Matt & Justin Singer

Naples, Collier, Florida

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When mom is in denial and the schools won’t help


I have spent the last 5-6 years fighting a battle myself of behalf of my son Justin. His mother and I are divorced.  It was obvious by the time he was in 5th grade he was different.  Justin is now a sophomore in High School and is finally getting some of the help he needs. 

In early elementary school, Justin was initially diagnosed with ADHD.  Although he wasn’t disruptive, he had trouble focusing.  He was prescribed a drug called Focolin.  As he got older, it became more and more apparent that Justin had difficulty relating to his peers.  He had significant difficulties understanding non-verbal cues and often took things very literally.  He became very isolated.  The school tested him again but we didn’t get much support.

In the late Spring of 8th grade, Justin started having anxiety attacks and didn’t know what it was.  After I explained it to him he felt better knowing I knew what he was going through.  He began to call me all of the time when he was at his mother’s house.  Also at this time his mother and her family were saying things like he was crazy and his father was putting ideas in his head.  Justin decided to try to run away but he was found walking to house.  He began to despise his mother.  Unfortunately I had 3 attorneys tell me I couldn’t get full custody or even more custody than I had. Justin was now prescribed Lexapro.

The School tested him again but it was incomplete and although signs pointed to his having ASD level 1 or Aspergers Syndrome and processing disabilities, they said his grades were too high to help him.  They turned down the request for a 504 plan.  The work, due to his slow processing, created greater anxiety for him.  Finally, Justin’s counselor recommended he get tested from the Dan Marino Center for Autism.  The cost of this testing was substantial and his mother wouldn’t give anything toward the test and called it “stupid”.  I had to borrow money from my family but he was finally correctly diagnosed with ASD level 1.  We applied to overturn the schools decision and finally got him on a 504 plan to start 10th grade.

The Collier County schools didn’t want to deal with his entire issue which included his social awkwardness as well as his inability to finish many assignments and only cared that he managed to put up decent grades.  His mother fought me every step of the way, from testing to prescriptions to counseling.  She thought yelling at him and tough love was the way to “straighten” him out.  She never understood that he processes things differently and much more slowly so she would scold him, ask him “What’s wrong with you” and even mock him.

I love Justin more than anything in the world and will help and protect him from anyone or anything.  What made this so difficult was that legally his mother had rights and the courts don’t like to interfere with parenting plans once they are established.  I fought and fought and persevered.  Now hopefully I can get the help and funding needed to get him into and through college with special programs.  Justin loves technology and programming and that will likely be the field he will look to get into.  He is a sweet, fantastic kid with a great sense of humor.  I wish everybody could see that.