I can’t take much credit for Roscoe's goodness--clearly it just comes from his inside out--and I've done plenty of things wrong. But as I look back there are a few things I'm grateful I did right to give his awesomeness time and room to grow:
- I never let Roscoe get pinned with a diagnosis. Multiple teachers and school psychologists suggested Asperger’s Syndrome. A diagnosis can be a blessing for some kids, but I knew it wasn’t right for him. In his case, a diagnosis would have made his teachers more comfortable, but it wouldn’t have helped him.
- I understood Roscoe. I knew and loved him enough to see that behind the sometimes immature behavior, there was a late-blooming genius. I wasn’t scared of him or frustrated by him. I knew he’d read, I knew he’d grow, and I lobbied for him and advocated for him until it happened.
- I listened to my mom’s advice about meetings with school staff. “They’re professional educators,” she told me, “But you’re a professional mom.” I refused to let myself feel cowed by teachers, principals, resource teachers, or anyone else I felt was off track on how to best help Roscoe. I refused their suggestions and argued with their assumptions as needed. I listened, of course, but ultimately it was my job to figure out what Roscoe needed and then make sure he got it.
- I pushed him in middle school. Even though Roscoe was still a bit behind the developmental curve, I enrolled him in an accelerated magnet program for middle school. This did a few things: It took him out of the feral pack of a regular middle school and put him in a smaller group of over-achieving kids. A group that largely opted out of the lame, scary stuff that kids do in middle school. It also stretched him to a higher academic level in seventh and eighth grades—when grades don’t really count. By the time he started ninth grade—when every grade has bearing in college options—he had made the adjustment, caught up, and was ready to succeed in AP and IB classes that’ll open doors for him.