The Boy They Called “Different”

He was so excited to start school, just like his big sister. Filled with energy and excitement, Joey got ready for school. Like every other kid, he layed out the clothes the night before. His G.I. Joe t-shirt and some blue jeans, his new shoes, and his backpack- filled with crayons, paper, scissors, and kleenex were all ready to go.

Joey was ready for school. He was a kid, like any other, always filled with excitement to learn new things, to play on the playground, meet new kids, have fun, laugh, and do things kids do. The only difference was, Joey’s motor was always running. It seemed as though he didn’t always want to sit down. He didn’t always seem to be listening to quiet time, to what the teacher was saying, or following instructions.

The school didn’t quite know what to do with him, because he was always wanting to move around, always asking questions, and didn’t quite understand why everyone just had to sit quietly and stare. So he would get up sometimes and move to the play area. The teachers would get frustrated. They would yell, they would send him to the office, and they would send him home.

This became a patter for Joey. Suddenly, the kid who was always excited, always asking questions, wondering how things worked, trying to find answers to everything, and coming up with creative ideas for future tools, hated school. He was sick of being yelled at for asking a question when it wasn’t the right “time”. Sick of being sent to the principal’s office. Sick of being at school. So he started getting “in trouble” on purpose because he knew he could go home.

You see, Joey was much smarter than they gave him credit for. Little did they know, Joey would come home and tell his parents everything he learned today in class. From science to math and what he played in gym class. So while the teachers thought he was NOT listening, they didn’t understand that Joey learned a bit differently. At his own pace.

Yet, the daily struggle in school continued. This led to them placing Joey in “special ed”. At this school, what this meant was he was to be placed in a separate classroom away from the “normal kids”.

Joey was miserable. “Why am I so “different” from the other kids?”, he would ask his dad.

“You’re not different, Joey. You just learn differently, and that is ok!”, said dad.

“But they put me in a “special” classroom, with the kids with down-syndrome, and the kid that bangs his head on the desk the whole time. Why can’t I be in the room with Eric and them? My friends.”

Tired of being “different”, Joey began to become more defiant. He HATED school. He no longer had any desire to learn. No desire to ask questions, because he always got in trouble for it. He was the kid who was “different”.

As you could imagine, this continued through grade school, then high school, and eventually put him behind the rest of the students his age. He would get sent out of classes, couldn’t go on field trips. He couldn’t stay in school. Was suspended constantly for being ”disruptive”. He felt hopeless. He couldn’t play sports because the school doesn’t let kids who are missing credits play. He didn’t build relationships with many people.

“I am different.”, he would say. “They won’t let me play. They won’t let me go on field trips. They won’t let me do the fun things in school.”

He hated school. Throughout his school life, he never experienced the “fun” elements of learning, classrooms, playgrounds, field trips. He learned mostly at home from his parents and online.

Then, one day in high school, he met Ms. Erikson. He was sent to her office. Like every other time. He was ready to be sent home…. So he thought.

“I’m not sending you home Joey. I’m looking at your history and it seems like people just wanted to send you home because that was the easiest way to do things.” She said. So instead, you’re going to finish the day with me in my office, and we’re going to work on some of your homework and missing assignments.

Caught off-guard, Joey reluctantly said, “OK”. Ms. Erikson called his dad and told him. He was also caught off-guard, as that had never happened. She told him that she wanted to help him, and see where they can get his credits up. Sometimes it is hard for kids to ”get it” and even harder to hear it when it is coming from those closest to them.

You see, it turns out Joey wasn’t so different after all. Ms. Erikson said, “This happened to my son, and I don’t want to see it happen to you. I believe you will finish high school and be a great person as an adult. We just need to help you believe”.

As time went by, Joey continued to progress. Daily visits with Ms. E became less frequent, if only to check up on him and say hi. He went on his FIRST field trip as a Junior in high school. He was able to play high school basketball. He was for the first time, feeling “normal”. He was finally able to enjoy school. Which is all he EVER wanted to do.

Joey went on to graduate high school on time. All because someone took the time to show him he was never so different after all.

Sometimes in life, all it takes is for someone to believe. Someone to show you that you are not so different, and for someone to take the time to just treat you like a human being. 

This is for all the kids that are told they are “different” every day. The kids that lose hope. The kids that want to give up… and for those that don’t let them.