My youngest child, Wyatt, was born in the car on the way to the Ireland Army Community Hospital in Fort Knox, Kentucky. He has been on the move ever since! You read that right, in the moving car, delivered by yours truly, as my husband begged the guards to let us through the gate without showing our IDs. Meanwhile, my three-year-old son, Colton, sat terrified in the backseat behind me.
At first, I thought Wyatt’s birth would be the toughest challenge we would face. However, speech delays, ADHD concerns and navigating special education turned out to be much more complicated.
Navigating Speech Concerns
Initially, when we were stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Colton’s private speech therapist noticed that Wyatt wasn’t talking as much as his peers. Therefore, special education services were recommended for speech and language. But after moving back to Fort Knox, Kentucky, we forgot all about it.
First Experience in Special Education
When Wyatt attended preschool at a private Montessori school near Fort Knox, his teacher expressed concern about his limited use of expressive language via verbal communication. Hence, she recommended we enroll him in the local school’s public education to have him screened.
The Dial-44 revealed that Wyatt did have a speech and language delay. Consequently, he was placed on a 504 plan and began receiving speech therapy services twice a week at his new school. As a former educator and school counselor, I have experience creating 504 plans, but navigating special education as a parent was a whole new challenge.
Addressing Attention Issues
Fast forward to Wyatt’s second-grade school year in North Carolina, near Fort Bragg, where my husband is currently stationed. Another call…Another concern…Conference scheduled. I arrived at the conference mid-school year alone, wishing my husband could be there. The teacher greeted me and told me how well-behaved Wyatt was and such a joy to have in class. Then the dam broke.
“Mrs. Brinsko, Wyatt has trouble focusing for long periods of time in class, even when he is in small groups. I highly advise you to speak to his pediatrician. I’d be happy to provide any input I can.” I could hardly believe it. He was on a 504 plan for speech and I felt like I had to move mountains to put that in place In North Carolina after moving from Kentucky. How could we be facing something else?
Navigating an Initial ADHD Diagnosis
After receiving the teacher’s concerns, I consulted Wyatt’s pediatrician, who distributed the NICHQ Vanderbilt Assessment Scale to his teacher and us. This assessment is used by neuropsychologists to help identify traits and behaviors commonly associated with ADHD. I found myself answering “Very Often” to questions like:
Does not pay attention to details or makes certain mistakes, with, for example, homework
Is “on the go” and often acts as if “driven by a motor”
Blames self for problems, feels guilty
Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
Leaves seat when remaining seated is expected
The doctor subsequently diagnosed Wyatt with ADHD. The teacher and I agreed to hold off on forming an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and to wait and see if his new diagnosis impacted his grades. Looking back, I would have advocated for the development of an IEP immediately. Sure, his grades were okay at the time, but they didn’t stay that way.
After the 90 Days: Eligibility & Special Education Services
The team rolled Wyatt’s speech 504 plan into the IEP, and they arranged for him to see a resource teacher four times a week in addition to receiving speech services.
Navigating Special Education Together
I am an introvert and have been quietly navigating special education alone. In fact, I have battled this alone for years, but I am learning that I’m not the only one. It’s easier when you are connected to other military families who have been in my shoes, are walking in my shoes or need support taking the first steps in this journey. I am with you in this journey, wherever you may be.
About the Author
Carly Brinsko is a military spouse of over 16 years. She and her husband share two children, Colton and Wyatt. They currently reside near Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Carly’s favorite duty station is Fort Knox, Kentucky. She loves the small-town feel and southern hospitality. Carly graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education in 2006. While her husband was deployed from 2007-2009, Carly pursued her Master’s Degree in School Counseling. She graduated with honors just a few short months after her husband returned stateside. As a former educator and school counselor, Carly understands the challenges of navigating special education. She homeschooled her children during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequently, a PCS move. Currently, Carly works in Quality Assurance & Compliance with an educational software company.