I never imagined that being a mom would require me to be a sword-wielding warrior, too, but parenthood is full of surprises. Last year, my son who has Down syndrome started kindergarten. My son’s father and I were very excited that we’d found a wonderful, dedicated teacher at the local public school in our neighborhood. We felt like we’d hit the jackpot.
The year was progressing nicely. We’d made it halfway through and were learning new tools and methods to assist my son with his learning. His teacher was engaged, willing to explore and excited about her work. The problem was with her support team: They were disconnected, inconsistent and unprofessional. Thankfully, the parents of this very special class rallied around the teacher and called a meeting with all the parents and the administrators of the school and the school district.
The meeting was helpful. We gathered our concerns, offered our suggestions and set a timeline for what we wanted for our children. Specifically, we asked that consistent and highly trained aides dedicated to the well-being and success of our unique group of children be assigned to the class. We made this request confidently because we knew that under the Americans With Disabilities Act, it is mandatory that children with special needs have a teacher who is educated and trained to teach them.
When events out of our control occur, the best of us will stumble, but the most vulnerable of us will suffer.
We left the meeting feeling that our concerns were heard and would be addressed promptly. We were hopeful. But our hope faded when we learned that abruptly and without notice, the teacher, whom we all loved, left her position. We were not told why, but as parents we trusted that there was good reason. Quickly the environment deteriorated. My son’s behavior and progress unraveled in a matter of what seemed like a week or less.
When events out of our control occur, the best of us will stumble, but the most vulnerable of us will suffer. This is why the parents of kids with special needs must stand and fight as a team. And so we banded together.
Every parent came with his or her metaphorical sword in hand and demanded answers and changes. To the administration’s credit, they did their best under the worst circumstances to meet our needs, even if that meant to just listen.
Parenting requires engagement. Parenting a child with special needs requires engagement and a sword stashed in the trunk of your car should a monster rear its head. It is the most demanding and time-consuming thing I do—happily and sometimes angrily—each day. I have learned that if someone is messing with my son, it is not beyond me to chop off a head or two and keep on moving.