A Sweet Victory for Mom

Seven years of fighting for my son in school finally paid off.
Boy Without Instructions | posted by Penny Williams
When the School Doesn’t Follow Your IEP: Don’t Give Up

I have been fighting for people to understand and support my son, Ricochet, in school and beyond, since his diagnosis with ADHD seven years ago. In fact, I was fighting for him the year before that too, in kindergarten.

I’ve been blamed for his ADHD. I’ve been told I “need to accept that his life will be hard, that he will always struggle.” I’ve been told a particular school isn’t right for him because they don’t want to individualize instruction, even though the law says they have to. I’ve been told he has to continue to hand write his work, despite his dysgraphia. I’ve been told he can’t have autism because he makes eye contact. I’ve been told “he is smart so we know he can do better.”

I’ve heard a lot of BS about my son over the years.

Yet, with every uncomfortable step in a new pile of poo, I have continued to fight. I’ve sought professionals who understand twice-exceptional kids, ADHD, and autism. I’ve tried to educate teachers and school administrators. I’ve tried so hard, and made such little impact that some days I didn’t want to get out of bed. But I always kept fighting.

Now, my fight is beginning to pay off.

After an excruciating school year at a new charter school last year, I pulled Ricochet from their enrollment and filed an official complaint with our state department of education’s exceptional children’s division. I reported them for not supporting the IEP goals and for not considering parent and private therapist input. I received the final investigation report three days ago and the school was found to be noncompliant with the law on both occasions. The state is requiring teachers and administration to go through a debriefing period with the investigator and take some specialized training. They gave them only three weeks to complete it all and report back.

While the school was slapped on the wrist for procedural mistakes and didn’t address the way that they treated Ricochet or me, it was still a win, one to celebrate. The school now has a mark on their record with the state, in both the special education and the charter schools departments. That is big.

I encourage you to keep escalating the fight when necessary. Don’t let the schools bully you into less than your child deserves. I am living proof that you can beat the system at their own game. It is worth the effort, and I did it for merely the cost of postage.

The win against Ricochet’s former school isn’t my only recent payoff from all my hours of fighting the Warrior Momma fight. Ricochet is now succeeding at school, too. If you remember, we had been in the throes of Ricochet avoiding and refusing to go to school for the last couple years. It was so bad that he wouldn’t leave the house many days. He once tried to jump out of my moving car before we got to the school for drop-off, and the administration tried to physically escort him from my car into the building (unsuccessfully after over an hour) once. I have PTSD from watching him chase my car through drop-off traffic, crying and screaming, a couple years ago. This has been an insurmountable issue, until now.

It turns out, all Ricochet needed in order to go to school willingly and happily was understanding and empathy. For years he’s been pushed to do more and better, when he was already giving it his all. His thoughts and feelings were never validated at school, but rather dismissed as the ravings of a lying kid.

This year, seventh grade at our district middle school, has been a complete 180 so far. His teachers are understanding and compassionate and work to help him with concerns. They do whatever they can to make school as comfortable as possible for him. For instance, he was bothered and tormented by a girl he was assigned to sit next to in science class. He faked stomachaches and nausea to try to get out of going on the fifth day. After a couple hours I was able to get to the real issue. I asked him why he didn’t tell his teacher or me that to begin with, so we could resolve it. He said, “Because my teachers have never listened to me.”

I was heartbroken.

We then talked about how he needs to give the teachers and the new school a chance to show him how they will react to his concerns.

I emailed his science teacher about the seating problem, at lunchtime, expecting her to respond after school that day. Instead, she responded within five minutes that she would move his seat that day. She asked that I let her know how else they can make Ricochet’s life a little easier at school. I nearly cried. Ricochet jumped up and asked me to take him to school for the rest of the day after receiving her reply.

Since then, the vice principal has taken care of a bullying problem on the bus and the IEP team added IEP goals I requested, without questioning me. Again and again, the school has encouraged Ricochet to talk openly with them about his needs so they can help him.

Now when asked how school is going, Ricochet says, “Great! My teachers are trying to understand me and want to help me. They even respond to my concerns in five minutes. I like going to school for the first time ever.”

Keep fighting, folks! You can make a difference.

 
 
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