Journey to Safety
The year my son was in the third grade, I didn’t eat. I never left my phone, even to take a shower. Jake, who has autism, was scared to go to school and totally unhinged once he got there—running in circles, biting his hand, melting down. Desks would fly if one thing went wrong. He would return home from school exhausted, with fingernails chewed to the quick and tear-stained cheeks. It was torture seeing him so miserable. Jake was so overwhelmed, I honestly don’t know how I was able to keep my sanity and our family together.
The last straw in the public school system was when Jake broke a window with his bare hands, sending him to the hospital in an ambulance. My husband, Chris, and I raced to meet him as soon as we got the call from his school. I had no idea what to expect as that ambulance pulled up with lights flashing. I could feel my heart beating in my temples and sweat pouring down my face. Jake’s teacher, whom we adore, met me at the door with the school psychologist. I was instructed to not react when I saw Jake because that would give him too much feedback and attention. As I saw the stretcher, the tears came. I had to turn my back on my baby so he wouldn’t see me crying.
This was our breaking point. We needed a new school for Jake and we needed it now.
After all our other options were exhausted, we waited in agony to hear back from Kennedy Krieger Schools. It was our only hope. The day before spring break, my stomach had grown a giant ulcer, my lip huge cold sores—we still had not heard from any school that would accept Jake.
At 4 p.m. that last day before break, my phone rang. “Mrs. Lynn, I’m calling to tell you that Jake has been accepted into our program at Kennedy Krieger.” I burst into tears, and Chris and Jake started to dance around the driveway. For the first time in three years, there was hope.
I haven’t written about this experience before and tears are rolling down my face again as I type. I can feel my heart beating and that exact feeling of relief that our son would be saved. Since being enrolled in school at Kennedy Krieger, Jake has stabilized. He has gone up an entire grade level. He has earned 98 percent of his behavior points and is flourishing. No aggressions. No self-injury. Our son is learning tolerance along with social skills, patience, self-regulation, and coping strategies, as well as basic manners and life skills. We adore the staff at the school. Everyone from the headmaster to the friends that keep the school clean for our kids puts more than 100 percent into every encounter with the students. Kennedy Krieger has renewed our hope.