We are currently facing some significant decisions regarding Kimberly’s placement in the Exceptional Ed class (where she has been to date) or in General Ed next year.
The Gen Ed option would mean going “back” to Kindergarten while staying in EC she would be progressing from 1st to 2nd as far as the school system is concerned. Of course that is not at all correlated with her abilities in the traditional sense. There are many factors involved as you can imagine, and it is not a straightforward decision. As we struggle with the pros and cons and the lack of the actual scenarios that we wish were available, I am reminded of just how incredibly important our voice is in this discussion.
For my own personal situation regarding advocating and being a meaningful presence during IEP meetings and the like, sometimes I struggle. And oh, the irony is not lost on me. In my professional life I have been a teacher, trainer, mentor, and leader with the ability to communicate within my areas of expertise (and sometimes slightly beyond ;-). In my personal life however, communication is not my strong suit. I talk often to my children (with them as well as at them), and friends and family when the opportunities arise….yet communication, effective, meaningful communication, is not my greatest strength. Particularly if it involves anything remotely emotional for me. Therein lies the irony. What I want to propose or challenge, is that parents of special needs children need to be able to communicate about that which is likely the most emotional of all subjects…the struggles of their child(ren).
We must all learn to speak up: ask questions, discuss, offer information, demand options, investigate, and admit how we feel. We must do this with ourselves, our spouses, our families, our doctors, our therapists, our schools, and other parents we know (that have children with and without special needs). We must also learn to speak often, for the conversation must be on-going. It is not a finite discussion but rather a dialogue that should continue as our child(ren) grow and develop, as we pass from one set of circumstances to another, and as our community and needs change. While this challenge may not sound too great or you may feel as though you have already achieved these goals, I recommend you take a step back and survey your situation from an “outsider” perspective or better yet, discuss with a trusted friend/professional who knows your story. We can always improve, everything we do and don’t do is up for review. Often, by doing this we can adjust our path and improve our outcomes. Sometimes this improvement may be barely measurable and only offer a slight reprieve, while other adjustments may be truly life altering. We have experienced both and I am certain this trend will continue if only we can do it….speak up, and speak often.