We only talked a short while, but she shared some concerns about her step-son and wanted some advice. Much of what she described mirrors my son's behaviors. I told her that in my unqualified, unprofessional opinion, it sounded very much like an ADD scenario. In the discussion, I sensed that she was feeling a bit alone in her concerns. However, her step-son's teacher is noticing his struggles and reporting them as well.
I gave her two pieces of advice: 1) Follow her gut. If she knows in her heart that something is atypical or different with her step-son, and it is truly causing her concern, she should trust that instinct. I suggested that she seek a qualified, professional opinion. I recommended that he be assessed by specifically trained and highly qualified individuals. If he tests "normal," she'll have peace of mind. If he doesn't, they can seek help. 2) Advocate for his needs. In her particular situation, she needs to advocate for him to family members and people very close to the situation to convince them to agree to seek appropriate assessments. Then, she needs to advocate for his needs in the school and community settings.
We had the conversation while I was driving home from work. We hung up just moments before I pulled into my garage.
I walked into the house, and the first thing I saw when I entered, before even putting my purse down, was a letter from the school principal. It explained that the 2nd grade classrooms were overcrowded and that a new teacher had been hired. She was requesting volunteers from each class to move into the new classroom. If enough volunteers do not come forward, a lottery system will be put in place to fill the new class roster.
Note the date--It's November. The kids have been in their classrooms for almost three months. Routines have been established. Relationships have formed. I knew that it was highly unlikely that volunteers would fill that classroom.
I thought about Troy, and I panicked. With his various special needs, especially his anxiety, social interaction struggles, and the problems he has adjusting to changes in routines, I knew it would be disastrous for him to be forced to move.
On the other hand, I felt like those were selfish thoughts and that my child should be treated like everyone else. That is what is fair, right?!
No! Fair is not always equal. I flashed back to the advice I had given literally moments before. I knew I had to take my own advice and advocate for what I believed was best for Troy.
After dinner was done and the kids were in bed, I wrote the principal an e-mail. A long e-mail. (Shocking, I know!) I revised and edited it and read it aloud several times. I wanted it to be just right. I asked her to exempt Troy from the lottery because it would be detrimental to him. I have spent many, many hours with the principal in ARD meetings and various school functions. We get along well, and I have great trust in her leadership. I know that she cares for all of the students and wants what is best for them. Still, I was scared to hit "Send." Would I upset her with my request? Would she feel like I was being a typical, overprotective, entitled parent? Again, I flashed back to the advice I had given to my family member. It didn't matter what she thought of me--I had to advocate for my son. I sent the e-mail.
In about five minutes, at 9:30 at night, the principal responded. Her simple response to my predictably lengthy, impassioned e-mail: "I agree."
Tom and I laughed at the speed and simplicity in her response to my fervent, lengthy petition. When the giggling subsided, I reflected on the situation. Knowing that Troy's needs were taken care of, I felt immense peace of mind and gratitude that he is in a school that truly nurtures and fosters his growth and success.
Eventually, my mind went back to my conversation with my relative. At the time, I believed that my advice was really not that helpful. I truly felt bad that I didn't have something better or more profound to offer her. However, it seemed like much more than a coincidence that the advice I gave her, I needed to hear just as badly. So, to her, I say, 'Thank you for helping me-without even knowing you were doing it. And thank you for loving that little boy enough to follow your gut and step up to advocate for him.'