Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When God Whispers

On Friday, we fired our school district.

And it feels like I have shed the weight of the world.

Like I can breathe again, deep and easy.

Like I am free.

Until we cut them loose, I didn't realize how heavy and trapped I felt.  Like I was slowly drowning.  My hubby said our relationship with the ECSE department was like a relationship with an abusive spouse that you just keep going back to, hoping they will change.  That things will get better.  Or that you have somehow convinced yourself that you can't live without them.  But you can...

He was right.

(Relish that confession, babe, it doesn't happen often ;)

As some of you are already aware, we have had some issues with the school district services.  While I mentioned it on one or two occasions, lately I remained relatively vague about the issues. In part this was because we were in the thick of it and I wasn't sure of the outcome. However, through the magic of server-IP-identification, I also became aware some time ago that someone(s) at the school district have been regularly checking out my blog.  I will confess...  I am kind of amused.  Heck, the Internet is an open forum and I do put it out there.  And actually I have no problem with them reading my blog:  I am proud of my boy and all he is doing! But I was... hesitant... to go into specifics about my anger, frustration and angst regarding our conflict.  Not that I don't stand behind my blog...  what I say here I proudly own... but you know, they don't need to know everything.

Of course, now that they are fired...

I will admit I've had some fantasies about writing this post.  My hubby has been dying for me to tear the district apart, to name names and put it all out there.  But now that it is here...  what do I say?  That they acted poorly, were manipulative and lied?  Of course.  That they have made inappropriate and possibly destructive decisions?  Yep.  That they have failed to listen to us or treat us as equal partners?  Yep  That they have failed in their legal, ethical, and moral obligations to the J-man?  It goes without saying. 

We wouldn't have fired them for anything less.

But aside from telling the basic story in my letter, I have no taste for giving them much more of my time.  Instead, I would rather focus on why it took me so damn long to see what has been obvious all along...

We don't need them.

In case you are reading this, IEP "team", allow me to repeat:

We don't need YOU.

We will do this all on our own.  In many ways, we have been. You had a chance to be a part of something magical, something beautiful, something you could have been proud of.  Something meaningful. If you would have just opened your eyes and really saw him...

You lose.

The system is stacked against families.  The power structure leans heavily in the favor of the school district.  Don't get me wrong. The law is built for us.  But failing to follow the law carries few penalties and doing what is right for the child and the family is not necessarily rewarded.  The ethics seem nebulous at best, and it appears to be fairly easy to convince themselves that they have the knowledge and authority to be the ones making the decisions.  It is okay to keep parents in the dark about their options, because if parents know too much then they might challenge you.  As a parent, this attitude can feel very paternalistic:  Do what we say because we know best.  It is our system, our programs, and if you don't fit or agree.... well, too bad, so sad.  So much for the Individual part of IEP.

So we started with Hope.  Hope we get 'the good ones'.  Hope they will really see our child and work with us.  We smile and try and cross our fingers and pray that they share our vision.  And even as the evidence mounts that is not the case... we still Hoped.  Maybe they will see him as we see him.  Maybe they will.... 

And as Hope starts to fade... it is replaced by Anger.  Anger that they are failing in their duty.  Anger that they won't listen or maybe just don't care.  Anger.  We pay taxes.. have since we were 16 and probably will until we die. We have one child... only one.. and I think we have paid our dues.  J-man is a citizen of the United States of America and our society has decided that ALL children deserve a quality education. They are not allowed to fail. This is J-man's right.  They should feel ashamed, right to the core. 

And under all that Hope and Anger is Fear.  Fear about making the wrong decision.  Fear about defying 'authority'.  Fear about doing it all by ourselves... what an isolating, lonely feeling... How will we do what needs to happen for J-man?  Why can't they just love him as we do?  There is so much to love...

I was stuck by Hope, Anger, and Fear.

And amongst the chaos of this week... the lost Hope, the Anger, the Fear...  I read this post by my friend Ange at Life in the Pumpkin Shell.  The last line struck a chord in me so strong and clear it was like God himself whispering in my ear:

One gift allowed me by the spirits who guide me through...'Walk away when it feels wrong.'

And then, in a wonderful repost-response given to me by Ange about their experiences with their son  (who reminds us of J-man so clearly it is scary), I found solace and fellowship.  And Courage...

So while Hope, Anger, and Fear have failed me,
the Courage to walk away will save us all.

And it feels like we have shed the weight of the world.
Like we can breathe again, deep and easy.
It feels like we are free.



Niksmom said...

Wishing you all the best as you begin this next leg of your journey with your son. We did the same and it was amazing.

Now, ironically, he's back in the same school but an actual autism program and doing well. And the administration has changed, too. I guess what I'm saying is you just never know what will happen down the road. We left with so much anger and disgust, mistrust and was where we needed to go and what we needed to do. Then, things changed in many areas and we had to choose school again. We geared up for a fight, girded our loins for the take-down...and it never came. Go figure.

I would recommend one thing; it's something I wish we had done...DOCUMENT IT ALL and file a written complaint with your state DOE. If there are violations of parental rights and due process, they need to know. You may not need it for J-man, but you can pay it forward (so to speak) for other families who may not be as savvy or may not be able to pull their child from school.

Enjoy the time with your son. Cherish each moment and don't forget to make it fun! :-) Wishing you much joy and success.

Junior said...

Wow, I couldn't believe it when I saw this post today. I am getting to that point where I feel it is time to fire our district. I just today contacted our advocate and HSLDA to get the process going. So sad when those who should be there to help our kids instead fail them. Good luck on your new journey.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to your blog, but it looks like today is your birthday. So Happy birthday! I'm not far behind. Next month I turn the big 40 myself.

My son is almost 11. Quite a bit older than J-Man. A few years ago we fired our school district for the same reason. It was the best decision we have ever made. He has flourished, and grown in ways I couldn't have imagined before.

Good for you for doing what's best for your son. Congratulations. The fun part is just starting. :-)


Kathy said...

I am so happy for you that the weight has been lifted.

Madmother said...

Isuspect I am on the other side of the world to you, but we are having similar issues with our school. Sadly, it is not with our Aspie boy, but with our younder son. It has become so nasty that someoen even printed my very security conscious facebook page for the principal which she has now used in an attempted power coup. Sucks for her that I proudly own what I say, and I loudly proclaimed my opinion to be what I posted and stood by.

And I am telling all and sundry of her tactics.

Sad to feel like you are dealing with high school fools when they are meant to be professional and adult.

You have made the right choice.

The Henrys said...

Dealing with the school can be an all consuming, never ending, process. Over the years, we have dealt with many issues, and I have almost pulled my 8 year old daughter out of school. I'm so glad that you were able to make a decision and now feel so much better!

ps, we are thinking of getting our non-verbal daughter an iPad. I would love to hear more about what your son is doing with his! It sounds like he did well with it very quickly!

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry the school district has failed J-Man, we are in a similar boat ourselves. I am in the process of meeting with our advocate to prepare for one hell of a fight. I agree that it is a damn shame that we have to fight so hard for things our children need and deserve. I applaud your taking the reigns and firing their incompetent asses. Beth's advice is amazing. I will keep your family and J-Man in my thoughts :).


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