Early Intervention Pays Off

We just finished up our parent teacher conferences. I survived and it turns out my children weren’t lying about behaving themselves at school. Win! As I left one of the conferences, I thought about how differently that particular conference could have gone if we hadn’t received some early intervention for my son’s issues. I thought about how hard it is to know what’s “normal” or typical and how intimidating it can be to seek help for your kid. So, I felt inclined to babble about the importance and value of early intervention for kiddos and give a few – hopefully helpful – tips. So here goes!

Five years ago I would have had dire, somewhat hilarious, predictions for my son’s school experience, focusing mostly on military school. Things didn’t look good. At one year old, he was already very physically aggressive and angry. A lot. No matter the emotion, it was an intense emotion. Once angry, he wasn’t able to calm himself. He had this crazy-high tolerance for pain. He broke his leg and walked on it for two days. We thought at first his shoes were too tight because he was just limping a little. We still aren’t positive when the break happened because he never cried. He was extreme, stubborn, and exhausting.

I wanted to seek help for him, but I didn’t know where to start or what exactly was going on with him. I had people telling me “He’s just a boy.” or “He’s just trying to assert himself because he’s the youngest.”  or “You should be more (fill in the blank).” I also got my share of nasty looks and unsolicited opinions on child-rearing as I carried a screaming, squirming, hitting child out of the grocery store, leaving half a cart of groceries behind me. And they didn’t even see the worst of it.

So which was it? Was he just a boy or was I failing at parenting him? (Those appeared to be the only two options based on unsolicited feedback.  I didn’t buy that this was just “boy” behavior. I had other boys who were not whirling tornados of anger. So was I parenting wrong? This one was tricky. Moms all know how sensitive we can be to other people’s opinions on our child rearing. When you’re at a loss on what to do, it’s easy to start believing the worst of yourself. But, eventually, I decided that the people blaming his behavior on my parenting incompetence were idiots. Nosy, non-helpful, critical, opinionated idiots. That helped. Honestly. It allowed me to let the idiots think what they want while I got to work on helping my kid. If someone is not encouraging or empathetic when they offer parenting “advice,” give yourself permission to deem them an idiot and ignore them.

Here are a few tips from my time navigating early intervention. I hope they’re helpful. Your child’s issue may be different, but I think the tips can still apply.

  1. Gather Information
  2. Ignore Idiots
  3. Speak with Professionals
  4. Be Persistent
  5. Find Support
  6. Invest the Time
  7. Advocate, Advocate, Advocate

I read every parenting book I could find. I read the theories and the step-by-step guides. I googled and asked around in mom-circles. I picked up a copy of The Out of Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz. I can’t remember where I heard about this book, but it was the start of me learning about Sensory Processing Disorder. Piece by piece, we were putting the puzzle together. I documented my son’s behaviors and looked for patterns. (Gather Information) I knew we needed to get evaluated by an Occupational Therapist (Speak with Professionals), but getting that evaluation turned out to be more difficult than I expected. I needed a doctor’s referral. I met with one of the pediatricians in our doctor’s practice with a list of concerns and all my documentation. He dismissed me. Flat-out dismissed me. This, obviously, was disheartening. I had asked for resources, but he treated me as if I were looking for a label or diagnosis. I’m sure they see a bit of that, but I wasn’t interested in labeling my kid at age 4. I was interested in helping him. So I left the practice we had been at for eleven years and sought out a new doctor. (Be Persistent and Ignore Idiots)

Continue reading “Early Intervention Pays Off”

Parent Teacher Conference Fun

Parent Teacher Conferences

Fall parent-teacher conferences are just around the corner. I’m not an expert on these, but I’ve been a teacher and I’m currently a parent…so I do have a few thoughts to help ease any anxiety you’re having. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts…

Do take deep breaths. If you’re a newbie to this, there are a few things you should remember. First, your child’s performance is not an evaluation of your success or effort as a parent. In fact, you should probably stop tying your success as a parent to your child’s performance in anything. Because, dude, they’re going to mess up. Sometimes they make crappy choices or struggle with a subject and it’s not because you failed them somehow. They’re gonna need your help, but you’re useless if you’re self-flagellating over every mistake you surely must have made as a parent.

If your kid doesn’t know his sight words yet, the teacher does not assume that you aren’t trying. (Yes, I know there’s exceptions to this rule.) Just try not to take it personally when they point out areas for growth. They have to talk about something for 20 minutes and your kid isn’t supposed to have everything mastered. That’s why they go to school.

Do be prepared. Some teachers send home questionnaires for you to fill out so they can get an idea of what your concerns are prior to the conference. If you don’t get something like this, just jot down two or three things you’d like to ask about. Write it down because you’re going to forget everything as soon as you sit down in those tiny people chairs.

Do be on time. Seriously. The conferences are like, 20-minute slots. I’m not going to be happy if I have to wait for your conference to finish because you were running late.

Do respect the time limits. Most teachers are masterful at keeping the discussion within the 20-minute time frame, but do your part to not extend your conference beyond its slot. Remember, I’m waiting in the hallway and already annoyed.

Continue reading “Parent Teacher Conference Fun”

ABCs, 123s, and Deep Breaths

From choosing a doctor to changing the foods we eat, we are advocating for our little people before they even make their grand entrance! And once they are here, we advocate for them by making a million little – and big – decisions on their behalf. So, by the time you are ready to ship that precious little peanut  off to school, you should be a pro at advocating. Right?

Well, advocating for your child in a school setting presents new challenges. There’s a lot to learn and some things that just aren’t in your control. (Begin deep breaths.)

Wait, that sounds scary. And I don’t want to be the Crazy Mom or the Difficult Mom or the Helicopter Mom…but I also want what’s best for my kid…

Is there a middle ground?

Of course. There’s a space between doing nothing (and being unhappy) and being the dreaded Crazy Mom/Difficult Mom/Helicopter Mom. Do I have a step-by-step plan for you? No, but I do have some loosely-strung-together thoughts, a lot of experience, and the hope some of this will help you.

Why do you need to advocate?

The professionals at your child’s school are invested in helping your child grow. They also have many other children they are helping. Do children fall through the cracks? Yes, they can – if parents aren’t engaged in their child’s education. You and your partner are the adults who know your child best. If you aren’t going to advocate for your child, you cannot count on someone else doing the job for you. There are too many kids and too many issues for teachers to make that happen in every instance.

So when should I advocate?

There are different reasons you may need to advocate. I, along with a few of my friends, have children with varying types and levels of special needs. Behavioral, emotional, physical…learning differences…If your child has any kind of special needs, or you suspect they might, you need to familiarize yourself with the federal laws, your state laws, and your school district policies. There are lots of great national and local support groups that can help you understand your child’s educational rights. The laws aren’t meant to be something to hold over educators’ heads as a threat. They are there to protect your child and ensure services for any special needs. (Check out our resources page!)

Yikes. That sounds like a lot of work.

It is, but your kid needs your voice. And since when have we dodged hard work?

Maybe your child doesn’t have specialized learning needs. There will still be reasons you need to advocate for your child. Maybe a classroom discipline system isn’t working for your kid. Maybe the kid sitting next to your kid is being disruptive and distracting your kid. Maybe your child has an allergy and you need to feel confident about their food safety at school. No matter the issue, you are eventually going to have to reach out to the school.

What will they think of me? OMG what if they label me the Crazy Mom?

Well, let me give you a personal experience. An incident occurred at my son’s school and I was not happy with how it was handled. I wasn’t happy with much of anything that year. BUT I didn’t want to be the Crazy Mom. The one mom the teachers must surely talk about with eye rolls. Which is completely ridiculous. I was a teacher. I never talked about parents with eye rolls. I knew better, but I still felt funny about expressing my concern. (Note: I did not say “complaining.”) I shared my hesitancy with a friend who was also a teacher. She looked me in the face and said, rather sternly: Continue reading “ABCs, 123s, and Deep Breaths”