Sunday, September 7, 2008

“What can we do different?” vs. “Mommy Bashing”

I once read that when administrators and school psychologists were asked the question, "Whose fault is it if the student is not succeeding?", and given the choices:
a huge percent (98%?) said "parents and/or student.”

ie., It couldn't be because of the teacher/school!

My daughter Ricki is one of the first students with Down syndrome to be really integrated into a grade school setting in our town, and indeed in Israel. Before that time some kids were “dumped” into regular grade schools (ie, included without adapting the materials, and without enough support), but few where truly included. She was integrated into a certain school from first grade (she was 2 years older). The school refused to accept our offer of free consultation. saying,"we can do it ourselves". They did a very poor job, and every single year at the IEP they had a "Bash the Mommy" session.
One year when they said "this isn't working!" I suggested that NOW maybe they would consider using our (free for them) consultants. They refused, saying that we were cruel parents, unrealistic, and didn't accept the reality of our daughter's retardation.
Finally, after three years of this fiasco, I managed to get her transferred to a different school. They jumped her up to sixth grade (instead of fourth), to her age group. And she did much better that year, despite the higher level of the studies. Things weren't perfect, however.
So, when the IEP came around I braced myself for some "Mommy bashing." After all, it took less than three years to train Pavlov’s dogs, and I dreaded the upcoming session. I felt physically ill in anticipation.
Not once in that IEP meeting did I hear the words “improper placement”, “not fitting”, etc. They admitted some problems, and held at a separate time a staff meeting. I heard that at this meeting the “problems” were laid out. And then the principal said: “OK. What can we do different to change this?” Now THAT is an Educator!


Anonymous said...

i am glad it worked out better for you this time. i have been to those meetings and know how you feel. i came prepared after getting all the test results prior to the meeting (which in america is a parents right, that most are not aware of) and discussing them with my colleagues (ot's Pt's and Slp's). i almost strangled the lady who said my son didn't want to participate in a certain test, i calmly said "maybe he didn't because he couldn't, that test was a particular weakness for him". Keep advocating for your child.

EndOfWorld said...

you sound like you're doing an awesome job advocating for your daughter. Don't let them tell you otherwise!

FAB said...

I'm so glad to hear similar experiences as my own.

I hate those meetings! I generally feel pretty confident, but as soon as the "educators" start looking down thier noses, I sudden;y feel incompetent. I have yet to hear any of the educators ask how THEY can address the issues. It's always me and my son who are supposed to change, do more etc...

I'm going to keep waiting for it though, apparently it does happen and I'm so glad.

Thank you so much for this post. If not so for anyone else, it is VERY meaningful for me!

rickismom said...

Glad you enjoyed, FAB!

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

That's good she was able to be with her age group and that they are willing to help out and not blame it on you.

Anonymous said...

I'm reading "Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome" and the author is quite clear about how children pick up on educators' frustration, disappointment, etc.

The author also talks about how it is often the teacher that is failing the student -- not the student failing at the task at hand.

It's going to be a challenge, I believe, to work with educators, and those that see potential and ability in our children are to be cherished.

Recently, a friend of mine who is obtaining a PhD in education wrote to me about how she was going to work with "Down syndrome kids." I replied in the email back to her that in our circles, we always say "kids with Down syndrome". She replied back that everyone in the field (she was conducting a study through one of the Down syndrome research centers) used the "short term".

Although she apologized if she offended me, it made me realize that the very people who are working with our children, are perpetuating some of the very stigmas we're trying to erase.

Anyway, advocating for our children is more important than ever, I think. You're doing such a great job!