Two and a half years ago I found myself at a child’s advocate organization, trying to get help for my kiddo.
He was failing.
Life for him, and with him, had always been hard. That was something he had struggled with much longer than two and a half years.
But now he was failing at school. He hated school. He hated his teachers. He hated his classmates. He hated homework. He hated school work.
I knew something was terribly wrong and couldn’t understand why he was in a remedial reading class, when two years prior, he was his class’ top reader.
I also couldn’t understand why the school didn’t see there was a problem, and it wasn’t just with his reading.
I wanted him to have an IEP, Individualized Educational Plan. It would allow him extra supports that was personalized to his needs in order for him to succeed in class.
I had to fight for it because although he had a disability, it wasn’t a learning disability.
At first, his school flat out refused to evaluate him even though his disability qualified him for at least testing, and he was failing.
It is true his behavior had just started to change. He hadn’t been failing for years, but I could see him spinning quickly in a direction I didn’t want him to go.
The short time frame, may have been their reason for not wanting to test him. I was told if there was anything I should be concerned with, they would be able to identify it before I could. They thought it was too soon. They didn’t want to label him.
I could appreciate that, I didn’t want to label him either, but my son needed help.
The organization helped educate me as to what my rights were and more importantly, how to let the school know I knew my rights.
After I was dismissed by the school psychologist and refused testing, I promptly emailed the school psychologist, school principal, and the school district stating I wanted an independent evaluator for my son.
Before the end of the day, someone from the school district had called to apologize and informed me their school psychologist had misrepresented their school and they would be more than happy to proceed with the evaluations, if that was still something I was interested in pursuing.
It was hard for me to go to that next meeting. I felt like the squeaky wheel, and I don’t like being the squeaky wheel. I’ve never been one who liked to rock the boat. I’m a people-pleaser, a recovering codependent.
So to sit in that meeting with all those school representatives looking at me like I was wasting their time, was all I could do from drowning in my own puddle of tears. Keep it together, Kim. One person even asked why were meeting again; wasn’t the decision to not test already made?
I knew it would be a slow process. It took time. It took a lot of time. It took a lot of people’s time. That was made perfectly clear.
But my son was struggling! He was growing more and more impatient. He was being suspended frequently. He was caring less and less. His self-esteem was crumbling. He was becoming more violent and more threatening. He was more out of control.
I was scared.
Days before the results meeting, the school psychologist had called for me to come in. They weren’t able to get all the evaluations completed. My son had refused to do some of the tests.
She wanted to make sure I understood, in the next meeting we would be determining if my son qualified for an IEP based on ED, an emotional disability or emotionally disturbed. She wanted to make sure I understood if we go through with this determination, that it would affect the rest of his life. It would mean he could never be in the military or any public service position like that of a police officer or fire fighter.
I turned to face her, my hands clutching a tear filled tissue with black eyeliner smudges, and told her my son has a mental illness that I don’t understand.
How our society deals with people with a mental illness is by putting them in jail or putting them on the street. I was aware of the broad range of jobs between being a police officer and living on the street, and I’m completely ok with it.
I would be thrilled for him to have the opportunity to pursue any one of them. But my son needs help. If he doesn’t get help, I’m afraid we won’t have to worry about whether or not he would be able to serve his country in the future; he won’t have a future to worry about.
He will be dead. Because that, unfortunately is the third option for people with an untreated mental illness. I’m asking you to help me, help my son.
That was almost three years ago. We got his IEP as well as counseling and other treatment.
As a sixth grader, I felt his future was very bleak. People worried about their teens graduating high school, I wasn’t sure if my son would make it to eighth grade.
But here I was tonight! Looking at my son standing with his class as they were being promoted on to high school.
I caught a smile from time to time, too. He stood tall. He had on a tie and his shirt tucked in. He took pictures. He cracked jokes. He said goodbye to his friends for the summer.
I saw him.
I could see him standing there somewhere in that broad range of excelling and failing, and I was ok with it. Just like I knew I would be.
I’m so proud of him. I’m so proud of us.
YOU DID IT!