I remember the first time the yellow bus picked up my sister for her school at Clearbrook. Instead of walking to elementary school with me, she was going to this special education school in Rolling Meadows, a half hour from our house. She looked like a little doll as she stepped up and got on the bus filled with other children with learning disabilities. For her, she didn’t know any better, but for me I was devastated to see her carted off to a special Ed school.
She was four years old and I was nine at the time. Lisa was my only sibling and I felt like I had lost her. I was on my own at school as she was at hers. Clearbrook was one of the best places for children with learning disabilities at the time and we felt fortunate to get her into the program.
We were hopeful that she would outgrow her disabilities and at some point be able to attend public schools. Her inability to form sentences made it impossible to know what she was feeling. Was she frightened to be sent away on a bus with others like her? Or was this a comfort for her to be with others that she didn’t have to compete with?
As the yellow bus left, I noticed our neighbors peeking out their window witnessing this event, wondering what was wrong. They had no idea what Clearbrook was and the extent of my sisters disabilities. None of did and all my parents could do was try to get her the best care and education they could to give her a fighting chance at having an independent life. It was the beginning of a long journey for her and my family and would forever change our lives.
We were forced to separate on our individual paths. My mother was left with the pain of having a handicapped daughter, my father had the responsibility of making sure he made enough money to take care of his special needs daughter and I just felt sorry for the handicapped children I saw in the bus. I wanted to hold Lisa and save her from her new life and the stigma of being handicapped. I just felt so bad and had no one to talk to about it. I had to be strong for my family.
We all needed to talk about our pain and sense of loss, but no one said a word. We just coped. We needed a family therapist to help us all through the process to attempt to understand what we were feeling and how to deal with our emotions.
I highly recommend that a family with a handicapped child begin therapy early when it counts the most. Don’t wait and just hope things will get better, without someone who is trained to put things into prospective and help you work through your feelings.