In the 36th of our series, our mom struggles with a teacher who has quite a different view of her daughter’s needs.
I stand corrected - kind of. After having the FASD key worker go over Lynn’s assessment report with me, I’m somewhat calmer.
Thank goodness she had the patience and knowledge to read through the report with unbiased eyes. She reassured me that the report doesn’t say Lynn does not have FASD; the report says that there is not sufficient information to give a definitive diagnosis.
However, it doesn’t change anything really. Without a full diagnosis, and because of her average IQ, Lynn does not qualify for any supports in the school system. She’s not a behavior problem, which is a good thing, but it means she has no support at all at school. I know, I know. There are tons of kids worse off than her who don’t receive support. But right now I’m more worried about my daughter than those other kids.
This week we had her IEP update, and the FASD key worker came with me again. I didn’t want to give the school a copy of the assessment report, because I was concerned they would see her IQ and do the proverbial “eyeroll.” The meeting was difficult enough without them seeing that report. Her teacher kept going on and on about how wonderful Lynn is, and how many friends she has. The key worker then asked me if Lynn ever gets invited for play dates or to birthday parties. My answer - “No.” The teacher’s response, “Well I don’t know what’s going on at home, but at school she has lots of friends.” The underlying message being, “You must be doing something wrong.” It took all my inner strength not to respond to that one!
Then I mentioned that Lynn now has an anxiety disorder diagnosis, and it was duly noted by the learning assistance teacher. She seems supportive and understanding, but the classroom teacher - not so much. Her response was, “All of the kids are anxious about the end of the coming school year, and transitioning to the next year. They’ll be fine.”
A few weeks ago, Lynn came home crying because some of the kids were making fun of her, saying she has a big nose and funny hair. She was really upset, and it was the first time she has actually talked about anything that has happened to her. I assured her I would speak to the principal and teacher the next day - which I did.
The teacher called me back with what really had happened. Lynn and another boy were teasing each other and it got out of hand. He called her names and she called him names. She’s much bigger than him and pushed him down on the ground (Hmmm, Lynn left out that part in her story). The teacher gave them each detentions for the next three days. When Lynn got home from school, we talked about what had really happened. She didn’t seem the least bit upset by the fact that she was partly responsible for this incident, and certainly didn’t deny her part in it. I told her I would defend her to the ends of the earth, but she had to be honest. So, with her trademark shoulder shrug, she went on with her day as if nothing had happened.
But I digress. During the IEP meeting, the learning assistance teacher and the guidance counsellor from the middle school were there to find out some of the things they need to have in place for Lynn for next year. I’ve mentioned several times that I want to set “our” expectations low for Lynn, so that she can easily meet them, and build from there. I thought I detected another eye roll from her current classroom teacher.
We talked about the level of supervision she requires, her struggle with friendships (despite what her current classroom teacher says), her difficulty with transitions, etcetera. We also discussed the elective classes that Grade 6 students have, and that they can choose either band, or art and drama. Lynn wants to do band because she doesn’t want to do the drama. I’m afraid band will be a huge failure for her. She doesn’t do well in large groups with lots of distractions, and she has such difficulty with transitions, that we could just be setting her up for failure. But the thought of standing up in front of her classmates and performing something, even for a few seconds, is incredibly stressful for her. So the guidance counsellor speaks up and says, “Well, she can just do art all year long.”
“We can do that?” I ask with my mouth open. And the counsellor says, “Of course we can. We can do whatever we want to make middle school successful for her.”
Perhaps I’m being just a little overly dramatic here, but I wanted to hug her. She gets it! I now have just a little bit of hope for middle school. That’s all I needed. Just a little bit.