Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hear Me Roar

It has been an overly emotional day. Not because someone died or because my hormones are out of whack, but because I want to help my son succeed in school. And let me begin by saying that this has nothing to do with him not trying, acting out, or my expectations that he go to Harvard. This has to do with the simple fact that no one, not his parents, not his teachers, not his school system, can figure out how to best teach my child, or the best way that he learns.

I am sitting here after a full day of crying--there it goes again--because I feel like he has been failed.

We are very fortunate that he attends one of the best schools in the state. But no rankings or ratings matter when you are the parent of a student who is not succeeding in school the way he should. In both first and second grade, his teachers recognized something special about him. Something we, his parents, had always seen, and even discussed with them.

He is a very smart child. He is mature, sociable, and inquisitive. He can have detailed, sophisticated conversations with adults. Sounds like a dream come true, right? But there is something else. Something that everyone is missing, and I don't know what it is called. In fact, no one does.

He is way below his grade level in reading. He skips words, transposes words, or substitutes incorrect words while reading. His spelling is atrocious. He has trouble with phonics. Directions are a major struggle for him to follow. You have to explain things many times before he understands, if ever he really does. None of these things are normal, but here is the real problem.

For two years the school tested him for a learning disability. Very extensive tests, I might add. They all came back to tell us that he waivers just at or below national guidelines. They reassured us that because he is in such a superior school district, he will always have "intervention," or extra guidance related to his needs. Last year this "intervention" was sticking him on a computer to work on reading skills. Think about the educational challenges he has been facing that I described above, and imagine a computer being able to work with him on them. Not ideal.

It wasn't until he and I both complained, again and again, that the school matched him with a person to work one-on-one with him. Finally, I thought, we are going to get somewhere. This year, he again has reading intervention with a real, live, trained person. She does what she is supposed to. I admit, he has improved somewhat, but not nearly enough.

When I say "not enough," please know that I am not a parent that expects him to be some sort of genius. I really don't. Both his dad and I had learning problems in school. We know the frustration that he is feeling. I simply want to know the things that we ALL can do to help him, to empower him, to encourage him to learn and succeed to his best abilities.

I know that not everyone learns the same way. My son does not fit into the school system's box, therefore, they don't know what to do with him. Until now, they have shuffled him around from one thing to next, never really hitting on the right solution.

Now they are worried simply because there is a new, required standardized test. This new test, the IRead, is going to test him on his reading, writing, and comprehension skills that he has mastered up to third grade. His teacher doesn't think he can pass the test; his reading specialist thinks he might "pull it off." Pull it off? That's what they expect from my son?

I am at my wit's end. My poor son wavers just above or below the national average, yet way below the school's standards. You know where this puts him? Up s!#t's creek, that's where. In a place where no one knows what to do. He doesn't qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which would require the school, by law, to make sure that he gets the resources he needs to succeed. There would be particular goals set in place that they would be required to reach as his teachers. "He is not as bad as some of the kids" is a phrase I have heard way too many times. Just because he isn't the worst means he isn't worth it?

Last year, while in the committee test result meeting, I said that I didn't want to be having this same conversation again. We had done this testing/meeting/nothing game for two years. Yet...here we are again.

I got a call from his teacher last night about how she was worried he wouldn't be able to pass these new tests. My husband and I are meeting with her tomorrow morning about her take on all of this. I also went into the guidance counselor's office today to talk with her. The same test committee has been contacted to "figure out what we can do, and quickly, since this test is in March." Is it all about this test? Because I feel like this should be about my son, and that it should not take three years to figure this out.

I have always been and will always be an advocate for my son. And I am not sorry that I told the counselor today, "You tout yourselves as having one of the best schools in the state. Well, I am here to tell you that you have failed my child. You have failed for three years." With her mouth open, she nodded and said, "We have to figure this out."

Today I have been on the phone talking with people and on the computer researching everything, anything that I can do to help. How do I help my child when the educational system can't figure out what to do? I don't have an answer yet, but I plan to go in fully loaded.

I have not sat back and expected the school to take full responsibility. As a parent, I have worked day in and day out with my son. I have put my time and research into learning more about my son and what we can do for him, and in having him tested more than once.

This Momma bear is protecting her cub. I have been calm and cordial, but no more. If I have to meet with every single person in that school, I will. They will know who I am and what I expect. Hear me roar.

"If a seed of a lettuce will not grow, we do not blame the lettuce. Instead, the fault lies with us for not having nourished the seed properly." - Buddhist proverb

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