Trust

Last summer my running partner convinced me to do track workouts.  I’m pretty new to running and had no idea what a track workout was.  Basically what you do is sprint twice around the track (1/2 mile) as fast as you can, jog around the track once….repeat….at least 4 times, building up more repeats as the training season goes on.

It’s grueling.

It makes me feel like I’m going to barf.

It makes me slightly dizzy and forced to run with tunnel vision toward the finish line.

It wipes me out for much of the day, and sometimes the next day too.

And yet, I did it, and went back throughout the summer.  I trusted my running partner.  I was training for my first marathon where speed, not just finishing, was a goal.  I knew she was pushing me in the right direction and had my best interest in mind.  She is a much more experienced runner than me. I listened to her and pushed myself to be uncomfortable and work very hard.  I trusted that this new training method would deliver results.  Trust is the cornerstone of any great relationship.

 

When you ask someone for help, you are essentially saying that you trust the person enough to actually help and you believe they know what to do.

This week I will go to #3s post-assessment meeting.  I have been asking for help all year.  After initially being denied an assessment, #3 received more interventions in the classroom and with Minnesota Reading Corp.  After 6 weeks we had another meeting, and not only had he not made progress, he went backwards in his reading achievement.  Although he was still not as far behind as they initially told me he had to be according to the Mondo Achievement test, the school agreed to assess him for special education services because the interventions were not helping him move towards grade level.

The assessment guarantees nothing.  If I sound jaded, I am.

For the past week I have noticed my anxiety on the subject climbing and I have wondered why.  It is possible that he will qualify for special education and the IEP they propose is something that would help him reach grade level in reading and writing.  I have seen IEPs for children from this same school and I think the goals and steps are excellent.

So why am I so nervous?  I really have no reason to be.

It’s because my trust is gone.

This is not about the teachers at this school.  I trust the teachers.  I trust the special education teacher at this school…that is why I want her to be #3’s case manager.

I don’t trust the system.  I have asked for help so many times only to be ignored or turned down I no longer believe they have my children’s best interest in mind.  I don’t trust the policies surrounding qualifying children with learning disabilities.  My experience was so horrible when #2 had an IEP and the services he received only made the situation worse, I know that having a piece of paper saying my child gets help doesn’t mean the help with be appropriate or, in fact, helpful. If I don’t agree with the assessment results, I’m quite certain that no one in administration is going to listen to my concerns.

When I asked the school to test my child for special education I was putting myself in an uncomfortable and vulnerable situation.  I was putting #3 in an uncomfortable and vulnerable position too and letting him know that I think something is wrong.  I was openly admitting he is failing.  I was asking for help, and not just a little help, but a lot of help, to simply get my child to read at grade level….nothing that incredible and something that is quite easy for many kids.  During this process I was reminded of all the hurt and anguish I went through seeking help for #1 and #2 in the same school district, and never finding that help.

It’s hard to ask for help.  It’s hard to ask people to listen to your concerns.  And it’s really hard to ask for help when you don’t trust that things will get better.

I want to trust the system again.  I want to trust that they understand the importance of early detection and early intervention for children with learning disabilities….BEFORE they have failed so enormously that catching up seems nearly impossible and their self-esteem is crushed.  I want to trust that special education is set up to help students and not protect the school district from law-suits.  I don’t want to be jaded anymore.

I want to be presented with a plan, that is researched based, telling me the steps they will take to teach #3 how to read at grade level.  I want to come out of an IEP meeting with a smile on my face and breath a sigh of relief knowing I can trust the new initiative, the new training method, to help my child who is not reaching his own goal of learning how to read and who is beginning to show signs of frustration and learned helplessness.  I want to trust that they will push him in the right direction.  I want to trust that his best interest, not dollar signs, case loads, or misguided policies determined the education he will receive.   I want them to push him to work hard and try what is difficult even when he’s uncomfortable, which will lead him to achieving success.

 

After my first track workout, when I was standing on the track, hands on my knees, gasping for breath I looked at my running partner and said, “Why did you make me do this?  That was awful!!!! It’s quite possible I almost died.”

She replied, “Physically it makes you stronger and gives your cardio a wake up.  Psychologically you are learning that even when you don’t think you can keep going, if you just trust your body, your legs continue to carry you along.  You are learning to trust yourself.  You are learning to listen to your body and know how hard to push.”

“OK, fine.  That was awful, but I’ll do it again if it will help me.  I’m going to trust you on this.  Same thing next week?”

With a sly smile, my running partner grabbed her water bottle and said, “No, next week I introduce you to hill drills, and that is an entirely different out of body experience.”

 

We won’t help

I finally had the meeting.  The meeting that was cancelled because of Polar Vortex #2.  The meeting that I thought would start us down the road of getting #3 individualized help.

That wasn’t the meeting that happened.

I was told he isn’t far enough behind yet. We won’t test him.

I countered with:

He hasn’t made progress.

He is far behind when you look at where he should be.

He gets further behind each day.

He is far behind if you look at his intellect.

He’s had a ton of interventions and he is still just creeping along with progress.  The interventions need to be more intense.

I was told again and again….he’s not far enough behind the rest of his peers yet.  He is behind, but not far enough.

The teacher sat there and said how he is reading at a level of a kindergartener and hasn’t made progress this year which is very concerning.  He does not know the sight words automatically.  And he knows less sight words now than he did in the fall.  Yet, he isn’t far enough behind yet.  They won’t test him.

What about writing? He can barely write his letters.

What I heard was……We won’t help.  I know this is not what they said, they told me about what the classroom teacher will do, and how the special ed. teacher can answer her questions, but this is how I feel.  We won’t help. Over and over they said he isn’t far enough behind his peers yet.  On a standardized test for the district curriculum he is not enough standard deviations behind the rest of his peers.

I sat in an office with the principal, an LD teacher, a school psychologist, the classroom teacher, and a student teacher (who I probably completely freaked out) with tears streaming down my face saying “I’ve been down this road.  I’ve already had two children fail.  I want this time to be different.  Please help this be different.  If we all work together, imagine the difference we can make. There are so many children that need help.  Let’s start here. Let’s make a difference and help him sooner rather than later.”

I was met with stone faces by everyone except the classroom teacher, who was also tearing up by this point……we won’t help.  Perhaps their stone faces were because they were following orders from people higher up.  Perhaps district office has tied their hands.  I don’t know.  My takeaway was we won’t help.

“We can’t help you because of the laws in this state.  We must follow the laws.  Perhaps you should put your energy into changing the laws surrounding this topic.”

This was their solution to the problem.  Oh yes….that sounds simple.

“Why do you want him labeled?” they ask.

I said, “I don’t want him labeled.  He is labeled.  This is the reality.  He is dyslexic.  I want him to have help for that.”

The LD teacher says, “I can’t label him dyslexic.  That’s a medical diagnosis.”

Oh, don’t get me started.  Honestly.  My head was exploding.  My insides were churning. That was a discussion for another day.

To say I’m devastated is an understatement.  Where can I go to get my children the help they deserve? I want them to read.  I want them to write.  I want them to feel successful in school….and not dread anything that requires them to write a sentence or read a paragraph.  I want them to live up to their potential academically.  I want them to not have their self-esteem crushed.

“Here is some information on why you shouldn’t label a child or test them before the age of 8.” the LD teacher tells me.

This is when my adrenaline kicked in.  Fight or flight…..I chose fight.  I couldn’t hold back any longer.  I stared into her eyes and said, “That piece of paper is crap.  Research does not support that anymore.  How dare you tell me that catching my child’s dyslexia early and fighting for him to get services is not what he needs.  I know what he needs.  I’m his mother.  I’ve been down this road 2 times already, and I refuse to watch one more child fail.  I will not do it again.  I’ve pulled 2 kids from schools where they weren’t getting help.  I’ve worked very hard to put them back together.  I WILL NOT DO THAT AGAIN!  This time I want my child to get help before he falls apart.  Before the anxiety.  Before the low self-esteem.  Before they hate school. I honestly can not understand why you believe its OK to not teach him with the methods he needs in order to learn how to read. I do not understand why my children get punished because they are smart enough to not completely fall apart academically.  I do not understand why I am being asked YET AGAIN to sit back and watch my child make very little progress while I watch the rest of his peers learn how to read with relative ease.  I have a diagnoses.  I have paperwork saying he needs intensive and individualized help.  I do not understand why we can’t work together and get him the help he needs.”

And then I started to cry uncontrollably, put my jacket on, and shoved the papers in my purse that told me why they won’t test him.

Meeting over.

My heart is broken.