Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Listen to your mother!

After our usual swimming and dinner out last Thursday we arrived home at 6:30 pm. The little red light was blinking on our phone so I sat down to listen to my messages. There was just one and it was from our Special Ed Director from our school district. Her message said she had been at Daniel's school that day and spent some time with him and that she would "like to have a chat with me".

I called her back at the office even though it was way past office hours, but crazier things have happened I thought I might catch her. I got her voice mail and I left a very pleasant message telling her my availability the next day. I threw in, on a whim, that Todd and I were touring the middle school the next day at 1:15 if she wanted to join us. I thought this would be appropriate since we were going to scout out the school for our IEP. Otherwise I'd be home at 9:00 am from dropping Daniel off at school.

Whenever I see the school district's name on my caller ID the inner turmoil begins. I am gripped with a, usually, momentary fear. Momentary because I then pickup (OK pounce on) the phone and brace myself for whatever comes next. It's sort of a Pavlovian response. Phone rings, parent jumps on, parent hears what child has done to prompt phone call. Some people from the district, now lead with "everything's fine" when it is, so I can relax right away and not have to wait through the whole phone call. Crazy? Maybe. The early years brought so many calls of him hitting teachers, throwing himself into doors and windows and being inconsolable I can't seem to get past that. I don't know if I ever will.

This time, not only was it the school but it was the Special Ed Director calling me. Since we are in the middle of a transition and I have been hearing mutterings of his support for next year and placement, I assumed that of course she had "spent some time with Daniel" to see how he's been handling himself at school and MAYBE how much support he needs at school. Getting the information first hand would be the most direct way for her to gather information. Most of you know we are in Michigan. Michigan, even more than the rest of the country is in dire straights. Our state has even less money that usual and our schools have recently received an announcement that they are getting even less money than they were promised. Cuts are coming. Again.

I spent the night running over scenarios in my mind and rehearsing what I'd say. After bringing Daniel to school the next day I was basically WAITING for my phone call back from her. All morning. The longer I waited the further my claws exposed themselves. I was ready to protect Daniel no matter what. Were they going to discuss cutting his para support? (He has a full time para) What else could it be? I was ready.

The phone finally rang about 11:30. Our special ed. director has only been with our district for just over a year, but I actually have known her for over 6 years. She used to work at the Intermediate school district and she oversaw a program that Daniel was in during his kindergarten year. After that she was very helpful when we were having a hard time in 1st grade even though he wasn't part of her program any more. After that I would see her at conferences and meetings and we just crossed paths a lot. She really has been someone I have felt I had a connection with in some weird way that I cannot explain. When she was hired into our district I was so thrilled I cried. Our district has really struggled with leadership in this position and I felt like maybe we might have something finally in place to get things in order. Not to mention I already had a relationship with her and that HAS to be a good thing. Right?

We chatted for a moment with the lead in pleasantries while I was bracing myself, little did she know I had my claws exposed, ready for attack. They were hidden from her, but ready if needed. She began by telling me that she was in the resource room yesterday meeting with the teacher and Daniel came in for his break at the end of it.

(OK does this mean she didn't go in to spend time with him specifically? Clink, the claws slightly retract)

She had a great conversation with him and he started telling her jokes.

(Clink, in another notch)

I told her that he has the same repertoire with jokes that he scripts. She said she thought so but she intentionally kept trying to trip him up to get him off script and he thought it was HILARIOUS. When he was telling all the "why did the chicken?. . . " jokes (every thing but the original joke) she said "Daniel maybe the chicken just wanted to get to the other side". He paused, apparently, and thought about it, then cracked up laughing as this was the funniest thing he'd ever heard.

(Clink, in another notch)

Then she proceeds to say, "Michelle, I haven't interacted with him since kindergarten and I can't believe how far he has come, it overwhelmed me and I just had to call you to say how wonderful he is and that it brought me to tears to see him interacting the way he is, it's amazing"

(Clink, claws are now fully retracted and frankly I feel a bit bad about my thoughts! Head hanging low.)

She then says, "I had to call my mom and tell her about it because I was so thrilled. You've done an amazing job".

(OK now she is TRYING to make me feel guilty)

She ends with "when I told my mother I just had to call you about it and I left you a message, my mom said, "I hope you told her why so she doesn't worry' ". She should really listen to her mother.


Jude K. said...

tootie14He has come an amazingly long long way, Shelly. And that's 90% due to you and Todd!

Mama Mara said...

Wow! That is so wonderful. And so well-deserved.

(Hope she'll make future calls like that with the following intro: "Hi, this is so-and-so, and first let me say that NOTHING IS WRONG!")

kristi said...

That is fantastic. She sounds great!

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

What a relief that must have been! And so wonderful to hear. I know exactly what you mean about reacting to the calls when it's the school. The physical reaction, the tensing, the dreading. I had a break from that for the 14 months that I homeschooled Nigel. Now that he's going back, I have to brace myself for the calls again. Aagh!

Amy said...

Great news! Thank goodness she had the opportunity to interact with Daniel that way. Now you can make a case for continuing what you are doing because she has seen that it works.

Michele said...

Loved this one Michelle! As always I really enjoy reading your blog.... it is wonderful!