Friday, October 26, 2012

Parent Teacher Conferences

It's parent-teacher conference week here which means 4 days (or more depending on how timely people post) of Facebook posts about how their brilliant child is excelling.  All of which I have "liked" because:
1. It's true.
2. I  know some really amazing parents who deserve that pat on the back for how involved they are with their kids and also for how hard their kids work.
3. I do the same thing about my brilliant children who also excel in their own ways.

I really thought I was prepared for today, although, I really should have known better.  When have I ever been prepared to walk into a meeting with the school and hear what I know they will say? Yes,  I always walk in prepared.  Prepared to present my side. Prepared to explain Fragile X. Prepared to negotiate. Prepared for anything that might require knowledge of the law or my children's rights. Prepared to, when needed, fight.  Yet, I have never, not even once, yet been able to walk in emotionally prepared for what I will hear.

Why is that?  It's not like I don't talk with the teachers daily. It's not like I live with my head in the sand when it comes to my children's disabilities. So why?  Why am I never emotionally prepared for what I am about to hear?  We have an amazing team, we have for years now.  The communication between us is incredible.  I know the good, the not so good and the down right I could have lived without.  I know it all.  From emails to daily communication reports to our lengthy after school conversations - if there is one thing our team does exceptionally well, it's communicate.

I am very open and honest about how the children are affected by their disability.  I live it every day. I'm accepting of the challenges and honest with myself about the future and the reality of today.

So... WHY?  Why does it get me every single time?  Sometimes, I don't even make it in the door, I cry as I sit in my car in the parking lot trying to pull it together before I walk in.  Sometimes it happens as we go around the table doing the ridiculous introductions as if I don't know these people well enough to invite them to Sunday dinner.

Today, though, today was different. Today I walked in really happy (I had showered AND dried my hair that always is a luxury that makes me smile),feeling good, feeling certain of what I was about to hear and that *I wouldn't cry*.

Parker's was first.  I was great through the small talk, good through the results of the Illinois Alternate Assessment (IAA) (possibly because I find it silly and pointless that these tests are even taken or because he scored in the satisfactory to mastery range in all - or because I wasn't really listening because we all know this is pointless and inaccurate). From there we moved onto his IEP Progress report. We started with the speech goals and I hear the words "there's been a slight regression" somewhere mid sentence.  I honestly don't know what the rest of her sentence was because my mind was saying "WTFRegression?  He's started out with his best behavior and school year ever.  Excellent reports every day - regression?  What?"  all while rationalizing in my head "this would be compared to last spring, everyone regresses over the summer and she said 'slight'..." while trying read what was in front of me and process what I am reading...

A) 5/18/12 - 58%     10/19/12 - 34%
B) 5/18/12 - 59%     10/19/12 - 32%
C) 5/18/12 - 38%     10/19/12 - 14%

I stopped the talking that was going on and said, "Hold on.  There is nothing slight about this regression.  This is significant.  Seriously significant." 

The teacher reminded me how Parker continues to be unresponsive to the SLP, non complaint and that makes this hard to get accurate testing done on him.  She then said we should probably have a discussion over whether or not speech is something we want to continue.  After all, his speech has improved significantly.  He's speaking in sentences, he is easily understood by the majority of his teachers and peers and he's initiating conversation.  All functional life skills.

Functional life skills.  That was all it took for me to go from attentive and participating to fighting tears and then letting them flow.  As I was wiping away tears, I was looking around the room and for the first time ever, I stopped listening.  Completely.  I could hear they were still talking but it was nothing more than muffled words.  My focus was on the classroom.  I love this classroom, it's full of colored charts, how to lists, snacks, books, it is friendly and colorful but not overstimulating, it is inviting and welcoming.  I become lost in the charts on the walls, the goals I'm reading, the children's books I'm seeing.  And it hits me.  I'm not sitting in an 8th grade classroom.  I'm sitting in a 2nd grade classroom, which is where I should be sitting as I pay attention long enough to catch that "Parker is reading sight words at a 2nd grade level"A 2nd grade level, words I want to celebrate and I do by forcing a slight smile but the tears from my realization that my son who is so very much exactly like his friends and into hot girls and football is the same boy who lives a world apart where Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Jungle Junction are still enjoyed.

With tears still streaming, I pull myself away from the walls and back into the conversation.  Just in time to join in on the talk about Parker's future. Shit.  Really?  Can I go back to the walls?  The reality is he will be going to high school next year, no matter how much that scares me, he will be going - as will his friends.  And while I have an entire class that understands and supports him, I will have 3 classes above him that will not.  3 entire grades in the hallways with my guy who is overwhelmed by sounds.  Great big high school guys who will either embrace him or ... not.  I can't, however, even begin to think about that right now as the discussion on the table in front of me is about what Parker's work will look like from here out.  What inclusion will look like (or not look like) how his work will change from academics to functional life skills.  There were those words again.  Functional life skills. Functional life skills over academics. We're not in grade school anymore.  We're almost not even in middle school anymore.

That was also enough to stop the tears.  I don't have time to be sad.  I don't have time to mourn what I cannot change. I don't have time to enjoy the rest of Middle School.  I have to focus, I have to prepare, I have to meet a new team, learn a new building, make a new plan.  I have to start to decide the direction of Parker's future.  Not just high school but what skills to focus on to prepare him for life outside of school. I walked into the meeting happy and carefree and walked out buried by the weight of the decisions to be made on my shoulders.

I am not alone in the decision making process.  Parker's dad will help.  The team will help.  My friends and family will help.  But, let's be honest... I am mom.  He is my heart and soul.  I am the one that will lay awake at night looking at each avenue from every angle possible.  I am the one who will research, fight, and bring every possible option and scenario to the table. I am the one who will question, wonder, and when needed - pave a new path.  Because this is what I do.  This is why I am the Momma.  This is why I get to cry.

After thanking our amazing teacher for all she does (she really is absolutely amazing and I love her and appreciate all she does) it was time to move onto Allison's meeting... and the wonder if I could get through this one without tears. (which for the record... I did.  Barely but I did!)

Backing up just a minute... remember when I said I didn't have time?  That's not entirely true.  I do have time - I make time, like now as soon as I hit post - to cuddle up with my children and watch a movie or maybe even Jungle Junction.

And so I don't leave you hanging... Allison kicked butt on ISAT testing last spring annnnddd brought home straight A's on her report card!  Her teacher had only awesome things to say about what an incredible student she is, how everyone loves her hugs, how hard she works and ... how she thinks she will need more help this year with and extra time for ISAT testing - but before those tears fell, I said we would wait until February (the testing is in March) to see how she is doing and discuss it at that point.  Afterall, I had shed enough tears already today.


  1. I thought I posted a comment last night, but obviously, it never made it.

    I remember this time in mine and Josh's life. We had what is called a "MAP" session toward the end of his last middle school year. If that's a possibility, I highly recommend it. I invited friends, neighbors, family, and most importantly, Josh's regular ed friends who had been with him since kindergarten and had always shown an interest in helping Josh. During the meeting, everyone was given an opportunity to map out what they would like for Josh during his high school experience. He went into a very large high school with 1700 teenagers, and it was important to me to get his friends onboard to help with the transition. It paid off big time. The guys went on to help him in the weight lifting class to "curl for the girls," they signed up to be his peer tutors and come to his room to help with some of his IEP goals, and they supported him before, during and after the graduation ceremony. Kids are an amazing asset as you move into a new chapter.

    Parker is very blessed to have you as his rudder. You will chart the next phase of his journey in the best possible way for him. That's just who you are. May God bless you and provide you with many happy tears along the way.

    1. Thank you so much, Angie! I will see if I can find more information about a "MAP" session!
      I love to see how well Josh does and appreciate all of your support and advice along our journey!