Though you’d never know it, I have a hard-earned flute performance degree. Two, actually. I’ve taken my share of auditions, played in front of many other musicians, had to jump through the hoops of juries. I know the strain of being on stage, playing recitals, of being judged. And I think it made me stronger in the long run.
But nothing, nothing, could have prepared me for the Oh-My-God-Please-Shoot-Me-I-Don’t-Want-To-Be-Here stress of walking into a claustrophobic conference room this morning, full of people I barely knew, to be judged. Because even though it’s not about anyone but the child in question, you can’t help but feel judged as you walk into a 504/IEP meeting.
Eight people waited for us as Tom and I walked into the meeting. The principal, one of the school’s Speech-Language Pathologists, the Special Ed liaison, a psychologist intern, A’s 5th grade teacher, an Occupational Therapist, the school’s social worker, and the district psychologist. Raise your hand if you notice who was missing.
I think I may have figured it out. This morning was kinda like surgery. You don’t know what to expect. You’re scared. Overwhelmed. Intimidated. You’re led into a small room where you don’t recognize anyone. Afterwards you don’t remember much, but you know you’re in pain and woozy. And still you have to move forward to the treatment.
I requested this 504 meeting on the very strong advice of my gut, A’s pediatrician, and his new ADHD doc. But it ended up being less of a 504 “here’s what we’re going to do” gathering and instead was a pre-meeting for the Special Ed Evaluation the school is going to do. Again, notice who was missing from the above cast of characters. The school is concerned, and rightly so, about a whole slew of things, including the possibility of dysgraphia. (OOH! New possible diagnosis! I need to see which ones he hasn’t collected yet! He might have a complete set!) So instead of a plan for moving forward, we have no fewer than seven evaluations on the docket. Some for us, some for A, nearly all have done before. ‘Cause, you know, the WISC IV from two years ago isn’t enough, they have to re-administer it to see if his abilities are the same. Hm. Didn’t know ability could decline. And I’m going to let the psychologist’s side comment of seeing if his abilities are the same as they were a few years ago slide. Once.
Not a 504. Not an IEP. But a Special Education Evaluation. Let that sink in a moment.
Sinking in? Or sinking feeling?
I’ll be the first to admit that A has a lot of difficulties in school, mainly with writing. My God, the epic homework battles. What should take 30 minutes takes three hours. But…dammit, despite all that he’s still pulling As and high Bs on his work. Or rather, his completed work. And there’s the rub. He doesn’t do the classwork, oftentimes shuts down when pressed, and tunes out instead of participating in class. I think he’s been “taught” that his needs…ALL of his needs, including intellectual…aren’t going to be met in school, so why bother. And he won’t play the game.
My beautiful sister in law refused to play the game too. She dropped out of high school when she was 16, sick of it. She’s told me that the school bent over backwards to help her; evaluations and interventions and all that. But she wouldn’t play their game. She’s now in Physicians’ Assistant school, pulling straight As in one of the most intense schools in the country.
And somewhere, in the middle of all this, is a little boy whose need for intellectual stimulation just isn’t being met.
We have all failed him.