On Special Needs

PaulNasso1Raising sons—or daughters, for that matter, is not for the fainthearted. I raised two strong sons. There were trials, and I found myself walking through burning embers of emotion more than once. My sons are plagued with learning disabilities as am I and as their father was. This is my oldest son’s journey through what I will call socially-acceptable learning and his young life.

He spent his formative years watching his father die.  He lashed out and broke toys, windows or anything else that fell into the way of his fists.  He had reached eight by the time he started pouring out his soul on paper, drawing facial portraits of family members in pencil: things of beauty meant to hang in wooden frames on parlor walls.  He had reached nine when he traded the delicate shadings depicting noses for deep hollows around bold eyes screaming from naked skulls carved from clay.
He spent seven years in public schools being knocked about for his angry ways that were nestled in frustration, and seven more bathed in the caring arms of an academy built by a man who knew all children were not created to fulfill teachers’ daydreams.
He spent his spare time learning to explode things: bushes, clumps of grass and watched funnels of ocean leap up to escape M80s; only to fan out and return to the surface.  He stopped on the day he managed to put together real blasting powder from common items and nearly blew two hands off one his, the other belonging to his best friend.  He felt his anger start to fade.
He looked into colleges and found one far away from the source of his trouble: his home and family.  He roomed with a young man who was to become a nuclear physicist, and spent two hours to his roomie’s half hour on homework a fraction as hard.  He pondered the irony of the dinners of honor created for those who walked through learning as he sat as his desk hunkered over books beyond his comprehension.  He wondered where the honor would lie for him if at all.
He gave up and put his books to rest, deciding to excel in the frat houses.  He got an “A” in funneling that year and poured the most and the best of brews down his gullet until his family came and brought him back to the place he least wanted to be.
He spent nine months in his room until his mother pushed him out the door to Salem State; and another six weeks in summer school, living on campus in Peabody Hall, pouring over his books, becoming Student of the Summer: a distinguished member of the group.  He found his smile.
He moved to Bates Complex in the fall; and the supports that gave him what he needed most ripped away, tearing with it the healing that had been accomplished that summer.
On October 2nd, 1996 my son moved home, raw and unforgiving, resolving never to step foot in a house of education again.

Copyright 2005 Joyce Bowen

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