Continued in Crossing the Chasm, Part 3, https://amomsjourney-mydyslexiclife.com/2019/12/30/crossing-the-chasm-part-3/
So, how do I throw a life line? How do I build bridges with people who may not want to build bridges with me? How do I turn enemies into allies?
If I’m going to change perception, I have to cope with the fact that I’m likely seen in one of two ways. I’m either the whiny parent who has no idea what she’s talking about and just keeps complaining about her child’s inability to read, or I’m the bulldog parent who pretends to know the law and all about dyslexia but really at the end of the day I’m nothing more than a troublesome bitch.
Granted this perception is likely only by the staff in the school. We’re not going to visit my perception at the district level, at least not yet.
Let’s start with a core question, in all of this failure to understand, whose failure was it exactly?
Setting assumptions aside, this is a good question to ask. Who is the leader? Who is the follower?
The school staff, each and every one of them, are employees, not policy makers. Looking at it from a business perspective, they’re low level management.
According to IDEA 2004, Section 1414(d)(1)(B), the IEP team includes:
(i) the parents of a child with a disability;
(ii) not less than 1 regular education teacher of such child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment;
(iii) not less than 1 special education teacher, or where appropriate, not less than 1 special education provider of such child;
(iv) a representative of the local educational agency, i.e. the district rep which may or may not be the school principal or vice / assistant principal…
(v) an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, i.e. district diagnostician, preferably the one who actually performed the evaluation as they’re the one who spent the time with the child…
(vi) at the discretion of the parent or the agency, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate; and
(vii) whenever appropriate, the child with a disability.
Until you get to district section heads, you’re dealing with low level management.
The district has empowered these people to make decisions up to a certain point. Beyond that the district section heads must be consulted for direction. Certain denials, etc. within a meeting are typically marching orders, district operating procedures, poor practices allowed within the district as their MO or culture, or both.
Regardless, this team could not give my son what he needed, but I needed to acknowledge who they were, the roles they were trying to play, and that I appreciated all that had been done, even if it was insufficient as the insufficiency was not their doing.
But how to get them to hear me? I’ve said “thank you” before, given gifts, and done a variety of other things, but those felt like meaningless gestures. I wanted these people to HEAR me. I also had to acknowledge that for that to happen, they needed to set down their own emotions, their own prejudices if you will, and actually open their hearts and minds to my words.
So I went into the ARD and did something a little kooky.
They started ARD # 3. There are introductions then the reading of the incredibly long minutes, then the facilitator asks me a question about goal #1.
At that point I said I wanted to take charge of the meeting. They looked at me like I was crazy. I said I’ve rejected the IEP and we’re back here again, that I want to run the meeting. They keep staring at each other. I said, “don’t worry, I’m not going to curse anyone out or throw things.” They laughed but were nervous. I promised we wouldn’t hold hands and sing kum-ba-yah or anything like that either.
Before going on, I need to stop here and explain a few things. I believe in the physical and psychological power of meditation. I myself, in extremely stressful situations, have managed to lower my blood pressure by forcing myself to calm down by focusing on my breathing. People have watched me do it. My husband calls it my oooo-saaahhh place. I’ve been doing it my whole life for migraine management and have been trying to teach my son how to do it too.
Additionally, I had the most fascinating experiences with my son when he was an infant. I would rock him in his room to put him to bed. We always started in a happy place because I would have just read to him, and we both loved that. In the rocking, like most babies, he would lull to a sleepy place, then eventually drift off. As I’ve shared before, my mind never shuts off; so sometimes I would be sitting there rocking him and a gremlin would take my mind down a stressful path, something like an argument with someone or strategizing a particularly difficult problem.
In following the gremlin my blood pressure would increase, my breathing would increase, my muscles would tense, and my son could feel it all. He would shift from his lull into the stress with me. He would tense and begin to cry. His cries would snap me out of the state I was in, and I would refocus my mind on him, calm my breathing and think happy, positive thoughts. My blood pressure would go back down, my body would relax, and my son would follow me, physically, down this road, lull again, then fall asleep.
It’s the basic theory of heart math, projecting physical emotion and how that influences others, and without knowing it, I had discovered it on my own.
I have implemented it over the years in my negotiations without really realizing I was doing so. I’m intentionally calm, even if I’m angry. I keep my breathing even. I don’t move quickly, don’t act quickly. I pause before I speak. I project the emotions I want to project to influence the emotional state of others. I want to be the one in control in the room, and someone who is emotional is easy to control. As I’ve said before, once you show emotion, I own you, but I can do this because I’m in control of my own emotions at all times; that and I might have intentionally driven you to that state to get what I wanted.
Anyway, they reluctantly gave me the meeting, and I did my kooky thing.
I asked them to close their notebooks and computers, to set their pens down and shove all of their material away from them. I asked them to close their eyes and take four deep cleansing breaths, releasing their emotions, and then open their eyes when they were ready. Once all eyes were open I asked them to be present as themselves, and called them all by their first names, including myself. I asked that we have a conversation, as ourselves, without our masks, without playing our roles, and just talk.
I thanked those that had been with us from the beginning of our dyslexia journey within that school. 3.5 years is a lot of time, and in 6 months they’re done with me, but I needed to acknowledge the relationship and thank them for their efforts. I thanked those that were new to the team, i.e. this year’s teachers, for their efforts and patience. I thanked his case worker (his SpEd teacher) for her time and efforts as well. She’s been in and out of our situation for various reasons, but she’s been on the team a long time, and I appreciate her so much.
I stated that my child doesn’t want to be dyslexic. No child with dyslexia wishes to be dyslexic. He wants to be like everyone else. He doesn’t want to be different. He doesn’t want to struggle. I also admitted that I wished he wasn’t dyslexic. I’d rather not be in that room. I’d rather he not struggle. I wish that he could have a normative school experience like both his father and I had, but that’s not his reality, that’s not the hand God dealt him; but in the hand that God dealt, he created a completely amazing child and I stated that I think everyone at the table agreed with that statement.
He’s spirited. He’s funny. He’s brilliant. He’s a good friend. He does actually love to learn. He loves to solve problems. He loves to play with his dogs. He’s a fascinating child.
I acknowledged that we’ve had our disagreements, and I wasn’t going to kid myself and think any of them liked me, but that frankly what they think of me is none of my business, and the inverse is true as well. We were not there to be friends; however, we were there to be a team of collaborative colleagues. They had a side, and I had a side, but through collaboration, perhaps we could bridge the gap.
I acknowledged I come from a different time, am older than all of them, though I look ten years younger than I am, so quite good for my age. Because of my age I grew up under the science of reading, not Whole Language. I come from a long line of educators, and education is deeply valued in my family. In the course of my life, I’ve seen education change a great deal, and not for the better. I acknowledged the “swim lanes” and that the divide that exists between parents and education is wide and unfortunate. I acknowledged this was not an accusation to anyone in the room, but a statement of fact.
I acknowledged the district’s knowledge of and dislike of my nonprofit (www.TheDyslexiaInitiative.org) and our position on education, but that wasn’t why I was in that room, and I needed that put to the side.
I was in that room because I want my child to have the same opportunities as every other child as if he was completely equal, just as “normal.” I acknowledged that was a big ask, given the state of things, and that I’ve always understood how big that ask was, and how the longer I do this the greater I understand the magnitude of my ask.
I acknowledged that their situation wasn’t fair from pay to class size, to the list of needs within their classrooms because of their class size and the poor theories that have been adopted by education, which just makes their jobs that much harder. Each teacher is just one person facing a sea of children, and there’s only so much that one teacher can do.
As a parent, as an individual, there’s only so much change I can achieve within the district. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), policies and adopted curriculums create significant barriers to getting what my child needs. Bearing all of this in mind, I was asking them to respect my position, why I was there, and what I was trying to gain for my child.
Only one person at the table was rolling their eyes through everything that I said. One other person I am unable to gauge since she’s been defensive from the beginning, but it could just be her demeanor. I got through to the others though. I built the bridges I wanted to build because they were receptive to that connection.
All of that being said, I got to the hard part of why I was there, and stated that the goals were inappropriate and insufficient, for all of the reasons I’ve shared in parts 1-3.
We had a very constructive conversation on why the goals were written that way. I appreciated their comments and they appreciated mine and why I was saying what I was saying, why I was asking for what I was asking for, but what I wanted was out of their hands, which I knew and needed them to acknowledge.
I need a section head because I’m challenging the logic of their everyday processes, their Standard Operating Procedures. I’m willing to stand and say that they’re wholly insufficient and incorrect, that they violate FAPE, that they violate Endrew F.
At the end of it all, it’s the best meeting we’ve ever had. Did I gain ground in the IEP? No, not really. Am I expecting to win? I’m not going to answer that. Only time will tell. Then why is this the best meeting? Because barriers came down. The sad thing is I’m at the end of this road at this school, and so while a victory, it’s a very small victory.
I appreciate human connection. I am a student of the human condition and I appreciate the ability to reach across a chasm and take someone’s hand.
We have to remember who the real enemy is, and not burn down the entire village to get to them. Teachers have always been, and will always be, the gateway to the future for our children. Our #DyslexiaRevolution needs the teachers on our side, to rise up with us to change the reality of education.
Good luck building your own bridges. They’re worth it. I promise.
Is this story complete? No. The ARD is tabled. We reconvene in roughly a month. The ball is in the district’s court. The sad part is we will lose the entire 5th grade year to ARDs.