Disability Rights Blog
Apr 03

Zach’s Story with Disability Rights SD

Zach’s journey started at a very young age as he began to find his place in this world. This can be easier for some than what it is for others. Zach has always been a strong-willed and brilliant child—the kind of child that when he smiles, one can’t help but smile too. Zach loves to wrestle, scooter, fish, hunt and has an endless love for Reptiles and his loving Golden Retriever, Coda. He also has a love for his sister like no other. His sister has been hospitalized several times in her life and this has made Zachary very strong, but also made us realize during our journey that we expected him to be strong and never told him it was okay to break down and just be a child, so he went on being strong on the outside. He was hurting beyond words on the inside. His dad was working seven days a week and I was also working a lot of hours just trying to make ends meet.

Don’t give up the fight, stand up for your rights. -Bob Marley

When Zach started middle school, life quickly became unmanageable and so incredibly painful. The teachers were great, but could not fill the part of Zach that was missing. School needed to be safe for him because home was functional, but stressful. Home was loving, but exhausting. Home was soon much safer than school. Zach has a Sensory Disorder and Anxiety and soon, we saw the power of depression creep in. Zach has always needed some extra help and guidance in school, but as the days went on, his person was more and more depleted. I remember the day clearly when we were riding in the car and Zach told me he was being bullied. This is why Zach wants to share his story. Our journey started long before this, but this truly was when the storm inside Zach became so severe that we could not keep him safe. The halls at school were loud, transitions were painful, and his perception of things brought him to a place where he did not want to live anymore. Zach would do his best to hold it together at school, and then break at home. Then, his days at school were harder and harder.

One night, Zach became so upset that he was hurting himself. His dad and I took turns holding him while the other tried to keep his sister in the other room. This went on for two hours before we called the police. I remember Zach saying to the officer, “I do not want to hurt anybody. I just want you to use your gun and kill me.” My heart broke into a million pieces. What have I done to fail my child? That night was one of three admits to the hospital because we could not keep him safe. We had no idea where to go from there. I would lay in Zach’s bed at night and cry and his dad would spend countless hours with his Zach’s reptiles as if caring for them would make Zach better. We watched Zach cry for us as we said good-bye day after day. This truly brought us to our knees.

I called to see if I could get some help from South Dakota Advocacy Services. We needed this so we could understand our rights as parents and know the options for our son. He was still wanting to hurt himself. South Dakota Advocacy Services moved VERY quickly and we were truly taken back by the kindness. We then had another person to support us during the meetings with the school and the hospital. She helped us to focus, to think of questions to ask and we could tell that she truly cared for Zach and our family.

Zachary ended up being gone for 119 days. Everyday hurt. Every single day felt empty. We told his sister he would be home by summer and every single day, she asked if it was summer yet. Every Sunday, we drove to see Zach and every Sunday, we drove home without him. Every night, we ate dinner without our 12 year old son. Every day, his dog waited for the school bus and every day, Zach did not get off the bus. Every single day, we held onto hope and knew as parents, we were doing what had to be done.

One year later, Zachary smiles a true smile. His dad went back to only working five days a week regardless of the financial consequences. Zach needs us more. He enjoys wrestling, volunteering, and hanging out with his friends. Zach still goes to counseling and has a great relationship with his counselor. Sometimes, times are still hard but they do not even compare to where we were. Zach goes to a school where the environment fits his needs and he does not feel as stressed. Zach is confident in himself. He now truly knows that he has every reason to be proud of himself. While things are not perfect, they sure feel possible. South Dakota Advocacy Services helped us during a time in our lives where we felt helpless. We will forever be thankful for their loving support as well as all involved who have not and never will give up on Zach’s success.

“If you fall behind, run faster. Never give up, never surrender, and rise up against the odds.”

-Jesse Jackson

Written by:

Daisy Johnston, just a momma dancing in the rain