I have now seen the attached meme circulated on Facebook a number of times and every time I see it I chuckle because of just how accurately it depicts our journey. To say that I am a planner is a bit of an understatement, so, needless to say that when my daughter began Kindergarten at a small Catholic school, I had hers (and my) path laid out for the next 9 years. Simple really…she would excel in everything she set out to do and I would gleefully follow. In fact, shortly into that first year, I took on the part-time job as development director, completely sure that by the time my younger daughter started Kindergarten, I would be full-time and we would blissfully skip through their elementary and middle school years.
It was half way through her 1st grade year that I was humbled and reminded that we are not in control, especially as parents. It was at that point when homework and reading became an hour long tearful struggle, her behavior in the classroom eroded, and we were watching our once confident daughter disappear. People who know me will also tell you that I am a problem solver and will stop at nothing until I have found a solution. Although we were told by the teaching staff that “we are not throwing up any red flags yet,” my husband and I were heartbroken watching our daughter lose her love of learning. So we went through psycho-educational testing which revealed high levels of anxiety and low working and phonological memory. With that info, we came up with an action plan that included private tutoring and an assistance plan that included accommodations like seat placement, movement breaks, tests being read to her, extra time and more.
We prayed this would work because we loved our small school and leaving was unthinkable. The faculty worked so hard to give her what she needed; however, we would soon have to face the reality that it wasn’t enough. Over 4 heart wrenching months, we researched many options – another private school, homeschooling, public school, staying where we were. Then, we were handed the answer – we had serendipitously moved to be closer to our school and in doing so landed within the boundary of an amazing public school, the staff of which showed us just what they are capable of when we went through the IEP process. As much as saying goodbye can be difficult, we knew what we had to do.
We took the leap of faith and moved her to this public school and it paid off! She thrived in her new environment and was continually supported by a well-trained and large faculty, something that sadly is difficult for a smaller private school to provide. She now reads right on grade level, does her homework without argument and actually reads for pleasure!
I share this story because I want other parents to know there is hope! There is hope when you become a bulldog for your child and put whatever plan you had aside and instead figure out and give them what they need. Over the course of this journey, here’s what we learned:
· Action is better than inaction. I don’t care who is telling you to wait or that things aren’t so bad or that maybe the problem will go away. YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD BETTER THAN ANYONE! Follow your gut and do what you have to do. Fight for the testing, seek extra help, find resources!
· The only constant in life is change. I am still a planner. However, I have learned to take each day as it comes and be acutely aware of what is going on, so that I can pivot and change directions in order to best help my child. I am in the classroom as often as I can be and when I can’t be, I ask the teacher what’s going. We are constantly adjusting and reevaluating and know that her situation may take a downturn. It comes with the territory!
· You are part of a team! Your child’s teachers, administration, tutors, therapist and YOU form the team that will make your child succeed! Each and every member brings something to the table and communication is the key. Mutual respect is also key; make sure your voice is heard but that you also respect the expertise of those that are with your child every day. Together you will get there! And if that team isn’t working, find another one.
· Every Child is Different. What works for your child will not be what necessarily work for someone else’s. Find your child’s strengths, challenges, and triggers and find or create the environment that will help he or she thrive.
· You are not alone! So many parents have traveled this road before you, including us. Seek us out and get the emotional support you need. It’s not easy and just to hear that others have seen and experienced what you are going through makes a world of difference. And you have us at SDSquared! It is a large reason why I began this program so that parents can get the support and resources they need!