Advocacy Voice

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This school year, I’ve had to polish off my advocacy voice again. And it’s still not easy for me at all. I try to think back, at a time when I was actively, almost daily, honing my advocacy voice and I can’t remember how to do it. I want to look at my notes, brush up on my technique, tap into the dusty part of me that had gotten accustomed to it.

But mostly I don’t want to use it at all.

Isaac has had a rough transition into Kindergarten. Which honestly has me slapping my forehead. Why? Why, why, why? I did my homework this time. I knew going in what program I wanted him in…I set it all up to avoid this. I KNOW the people working with him and I TRUST them. This isn’t like when Andrew was going into Kindergarten and I was naively relying on blind trust. I’ve learned so much since from Andrew’s experience, I thought I’d be able to avoid this with Isaac.

And, in a way, I have. I think I have avoided a lot that I might have encountered without my Andrew-Experience. But, it turns out, we are not in the clear. Not yet.

Isaac is not using the potty successfully at school and although the staff has lots of good intentions in helping him, there are policies at the school that are making this round challenging. I’ve probably talked with 5 different administrators about it. There have been several meetings at the school about it, one of which I was a part of. I have a feeling that most of the school staff is familiar with my son’s bathrooms habits…and well, that’s a little embarrassing.

But, last week, after an extremely stressful day in which I rushed to the school for an Isaac-clean up, I had a eureka moment. Or, perhaps, I was able to see a new layer of this. When I was at the school doing clean-up, I ended up talking with a lot of different staff…both about Isaac’s potty use, but also about his academics. I have this habit of putting my kids’ strengths on the back burner in times like this. One staff member was talking to me about Isaac’s math skills “Who cares??” I said. “It doesn’t matter! This potty thing is a HUGE problem!”

And then came the eureka moment. Ready? It DOES matter. Isaac’s academics DO matter even though he is struggling so much with self-care.

Years ago, advocates for Special Education made a law stating that everyone has a right to a “Free Appropriate Education”. If I were to ignore Isaac’s strengths and only focus on his self-care, I’d be tempted to put him in a school that could teach him self-care but might not be able to offer him appropriate academics. And…that’s not the right path! Isaac deserves to be academically challenged.

I know this must seem obvious to you. This is not ground-breaking stuff. But I feel like Isaac is a kid of unusual extremes. They told me that everyday he breaks down the attendance data into multiple equations and writes them out on the board. And although, that, in itself is not *that* unusual in Kindergarten…the fact that that same kid isn’t potty trained?? Well now…here we have something a little more rare.

I am still hopeful that this placement will work… that his extremes will not overwhelm the system. But I have a newfound resolve to meet this challenge of making sure both his weaknesses AND his strengths are addressed. Even though it seems really challenging in his case, it also seems only fair. And so, I’ve taken back up the work of polishing my advocacy voice so that I am able to clearly communicate without being a dragon or a doormat. And holy smokes, that’s hard work.

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To balance out the hard work of advocacy, I tackled the easy work of making pumpkin muffins. Offering pumpkin muffins to my kids as an after school snack is one of those things that make me feel like a good mom. And the gratification is immediate! Not like overseeing their education where things are more of the “long haul” variety. All in due time. :)


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About robyn

I stopped teaching Kindergarten in 2005 to become the mom of two crazy boys here in Brooklyn. At first I thought being a stay at home mom meant that I needed to pour all my time and energy directly into my sons, but I realized somewhere along the way that being a rockstar mom meant not only taking good care of my boys, but also taking good care of myself. And taking good care of myself means pursuing something creative...just about everyday. I started Made In Brooklyn to motivate myself in my creative goals as well as share my work with others and perhaps inspire them in their own creative journeys.
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2 Responses to Advocacy Voice

  1. janel says:

    Oh, I wish I had solutions for you…but I don’t. Big hugs to you. The frustration must be so difficult. I am so sorry. Thank goodness for mothers with advocacy voices…don’t ever feel guilty for using that voice…..Keeping you all in my thoughts. Pumpkin muffins sound deliciously wonderful. You are doing all the right things….remember…..”this too shall pass”. Hugs!

  2. Ruth says:

    It’s so hard, isn’t it, being their voice? But you, my friend, are amazing at being exactly that. I always think of that phrase, “there’s always something”; somehow it seems particularly apt for children with additional needs.
    I’m interviewing someone to help The Boy Child in the afternoons tomorrow, along side the Headmaster ~ wish us luck!

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