Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Picking Our Battles & Pulling in our Claws!

There is a kid at school with my son who is having lots of challenges getting the right class/program placement. My son is in a traditional elementary and he is mainstreamed with support in to a general ed classroom all day. Her son, who is much higher functioning than mine, has been in a special day classes because he has behavior problems and has not been able to keep up with the general education work. She has been working to get him into a regular classroom for at least part of the day, because he is not doing well in special ed and his negative behaviors have been getting worse. Apparently she was calling the school and asking for an IEP, and it took a long time to get one scheduled. Then she finally got the IEP and she asked that he be put all day in general ed with an aid. They didn't want to do that and after weeks of back and forth the school agreed to put him in general ed for part of the day to see how he would do. She began asking every day "did you go to the other class today" and for weeks he said "No". So she called the school and they said it would happen and day after day it did not happen. So she went to the school, went to the room and asked "What the heck is going on, he is supposed to be in gen ed and he's still here", the teacher replied "I didn't have an aid to walk him over". She lost it, grabbed him and took him to the other classroom herself. Where she then sat and waited until class was dismissed. For the past week they have been taking him to class and things seem to be on track! Yippee.

Today she called to tell me that she was thinking about calling another IEP to clarify that they had to get him an aid so he could go with the other kids on field trips. There was a field trip today and she really wanted him to go, but was upset. Apparently the Assistant principal had told her he could not go on Field Trips, unless someone was with him and since he did not have an aid, he could not go unless she went along and would that be okay. She called me to get confirmation that she had made the right decision. I didn't think of it in terms of right and wrong, rather in terms of what might work best. So, I asked if she was available, she said "Yes". My thought was she had just made great progress by getting them to get him mainstreamed everyday and since the field trip was today and she wanted him to go, and she was free, just go. I suggested that it would show the school that she was working with them and that gesture could go a long way in the future by helping the Assistant Principal feel like they were working together. And in the real world they have not gotten to know her son yet, and they don't know that he will do just fine, so in their way maybe they were just looking out for his safety. So go and have fun!

She hesitated and then said, "Yeah, I think I'll go".

The truth is each of us has so many battles that we are almost ALWAYS ready to fight. It is so hard to put down the gloves because it seems we are fighting for one thing or another all the time. Big things, little things just fighting and it becomes our expectation. After years of battles (many only perceived battles) I'm learning that not EVERY SITUATION has to be a battle and everyone is not indifferent, just different. Yes, some folks really don't care about my kid, some folks just don't have the knowledge, some are afraid of the unknown, some are angry with the systems they work in, some are having a bad day and others have been given a mandate that they are trying to enforce because that's their job.

I've always known this in my brain but getting this message in my heart when I want so desperately to care for my son and the only thing I feel I have control over is getting him what he needs, is just not easy. After years of crying, getting angry, making myself sick and feeling betrayed by the system I am learning that I don't have to begin every interaction, where I need something for Nicky expecting a fight.

I'm learning to pick my battles and make fun of myself. Last week I went into a meeting that I knew had the potential to bring out the ferrous mother bear in me and I was determined not to let that take over. Because I have seen how defensive it makes people and how much my energy contributes to the negatively charged atmosphere. So, I was determined to stay calm and let other people talk, try and hear their side and wait to see if "they" took on solving the problem. Then it happened one of the people said something and my brain hear "them is fightin words" and I felt my stomach go into knots. I was able to stop myself (if not the look on my face) take a deep breath and then I said "Okay, I feel that mother bear thing happening, let me take a deep breath and put my claws back in" and I laughed at myself and the meeting when on and I got exactly what I wanted.

There is hope, we do have choices.

Notes to myself and other mother bears...

  • Remember that everyone comes to the table with different perspectives and experiences, rarely is anyone really trying to hurt me or Nicky, even when it feels like it.
  • Remember to keep good notes and records so they can speak for me, when I'm overwhelmed, JUST THE FACTS.
  • Choose my battles - a lot of what happens will not be right from my point of view - but I have to remember they will not all have the same weight or importance and I need to manage my energy and choose my battles not just for Nicky but for my own health.
  • Go into meeting knowing that people will defend their positions, that's there job, but I can choose to stay calm and focused on the issue.
  • Being mad at all the people who don't do what I think they should do, only makes me mad,and the mad doesn't help Nicky, it just hurts me.
  • Build alliances with who can help me when it seems I can't help myself.

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