We have a few years until Charlotte starts school. A couple more years without worrying about IEPs, placement, goals, assessment, therapies, ...and oh so much more.
There is no doubt Charlotte will be in a special ed program throughout her academic years; her 47th chromosome pretty much guarantees her that. She will have an IEP (individualized education plan...basically a road map for her education) from age three until she graduates. We will attend countless meetings, talk with many teachers, therapists, administrators and specialists. I am also well aware that during those years there will be many times we will have to advocate for Charlotte's needs and fight for what we believe is best. After all, we are the experts, we are her parents.
Being an educator, I feel lucky to have some knowledge of the special education laws and processes. I have worked with many students with disabilities, attended IEP meetings, and collaborated with special education teachers and therapists.
All of my experiences have been extremely helpful in choosing a school/special ed program for our children. However, I am now on the other side of the table. When it is your child who is the center of the meeting, and not your student, views tend to change a bit. Even though I am not currently a practicing teacher, I do believe having Charlotte has changed me as an educator.
"Difficult" parents often obtain reputations in schools, and are known by all teachers. They are the ones that often have high demands, and come across as needy. They may call a lot, email daily, request things that may require extra effort and time. They quickly become "that" parent. As I reflect on the years I spent teaching, I can recall many difficult parents. However, I now realize, many of those parents only wanted one thing; what is best for their child.
I miss teaching, some days more than others. In a few years I may go back, but for now, it isn't a possibility. I am grateful to be able to live vicariously through Missy. We spend a lot of time talking about her teaching experiences, beliefs, thoughts, new research, etc. Since Charlotte's birth, these conversations have meant a lot more, as Missy is a middle school cognitive disabilities teacher. She is hands down, one of the best teachers I have ever met (and I have worked with some pretty amazing teachers). I have never known someone who gives so selflessly to her students. She truly treats each one of those student's like they are her own. She advocates for each one of them, and makes sure each student gets their needs met, even if it means more work for her. The parents of her students trust her, and rely on her, because even though they may be "that" parent everyone warned her about, she looks past that and recognizes all those parents want is what is best for their child.
I read this blog entry today. As I read it, I started to tear up, because I was reminded that not every teacher is like Missy. Many teachers need to be reminded to please, look past my child's disability and see her for who she is, and not for what she has. Don't see Down syndrome, see Charlotte. And please, don't generalize...not all children with Down syndrome need this or can't do that.
I was reminded that I may be in for quite the battle. Being the parent of a child with a disability is not an easy thing; I would like to think that we will start this journey in a good place. I feel comfortable with the school we have chosen. Obviously, with Charlotte being so young, I couldn't look at a particular teacher or program. What I did find, was a very progressive school which strives for full inclusion whenever possible. I also made sure that all of our children will be attending the same school, regardless of ability.
I am ready to become "that" parent if I need to be. I will email daily, call frequently, and do whatever it takes to make sure Charlotte has the same opportunities that every other student has. I will be polite, but am prepared to someday be the parent who teachers talk about in the teacher's lounge.
On a completely unrelated note, I wanted to post this picture for those of you not on FB. I wanted to take a picture of the three kids yesterday, and Charlotte got extremely mad when Katherine grabbed her, forcing her to stop eating her first popsicle. I guess you could say she really likes popsicles. (I apologize for the poor photo quality, it's a cell phone pic).