By Judith Carter
Here’s a truth I’m sure you will agree with: Raising a child, any child, is hard. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals and we parents are often left wondering if we made the right decisions. Throw significant special needs into the mix and things just get that much harder. Not only is it difficult to know if we are making the right decision, we sometimes don’t even really understand what our options are.
This is why special needs families rely so much on the professionals who work with our kids. From Early Intervention to medical and school administrators, these professionals are the ones who are there to let us know what services are available, what our kids need and how to go about getting them the equipment and resources that are perfect for them. If we don’t know what’s out there, how can we ask?
But what happens when the professionals let us down?
So here is my question to you: What would you do, how would you feel, if your school gave up on your child? If every time you asked for help or advice, they shut you down and told you you were asking for too much or being unreasonable? Who would you turn to?
Many people say that it’s important to follow your gut feeling and to always fight for your child and for what you believe they need. That’s easy to say, but so much harder to put into action when your child’s teachers, with all their experience and reputation, look you in the eye and tell you that you are wrong. You are asking for too much and, quite frankly, your expectations for your child are simply too high. He will never accomplish the farfetched goals you’ve set for him. How do you – someone who is “just” a parent – argue with them? How do you know if what you think is realistic for your special needs child isn’t really just a false parent hope?
And here’s the other thing. Change is hard. When backed into a corner the best option may be to move and find a new school with new teachers and new opinions. Who knows? Maybe the new teachers will say the same thing or maybe (just maybe) they will work to reach the goals you have for your child. Are you willing to risk it? Are you willing to put all your effort into changing schools, putting your child through another transition, for the hope that maybe the new school will be better? It’s really not an easy decision to make.
Not only is it difficult to second guess the experts and professionals who work with your child, but it can be especially daunting when they are well known in their field or work in a school with a high reputation. Who are you, a parent with no specialized credentials, to question such lofty experts? How self absorbed of you to be considering moving to a new school when there are other families fighting to get their kids into the program you are leaving! It’s enough to make any parent back down and stop fighting.
If you are in this place too, I have a message for you: You need to try.
I struggled with this decision and I fought for the best for my child even while I was told that I was being unreasonable. Sometimes I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. I moved him from a larger school with more resources and prestige to a smaller lesser-known school because I thought they would have more faith in his abilities and push him harder.
It took me a long time, but once done, I can honestly say that all that he was not expected to achieve, was accomplished within weeks or months in the new setting. I didn’t give up on him even when I was told I should and I am so happy that I followed through.
I’m still very frustrated about the long time that was wasted until I was able to gather the courage I needed, but yes, definitely follow your gut. In most cases, there is nothing to lose.