He’s Got a Golden Ticket


“Cause I’ve got a golden ticket

Our perfect baby

I’ve got a golden ticket
I’ve got a golden chance to make my way
And with a golden ticket, it’s a golden day.”
—I’ve Got a Golden Ticket lyrics © Taradam Music, Inc

Can’t you just see Charlie skipping down the street and singing this wonderful tune? He got the golden ticket. He can have anything he wants now.

What you may not know is that apparently, kids with special needs have won golden tickets too.

I mean, I didn’t know this…until today.

I belong to a Facebook group for special educators. It’s a fantastic group. People ask questions regarding strategies, curriculums, IEP’s, how to handle tricky situations, etc. People chime in and help when they can. It’s been a great support to me this year. I like it because it never really gets contentious and people are extremely respectful.

Until today…

A special educator posted because she was getting pushback from parents who were upset that she (the teacher) was failing their son who is in Kindergarten. The teacher explained that the boy doesn’t know his letters or recognize his name as well as some other things, which thereby means he should fail Kindergarten. She thinks it’s only fair to fail the boy as he is, after all, failing Kindergarten standards. She then said, “We all know that he has the ‘golden ticket’ to graduate anyway.”

I write back, “I’m confused. Are you saying that because this boy has special needs, he has a golden ticket?”

“Yes, everyone in our district knows these kids have a golden ticket for graduation.”

Me: “To clarify, you mean kids with special needs?”



Okay, there are so many things wrong with this sentiment. It’s hard to explain it all, but I want to try. Students with disabilities in America are entitled to the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). This means that they should be in a setting where they can access the curriculum with the least amount of support they actually need.

So it sounds to me like this boy has a documented special need, and he is going to fail Kindergarten because he is not placed in the proper setting. From her description, he has a developmental delay. So, that means his development is delayed. So if he isn’t reading his name or recognizing letters, it makes sense, because he is not developmentally ready. Think about a 2 or 3 year old. Most of them are not doing these things either. It’s okay because their brains are not developmentally there yet.

Let’s say you were in an accident and were in a coma for two years. You came out and were placed in the grade level as your same-aged peers. But, you missed two whole years of education. You wouldn’t be able to function at grade level. Should you fail, or should you be provided with instruction to help you fill the gaps?

Anyway, this boy needs a different placement…one where he can work on the areas he needs to work on without the fear of failure. He needs an IEP tailored to his specific needs. He shouldn’t be in a KIndergarten classroom full-time with the expectations that he learns exactly what his peers are learning.

I asked this person, “Do you just keep retaining the boy until he can recognize his letters?”

Still working on his name at age 18.

She responds: “He should fail Kindergarten.”

Braden still does not know his letters.

Braden does not know his numbers.

He can’t identify his name.

He’s 18 years old.

Apparently, he should never have made it past Kindergarten.

Now let’s explore the “Golden Ticket” theory.

Imagine this scenario. You are a parent. You have a beautiful baby. That baby is perfect in every way. Then you notice that he is not developing like his sister. He is not speaking; he is not communicating, he is not pointing or interacting with you. You go to the doctor. She tells you your son has autism…severe autism.

So you….CELEBRATE!!!! Pop the champagne. Hallelujah, this is awesome. My son has just won a Golden Ticket for graduation. Hot damn. I never win anything, and I just got the biggest prize of them all.

I’d like to challenge anyone who feels this way to spend one day…heck, one hour in the shoes of a parent or a child living with a special need.

Is it golden when:

  1. Your child can’t communicate so screams, tantrums, and pulls your hair in front of a group of strangers?
  2. Your child melts down in a grocery store, and the clerk tells you that your child is spoiled?
  3. Your child opens up a window on the second floor and throws out all of his sibling’s awards and trophies and smashes them to bits?
  4. Your child throws two computers and three iPads out a window?
  5. Your child is so sad, but can’t communicate why, so just sits and cries for days?
  6. Your child learns some letters one day, and an hour later, cannot remember them, points to his head and says, “I not know.”?
  7. You still have to clean up after your adult child when he uses the bathroom?
  8. You haven’t slept in weeks because your child has a sleep disorder that keeps him up all night long?
  9. Your child has never had even one friend?
  10. You stop getting invited out because people are uncomfortable around your child?

I can answer. It’s not so golden.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my son. I love our life. I just ask that you not minimize the long road families with special needs must go through. We do it out of love…most do it with little complaint…but when we hear people tell us that somehow our kids have it easy…

Because they get to graduate even though they don’t know their ABC’s? Truly absurd.

Our kids with special needs have to work 100 times harder to learn the same thing typically developing children learn easily. Nothing comes easy for them or their parents.

Rather than worry about this child taking the easy route to high school graduation, my vote is to worry about how we can help him and his family get everything he needs now to learn and to grow and to be happy… now… at age five. Help his family understand that learning will take him longer than his peers. Teach him what he needs to learn. Maybe he will never learn his letters or sounds. But he can still learn to read. Teach him to brush his teeth, walk safely across a busy intersection, how to stay quiet in a library or a movie theater. He can learn. He may need to learn different things than his peers.

Teach him. Don’t fail him.

Our kids may be able to graduate from high school without knowing the things their peers know. But does that mean they can live on their own someday? Can they get a job? Will they have a family?

I do believe that life is golden…but all our paths and journeys are different. May we all learn to respect each other and understand that when we pick up our tickets to start our big trip, we don’t know which we will get. So may we care for those who may have to stop more places to get to their ultimate destination and never assume they somehow got off easy because they got a ticket that they didn’t even get to choose.

Thanks for letting me go off the rails a bit.

Does anyone else feel like buying a candy bar and hopping on Amtrak?

About loriboll

2 thoughts on “He’s Got a Golden Ticket

  1. So well written. I laughed at the “Hot Damn”, I cried reading through the 1 to 10. The last four weeks have been different for me as I have fostered a boy with ASD. I have a lot to learn, a lot more things to be broken, a lot more ducking to do. Thankfully he doesn’t appear to have an issue with curtains but when I wake up in the morning I have to tread carefully as the household furniture moves during the night. Your positive outlook is amazing, I will be following your blogs. Thanks for sharing

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    1. Thanks for reading. We know all about furniture miraculously moving in the night! haha. Enjoy the ride, and don’t hesitate to reach out through Jean with any questions. I’m happy to help if I can.

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