Friday, December 2, 2011

I am a Lioness

When they told me that a mother is her child's best advocate, I listened. Or should I say, I heard, but didn't really listen. I go through these hot and cold periods; sometimes, I am all about pushing Son to learn things, other times, I'm all about just being a mom. Just leave us be, I think. Just let me be a mom. I don't want to be thinking that Pez make a good OT exercise, or that we need to be doing sit ups right now. I just want to play for playing. But there comes a time where you realize the truth of the words - the only person who is going to stick up for your son is you. I've made decisions in the past that I wasn't sure about, and today feel that we may have gone down a different road had we made different decisions in the past, but I don't dwell on that. I believe I made the best decisions for that point in time, and perhaps, faced with the same decisions, I wouldn't be surprise if I chose the same way I did back then.
It's been two years since Son went to Kindergarten. For two years, we've put him on an hour long bus ride one way for him to get his public education. Every year at his CSE meeting, we revisited our desire to have him educated in our home district, in his home school, and every year I felt it wasn't right. First, it was because our school district was revamping the entire special ed department the year Son entered Kindergarten. I preferred to send him into a stable environment where I knew he would succeed. This year felt right, somehow, and it seemed that the stars were aligned.
Our family met with the Superintendent of our school system, who was an elementary school principal during a time when a boy with Down syndrome was fully included. That boy completed K-12 in our school district and is now aging out of the system. The Superintendent was very welcoming. He suggested we visit both our home school and a neighboring elementary school within the district that houses the self-contained classrooms. Once we visited both schools, we scheduled a followup CSE to discuss which school Son would go to. At least, that's what we thought we were going to discuss. I won't bore you with the details, but I wanted to share some of our experience at this meeting. The school side of the committee came into the meeting with their minds made up - there would be no place for Son within the school district next year. They based their decision on testing that was deemed unsatisfactory at our previous CSE. The person who headed the meeting quoted laws that I later learned did not pertain to Son. I was numb with shock. I never expected this sort of outcome. I remember hearing the words - we are not required to provide him a program. We're only required to make sure he is educated. - or something to that effect. I left that meeting devastated. When I came home and spent a day or two shell-shocked, pacing the house, I realized that my time had come. It was time to overcome the hurdle of confrontation, it was time to stop worrying about what other people think, it was time to push for what I felt was best for Son. It took a bit of self-coaching, but I picked up the phone and called the Superintendent. I asked if I had misunderstood the welcome I felt from him and the principals we had met on our visits, and I asked if he could help me answer my questions as to what happened at the meeting. Within two hours, the Superintendent had the assistant director of special ed in his office, and set the tasks to have Son transferred to our local elementary school into motion. Of the many things I have accomplished in the almost 7 years of parenthood, and thirty-something years of living this was one of the most rewarding moments of  my life. I am a Lionness, hear me Roar!