Teachers, principals, assistant principals, bus drivers, teacher’s aids, librarians, office staff, special education directors, school psychologists, OT’s and guidance counselors, I’ve had conversations with ALL of them.
I’ve discussed the good, the bad, the success stories, and the major failures.
I’ve requested, directed, strategized, and begged, apologized, thanked, praised and collaborated.
Team meetings, conferences, informal conversations, evaluations, I’ve participated in all of them over the last seven years and managed to maintain my composure and gratitude for those that help my son on a daily basis.
Not all of these conversations are easy, in fact, most of them are downright painful. It’s rare that you get a phone call or an e mail just to randomly tell you how wonderful your child is doing. After a few years, I finally began to request that before launching into what’s wrong, we take a minute or two to discuss what’s right.
Most of the time I welcome these conversations, it means they have taken the time out of their day to discuss my son’s education, health, and well-being. I am thankful that they care enough to do this, going the extra mile for my little guy is not in the job description. However, I have also heard some doozies over the years, utterances that have made my blood boil, my teeth grind, my eyes tear, and my brain scream…
… and, in some cases, literally cursing the messenger:
Is he on medication? First of all, giving a child medication is a personal, family decision. Whether he is or is not medicated should have no bearing on the level of care you provide for him. With that being said, he actually takes a booster dose WHILE AT SCHOOL. If you are a member of the team that provides bi-weekly services to my child, you should be familiar with every aspect of his plan. As one friend said, “that’s just sloppy work.”
Oh, he is on medication, well, are you sure you give it to him every day, because some days it seems like he’s not on anything? Are you joking? Yes, I can see how, on rare occasions, one might forget to medicate their child. But I think the bigger question here is, have you ever worked with a child with ADHD? Medication is not a magic pill, while it helps significantly, it is NOT a cure all. The only thing consistent about ADHD is inconsistency. So yeah, some days, for no rhyme or reason, it might appear as though he is unmedicated.
Have you tried outside therapies? Now I know you must be joking! Like every parent I know who has a child with special needs (or any extra medical challenges), I have done everything emotionally, physically, and financially in my power to help my child. I often find that the school toss out unsolicited suggestions on how to help a child without considering the ramifications to the family. Most often, extra therapies are not covered by insurance and families have to pay out of pocket. I understand your limits as a school, I see that you are attempting to try your hardest, please assume that I am doing the same.
But he’s so brilliant! I hear this one often, and while it might seem like a compliment, it really only serves to aggravate the situation more. I know he’s brilliant, I also know that what he has achieved academically does not reflect just how smart he is. I see that he works his ass off every day, thrice as hard as most of the other kids to only get half as far. I take no solace in the fact that you think he’s intelligent, as he’s clearly not thriving, but just surviving.
I don’t have any power over the IEP team! I believe I actually used the word “bullshit” when I heard this one. As a member of the team, be it a teacher, OT, school psychologist, or SLP, your words and recommendations matter. As a parent, all we can do is gather the information from our team and go forth to present our best arguments when requesting services for our child. The information you provide regarding his or her performance is power.
He has the potential, I’ve seen him do it. Yes, but he isn’t really doing it. Much like its previously stated cousin, “He’s so brilliant!” this statement doesn’t allay my fears, it only serves to enflame them. He does have the potential, and in four years of being at your school, you still haven’t figured out how to maximize that potential. When do we stop trying to fit my round peg into your square hole?
PLUS, when this statement is made at a team meeting, it serves as evidence that what they are doing IS enough, they have “seen him do it!” Instead of serving to open a discussion on ways to truly amplify his capabilities, it actually shuts the door permanently in my face.
All kids develop at a different rate. So true! But when the tests that you’re giving demonstrate that his development is significantly behind his aged matched peers, this condescending statement does not serve to alleviate my worry.
PLUS, when this statement is made at a team meeting, it often signals that they are about to shut down any special service request and use this statement as the reason, which is, simply put, shitty.
We’re just biding time. Wait, what the what? No, I want my kid to start thriving yesterday! How long do we wait, how many different strategies do we try before we finally do what’s in his best interest? He’s a little boy, not a science experiment. What we do now, how permanent, lifelong, consequences.
Your words matter. I am the primary care giver, the primary worrier, the mother of a child with special needs, the way in which I am approached about my child is key to my mental health. In the end, you have my child on your caseload for a few years, I have to wage the war forever. Choose your words and your delivery kindly, because most of us mamas have a good fight within and we won’t tolerate anything but the best for our children.