Monthly Archives

November 2019

Wait, YOU’RE This Kid’s Mother?

The day I went in for Luke’s IEP meeting, I was nervous. If you didn’t read last time, John and I were at our wit’s end with regard to Luke and his difficulties with school, and we were really depending on his team of educators to help us come up with a plan to get Luke through the next two years. We knew he wasn’t going to Harvard. Heck, we knew he was barely going to pass his classes. We just wanted to get him through.

So I show up at the Guidance office at 7:35 am and they escort me to a conference room across the hall. Everyone is already there and each face turns toward me as I come in. As a teacher, I love to meet the parents behind each student. I think I am always surprised by exterior characteristics – that parents aren’t just larger versions of their kiddos, lol, but the interior characteristics are almost always a match. That student who struggles to say much during class discussions quite often has a parent who sits quietly during conferences. That kiddo that comes in every day with a sunny, positive attitude? Probably a caregiver who radiates, as well. I don’t want to generalize, but a correlation can usually be made. So, in I walk, and I wonder what those teachers were expecting? Someone angry? Defensive? It most definitely wasn’t Miss Mary Poppins here. 🙂

The meeting was an eye-opener. Remember, I had only heard Luke’s side of the story about what was happening at high school. According to him, every teacher was a shrew and out to get him and make his life difficult. What I heard that day were teachers using best practices to help my boy, and concern about what wasn’t working, and ideas around how to get him help. These were invested educators who were also stymied over how to best move Luke forward. I was pleasant through the whole process. I was grateful when the team decided Luke qualified for an IEP which in turn meant he would have an ASR block in his schedule. I thought he was SAVED.

When I got up to leave, one of the teacher’s stood up and shook my hand.

“It was nice to meet you,” she said. “You are not at all what I was expecting.” I remembering chuckling or smiling in response and going on my way, but that comment stayed with me. Exactly who did they think was raising Luke Inwood?

So here’s what I need you to know: Hard kiddos happen to good people. We are a society that likes to pass judgement and no more so than on other parents. Surely, if that kid is a f – up, his or her parents are doing something wrong. Is he running wild? Don’t they have expectations? Consequences? And my personal favorite – “If that child lived under my roof, I would never allow any of that behavior. That kid would be fixed.” Oh, to be so righteous! You know what I know about my fellow parents raising hard kids? They are TIRED and they are TRYING and they are SCARED. Scared that any one of the horrible outcomes they worry about night after night might actually happen, and they are struggling like hell to try and ward off the evils. It is EXHAUSTING. Let me say it again – Hard kiddos happen to good people, friends. These parents already judge themselves enough. Let’s instead extend our patience and understanding and support. You know what the Good Book says, “But for the Grace of God go I.” Xxx

The Rise and Fall

I’d Like an IEP With a Side Order of ASR, Please

When we last left off, our main character, Luke Inwood, had just been diagnosed with ADHD. He was working this like nobody’s business and had suddenly developed a *bouncing leg* because… you know… he had ADHD and couldn’t stop himself. 🙂 This both amused me and irritated me and it’s one of the reasons I don’t like labels. Give a person a label and he or she is sure to live up to it.

What WAS true was that Luke was still not doing well at school. It was the middle of Grade 10 and it was obvious that this year was going to go down in flames if steps weren’t taken to help Luke out. What that might look like I had no idea, but Luke’s therapist, prior to leaving the practice, had suggested something called ASR or Academic Support. This was a class where students were pulled out to work on organizational skills, homework completion, and any other intervention activities that might need one-on-one or small group support. I thought this sounded like a game changer for Luke because all the zeros he was accumulating around homework were impacting his grades in a way that he could never recover from.

So I inquired about the ASR and found out you have to have an IEP to qualify for this accommodation. So THEN I started asking about getting Luke on an IEP. An IEP is an Individualized Education Program. They can be put in place for any number of reasons – learning disabilities or physical disabilities, for example – and the goal is to provide the needed support to allow students to access the curriculum in a way they would not be able to without the accommodations. Logan had an IEP in elementary school for speech therapy so I was not new to the process. But Logan on an IEP for speech and Luke on an IEP for whatever the heck we want to call what was happening at High School were not the same thing. At Logan’s IEP meetings we would sit around the table and talk about how sweet and wonderful and hard working he was. It was more of a formality or update on his progress. This was not the case for Luke.

By the time the required testing and reports had been completed it was March when we got together for Luke’s initial meeting. I remember gathering my thoughts prior to going in and all I really wanted them to know was Luke was not making adequate progress and we, as his parents, had no idea how to fix it. Luke was on a 504 for his diagnosis of ADHD, but those accommodations like preferential seating, for example, were clearly not doing the trick. It was just not enough and as I sat at the long conference table that day, I desperately hoped that one of them, someone, could help my child. What I needed was a gosh darn miracle.

So here’s what I need you to know: It is not easy to be the parent of a child struggling in school. We just want our kids to be happy, to be like all the other kids coming to school every day and having a great experience, and yet they are not. So when we show up at those IEP meetings, we are looking to you, as the educators, as the team of professionals, to give us a little hope. We, more than anyone else, know what the *challenges* are with our kiddos; we are looking to you and that IEP to help make things just a little more *right*. Turns out an IEP is not a miracle cure, but more on that next time. Sending love to all my fellow IEP families. Xxx

I need you to know, The Rise and Fall

We Appreciate Your Patience

So, I find myself in a tough space, mentally. Today I was going to blog about getting Luke on an IEP and to aid in the process I went back and looked over all those emails between myself and his teachers and administrators during his time at WRHS. All. Those. Emails. I type the words “Luke Inwood” into my search box for sent items and the list that is generated is maybe 75 emails long for four years. Maybe more. Stop for a moment and think about how often you reach out to a teacher. Maybe a few times a year? And the older your student gets, maybe not at all. After all, the student is supposed to assume the responsibility of being in contact with their teachers in high school, not the parents. Sigh. That clearly did not happen for my boy.

As I started reading through them, trying to get a sense of the order of events around getting Luke more help, I couldn’t help but notice the tone of my correspondence with everyone involved. I kept apologizing for Luke and whatever had happened – the missing homework, the sleeping, the attitude, the tardiness – whatever it was I was “SORRY“. And I thanked them over and over again for their “continued patience” with our son. And as I read all this I just felt so sick to my stomach. It brought back the desperation I had around trying to fix what was going on with Lukester. If I could just find the right words to make him see how to help himself; if I could just find the right words to help the school understand we were a good family and we wanted to make this situation with Luke better; if I could just find the right words to explain that our Luke was a good boy who for whatever reason was lost and could not figure out how to navigate High School. I never found the right words.

So, today I feel a little lost myself. When you see all that evidence as a whole it is a bit sickening. I read the email I shared above and it feels like I did a whole lot of appeasing and not enough fighting. I feel a lot of guilt over that. I feel a lot of sadness that high school was such a difficult journey for Luke. Those four years are manageable for most kids and each day was a damn trial for ours. Turns out, when you lose a child to suicide, trying to find forgiveness – for yourself, for others, for your baby – is a damn long road. I appreciate your patience.

The Rise and Fall