I may miss things. Things that I thought were important. Brace yourself. This is a LONG one. Go potty and grab yourself something to drink. If I knew how to tag my posts – the tags would be Aspergers – Special Education – Dyslexia – Dysgraphia – and Reducing Barriers to Education. Mmm. Yeah. Let’s throw in Recovering Mom – because – honestly – this is another one of those moments where I just have to say to myself, “Self – it’s not all about you – in fact – very little is about you.” Smiling.
Case in point – the prompt for this post – I am missing my 30th reunion. I was to fly out one week from tomorrow. I was taking the time and going alone. I bought a ticket in June. I was going to be able to see two friends who have cancer while I was there and meet up with one of my coaching clients face to face. I was going to stay a night with my Dad and brother and go to the Homecoming game. I was going to swim – extend the summer by 4 days – and relax. I bought a ticket for the main event on Saturday night. I was going to get to hug all of these people that I am on social media with but haven’t seen in 30 years. This was to be my first reunion EVER. Crap. Just a couple tears. Been there. Done that. Deep sigh. It is what it is. This is IT and That is That. I’m where I am supposed to be.
Thing is – I found out just recently that E’s High School Open House falls on the night I was to fly out. I’ve been trying to figure out a way that I could feel comfortable leaving – and I just can’t. There is no way around it. I will stay home. Yeah. That decision making process sucked. I’m getting over the sadness but the disappointment lingers. There is also a bit of anger. Anger that the system or process within the school was so awful the last three years that I feel I can’t miss my kid’s Open House for a fear of loss of information. It’s hard to get a meeting with the SpEd teachers. Really hard. So I feel my only way to get information is to show up on nights they are giving out the info so that I can form my questions carefully for when I do get in for the meeting. This is maddening. The game. And that is what it is – a maddening game.
I am getting better at the game all the time. I was played the last three years. Hoop. Hoop. Hoop. Now I know the hoops, and I am on the fast track. This hoop-jumping bullshit – well – that will be done within 3 weeks. Through past experience and incredible synchronicities, I know where I need to be and when. Thing is – if I (and the coalition that is forming) win THIS game – the PRIZE is kids having a better chance at a successful future after high school. I am one of the only people who sees what could go down beyond high school if our kids don’t get the support they need. That’s because I‘ve seen it firsthand.
What could (and does) happen is crippling depression. What could (and does) happen is addiction and suicide and adults who never move out of their parents’ homes – or return home in their 20’s, 30’s or 40’s because they can’t make it in the outside world. If they don’t have parents to go home to – they could end up on the street. This is not just about graduating high school. It’s not about JUST getting a high school diploma. Because we know – for decades – kids with dyslexia and dysgraphia have been graduated from high school and sent out into the world thinking they had what it takes to be successful. It’s a lie, and it is cruel. Again – firsthand – I have seen the fallout.
The population of kids that I am talking about does not have severe cognitive deficits. These kids are whip-smart, creative and funny. They are on the autistic spectrum. They have attended social skills classes once or twice a week for the last 5 years for their spectrum behaviors. My boy has been through extensive therapy outside of school. He has come SO far. I was told this past summer – by a tutor – that there was no resistance to learning – that behaviors are not getting in his way right now – that at this point it is all about his dyslexia/dysgraphia. THAT is his hold up – and there are tools for that. E helped get the school a sizable sum of money for the tech budget by standing before the board (his shy Aspie self) and explaining how much Dragon Naturally Speaking had changed the way he saw and functioned in school. He said he finally saw himself as a writer. Tear-jerking moment. As a little guy who could barely read – it took him – and his teacher – a long time to get that Dragon trained. They stuck with it because they could both see the pay-off. E and the teacher thought and We (his parents) were told – and we could see – that it was all worth it, because that tool would move with him – that that was HIS to keep using. It didn’t happen that way. It was taken away before he ever entered the middle school. He didn’t stand a chance.
These kids have gifts. They need be honed. It’s all about decreasing barriers to education and teaching our kids how to use their gifts to be functioning/contributing members of society. There is speech-to-text and text-to-speech. There is Dragon Naturally Speaking and apps galore. There are smart white boards in classrooms that let kids move and see things big and be hands-on. There are Word Shapes that help with syntax. Notes can be copied off of the teachers’ Power Points instead of students having to put all that energy into trying to make their hands write.
We have a new high school that is filled with the tools that could be – and I’m hoping will be – used. They were available at his Middle School. Why the resistance to using them? And remember – I’m not talking Gen Ed. Why the resistance? The SpEd teacher didn’t want to use them so she just – didn’t. That is where it all falls apart. She’s been doing this awhile, and she is unwilling to change it up. Those above her support her. It seems as though everyone is refusing to look at how one senior teacher’s stubbornness – to keep things the same – is actually destructive to future lives.
Really – this is about empowering our teachers in growth – and not accepting stagnation. What they are doing isn’t working. E’s writing skills did not improve – in any significant way – in the 3 years he was there even though he was on the fast track of improvement as he exited elementary. Dragon was helping him skyrocket. This is about expecting the teacher to do the right thing with this at-risk population. I get the resistance – to a certain extent – but not to this extent. Money comes with these kids’ diagnoses. Use it for ALL the kids. Get and use the right tools. The tools – once implemented – will make the teachers lives easier and their students’ futures more promising – but only if they are willing to move forward. There really shouldn’t be an option. Should there? This comes down to a couple of people not wanting to change – so they just say – flat out, “We don’t do that,” even though it’s on the IEP. One person saying, “It’s just Middle School. He’ll be fine.”
So – yeah – I’m watching like a hawk. I got AMAZING response from two of his GenEd teachers just today (one next-day, one same-day). They were thankful that I reached out – and totally want to work with E. I am so used to being ignored by the SpEd teachers that this shocked me – just like when his Science teacher and Healthy Living teacher wanted to work with him in his 8th grade year. It shocked me. How is it that THEY are so willing to communicate and accommodate and SpEd just would not. Where do I stand with SpEd right now? I sent an email August 31 – saying that I wanted to meet in the first week of school to make sure supports are in place. It’s been over two weeks – no response. Zero. Zilch.
How am I supposed to feel comfortable getting on a plane next week? Can not. Just can’t. I’m grieving it. Just a little now. I’m past the shock, though. I know what I need to do, and I am feeling good about it. I think I am actually starting to just be okay with my role right now. We are in transition. I am needed here. I’ve come to a place where I just know that this is what I do. This is what I am here for in this moment – to support and advocate for my kids (I signed up to be the Tiger Cub Mom last week – fitting – don’t you think?).
So, yeah, support my kids – Be a partner to my husband (whom I adore) – Write. This isn’t forever. Hey-what’s four years, right? Just kidding. I sure as heck hope I’m not having to work this hard at it 4 years out. The thought of “Me” at the end of THAT scares me. Cuz this stuff sucks you up. So I’m not going to let it. I’m just doing my job. It’s a super important one. The job morphs. This is the work at hand. I’m doing it, and I’m really, really good AT it.
AND, even more importantly – I am good WITH It. Yep.