It’s not easy to retell and relive situations that were difficult so I don’t tell this story very often. It’s about the day I broke down, trying to get my son what he needed for his learning style and mental health.
I was in the principal’s office, again. This had become an all-too-familiar way to spend my afternoons.
My son was one of “those kids” who get their name written on the board every day, and usually have few check marks or frowny faces, or are benched during recess.
*Side note: It's so hard for me to even describe him or the situation like this because it's not how I fundamentally believe in managing behavior or judging kids for not being able to compile to unrealistic demands, but this is what the situation was and how he was being judged.
Back to the story: That day, in the office, we were discussing what he needed. I was trying to get them to understand him and his need to move around, and they just didn’t. He wasn’t a bad kid. He didn’t need more discipline. He needed movement breaks and accommodations. He needed support and understanding.
The past several months had been a gauntlet of doctors, therapists, and specialists observing him, while I worked toward a 504, an IEP, SST, ANYTHING that would help.
During that time, I felt alone, but I truly believed that if I just pushed through it, my son would get the help he needed. We had even picked up our family and moved from my hometown, the place I wanted to raise my kids, to a town with smaller class sizes, and more (theoretically) available resources.
Finally, FINALLY, I thought I had jumped through enough fiery hoops. The testing was done. The results were transferred between districts, the t’s had been crossed and the i’s were dotted.
And so there I was, with a diagnosis, and recommendations, and still the principal sat on the other side of her desk, telling me that my son didn’t qualify for any help. That I was making a mountain out of a molehill, and that the problem, really, was … ME.
This stemmed, she was sure, from my coddling him. I had been sending too many emails, making too many requests, helicoptering and asking for exceptions, and stymying my son’s ability to take responsibility for himself...
To say that this was upsetting is more than an understatement. I was so frustrated. And horrified, and ashamed, and a million other emotions, swirling into one giant cloud of pain and blame.
So when the principal told me that from now on I should assume that any emails I sent to my son’s teacher were being announced to the whole school, whether they were about medications or music practice, the dam broke.
It takes a lot for me to cry, especially in front of others, but that was the last straw. When those hot salty tears began to sting my eyes, the only thing I wanted to do was run away, and hide.
After that it’s a little fuzzy. I remember telling my husband that I needed to go, that I needed to get OUT of that room...but not a whole lot more than that.
But, I guess that is what it took to get my son what he needed. The next day, the principal finally relented, calling my husband (not me) to say that she was going to put an IEP and support for his needs in place.
After that, I went to work on my mental health, hoping that my son was going to get the support he needed for his. And even though it was one of the hardest things I’ve EVER done, I am so glad that I never gave up.
I would give anything in the world to keep anyone from ever feeling like I did in that office. The helplessness, the embarrassment, the isolation… no one should ever feel like that.
On that day, I decided to keep as many families as I could from dealing with anything similar.
And now, I’m absolutely elated to tell you that if you’ve ever felt even an inkling of what I just described, you’re not alone, it’s not your fault, and most importantly…
THERE IS HELP.
On that day in the principal’s office, it became crystal clear that I wanted to focus my career as a speech therapist and social-emotional coach on supporting parents and caregivers to, in turn, support the whole child.
I began a journey of education and hope. I wrote my book, Make Social and Emotional Learning Stick. I started my blog, and shared everything I could with thousands of frustrated parents and educators in need of help.
And NOW there’s the Make it Stick Parenting Course, the online program and community I developed with Dr. Rebecca Branstetter to give parents the support they need to nurture their children into engaged, independent adults.
The best part? You can join me on this journey, and if you are an educator supporting parents, this is a great opportunity for you to partner with parents and learn ways to support the families you work with. It starts with the free webinar Rebecca and I recently put together.
It’s called “The 3 Keys to Help Your Child Cope, So They Can Stay Calm, Focused, and even Happy During The COVID-19 Pandemic,” and while it IS focused on what to do RIGHT NOW to help children during the current crisis, the lessons inside were developed to help empower families in any situation, so they can connect deeply and live a happier, calmer life they’ve always wanted.
CLICK HERE and register as soon as you can, so you can start living the family life you’ve always wanted.
P.S. I have learned so much from many leading experts over the years and am thrilled to have them included in the Make It Stick Course as a bonus interview section providing practical tools for parents: