurts so much and the guilt is almost too much. I just want to take him home. But the simple fact is I can not manage him at home and as a social worker said to me. It is not about how I feel it is abouy my son and getting the right help for him. And they were right. I do not know if the guilt and feeling of failure will ever go away but I feel I have made the right choice for my son. But it is so so hard.

Anonymous said...

Hey Danna Banana if you want to see lazy look in the mirror. You dump your boys in residential in CA and then you move to Ohio to have your own life. You're a real creep. I'd also love to know who is paying their bill? A school district? One you don't reside in any more? You're a self absorbed little creature.