In the 31st of our series, our mom of three kids--Emily, Grant, and Lynn--struggles with all the paperwork that she hopes will ensure that Lynn gets the help she needs.
With the referrals from the pediatrician for Lynn, came mounds and mounds of paper. I’m having a tough time. It’s overwhelming.
First to come, were the “Connors” forms for the school to fill out, and a set for us too. How naïve of me to think that would be it. Next came a thick package from the multidisciplinary assessment team. There’s the “Authorization for Obtaining Information” where I have a huge list of professionals/agencies to list, so they can release information on our daughter for this assessment. Then there’s the eight-page “Background Information Form,” the “General Consent” form, and the four-page “Child Symptom Inventory Parent Checklist” form, the “School Reporting Form” and the “Teacher Checklist.” The final package from the child psychiatrist arrived with a 15-page form, completely different, of course, from the other forms, but basically asking the same questions.
I started on the parent checklist, and I feel sick just filling this out. I have to “Check which rating best describes your child’s overall behavior. Answer each question to the best of your ability.” I must choose between “never” “sometimes” “often” and “very often.” For some of the behaviours, it’s easy to choose. For example, “Is easily distracted by other things going on” - well that’s definitely “very often.” But then the questions get tougher such as, “Has a peculiar way of relating to others, avoids eye contact, facial expressions or gestures, etc.” She sometimes does those things, but I don’t want to make her sound freaky or anything. And sometimes she “talks in strange way” and “makes strange repetitive motions – flapping arms, etc.” and “does unusual movements for no apparent reason.”
I hate this. She’s a great kid with some challenges, but filling this stupid form out makes me feel as if I’m telling the world she’s weird. Seriously weird. And then the other part of my brain is telling me to make sure I include everything I can think of, because I want these professionals to understand all the challenges she has, and how difficult it can sometimes be to parent her. But I thought I was supposed to be her cheerleader, her supporter. I don’t feel very cheery or supportive - because some days with her are great and she seems like a typical kid.
But in reality, those days are few and far between. The truth is she has brain damage from being exposed to alcohol and drugs in-utero, with poor nutrition and no pre-natal care. She’s emotionally delayed. We need to get these assessments done so, hopefully, it will help us get the services she needs as we navigate the school system and help her be successful, whatever that will look like for her.
I know that we’re not the only family that struggles with challenging children, but sometimes it feels that way. When her teacher tells me what a great kid my daughter is and how well she is doing, there are times when I want to scream at her. She is a great kid, but she’s not doing well. My daughter brings home a math test with 16 out of 35 and the teacher has put a “Great Job” sticker on it. My daughter is usually quite good at math, so 16 out of 35 is not a “great job.” She is not “meeting expectations” for reading at grade level. She struggles intellectually and socially. When another mom tells me how sweet and kind my daughter is, there are times when I want to tell her how mean and spiteful she was to her brother that morning. But I don’t. I just nod my head and agree.
If I’ve learned anything from parenting behavior challenged children, it’s to really choose wisely who I confide in. Parents of typical kids really don’t understand how tough it can be. And does it matter if the other moms on the playground think I’m the bad parent? I wouldn’t trade any of my kids for their “perfect” ones.