Monday, June 4, 2012

Mama Bear Crawls Out of Hiding

Most people who know me know I hate confrontation.

I'm one of those people who gets along with almost everyone. I agonize over words as to not offend and feel nothing short of mortification when I put my foot in my mouth. I think, re-think, overthink, and think some more about what to say and not say, and usually if I have a choice, I won't speak up.

I'm not necessarily proud of all this.

When we entered into this whole wacky autism world, there were a few things I quickly realized. One was that everyone kept throwing around phrases like "you have to be your child's advocate" and "you'd better fight for everything you can get for your child." The world presented to me was that we parents are on one side and the schools are on the other side and you are going to have to claw and bit and scratch for your child's fair share.

I didn't like all of these analogies. I didn't like hearing people talk about being assertive, about fighting for a cause. It scared me, frankly. Not only that, but I also didn't quite understand where some people (namely other parents at a group I was attending) were coming from. Ethan's teachers and therapists seemed to listen to our concerns. We were happy with the amount of therapy he was receiving. They heard our desires about his placement in an intergrated class and worked gradually to get him there. For a long time, I didn't feel like fighting, I just felt grateful.

But our kids change, schools and staff change, and we as parents change, too. People talk about fighting because some of them do indeed have to fight to get basic services. People talk about advocating because really: who else is going to be your child's champion, be your child's voice?

I've learned that being friendly with my son's teachers can be a wonderful thing but also sets up a natural-born people pleaser like me to not want to rock the boat or take the risk of marring the relationship.

I've learned that a school can be doing just fine, but just fine doesn't necessarily mean enough.

I've learned that kids like Ethan very easily fly under the radar. They don't cause a lot of trouble. They might be very smart in certain areas, maybe have made some great strides. That doesn't mean they don't still need support...the right support for their individual needs. That doesn't mean that an explanation like, "Well, that's just an area kids on the spectrum are going to struggle with" should ever be the end-all answer.

Do I dare say it? Is that not similar to what George W. Bush once called "the soft bigotry of low expectations?"

I read this today from Jess at A Diary of a Mom. Speaking of her recent meeting with staff at her daughter's school, about her pushing them to create lofy goals for her daughter (who also has autism)she wrote:

Sometimes, no matter how much we may doubt ourselves in every other aspect of parenting our wondrous kids, there’s a voice that pops up from deep within the Mama Gut that says, “We’re selling my kid short and that’s not OK.”

Summer is approaching. Next year is Ethan's last year (sniff!) before kindergarten, the year, the school has told me, "we're really going to work on the social stuff." Even though he's had social goals for two years, goals that don't seem to be met or worse, discussed in much detail after they have been formulated. Even though his teachers have thrown around flippantly several times comments like, "he'll learn to play and relate better to his peers when they all start getting into video games."

I love Ethan's teachers. I can't communicate loudly enough that I love Ethan's teachers. But when educators look at my son and see a hundred other kids they've seen before, and give me pat answers they've given a hundred other parents, well, despite the good will, mamma bear is going to have to crawl out.

A meeting's scheduled for Thursday. I just wrote a letter and need to press "send."

Now I know what all of those parents were talking about. Now I wonder if I'm becoming on of "those" parents. Now I know "those" parents can't be so wrong in asking for the moon.

As Joyce Meyer says, "I'd rather ask for a lot and get some of it than ask for nothing and get all of it."

Here goes...

1 comment:

Crystal Senzig said...

Yes, yes, and YES. Me to a "T". I don't do confrontation, and up to this point it's been easy to be grateful. But there are some things I have to say something about and I'm sick about it.