“Tell Me Something Wonderful About My Child”
My son has spent 15 years trying to squeeze his creative, energetic, ADHD self into the public school mold, and I’m well aware of the many challenges he’s faced along the way. That’s why, in a recent IEP meeting, I asked his teachers to start with a positive comment about something that makes Miles special. The answers — touching on his empathy, his sense of humor, and his bright smile — made the meeting anything other than business as usual.
As always, Miles comes to today’s IEP meeting. The rest of us are gathered when he arrives — IEP coordinator, counselor, psychologist, social worker, and a few teachers. Miles is six feet tall, broad shouldered. His horn-rimmed glasses and floppy hair make him look older than 15, but his face is nervous. He plops into the chair next to mine. His geometry teacher laughs, and says now she knows what Miles looks like, implying that he often skips her class. I adjust my mental armor.
Since pre-K, he’s been guided, pressured, instructed, and sometimes squeezed into fitting the mold of public schools. For many reasons, there is no alternative, and I’m aware of the disappointment he’s constantly exposed to — and the dearth of positive comments he receives. I’m shy, I hate confrontation, but I love my son. So I open my mouth. “Tell me something wonderful about Miles.”
There’s a pause. Miles looks at the floor, uncomfortable.
Then his math teacher smiles and says, “Miles is one of the nicest kids I know.” His social worker says, “He makes me laugh every time we meet.” Someone else mentions his empathy; another teacher tells us he greets her with a smile every morning. The IEP coordinator says she overheard Miles cheering up a kid who had suffered a loss.
Miles doesn’t look up, but I can see his shoulders softening, the slight upturn of his lip. The meeting slides back on course — accommodations, testing — but there’s a lighter feeling in the room. Afterward, Miles goes back to class.
I don’t know if the interventions will work. I don’t know if Miles will skip geometry again. But I’m relieved to know that the people charged with helping him like him. They “see” him. I’m ebullient for the rest of the day. Math? A tutor can help. Empathy, humor, and niceness? These can’t be taught. I couldn’t be prouder of my boy.