It was a moment I was not prepared to deal with: High School transition for my oldest child.
My girls is nearly ready to start high school with an intellectual disability.
I know what you’re thinking. “Well, duh, she has Down syndrome!”
You see, for many years I lied to myself. Well, wait, that’s not quite right. It’s not exactly a lie when you see your daughter’s potential and additionally see her lose it, and despite your best measures, it doesn’t return.
Maybe I was more optimistic about her skills than I thought? Maybe the charter school was easier on her when she had full support there? (She didn’t in her last year.)
I don’t know. I just feel that in the last few years, she’s struggled more than the years before, even given subjects that I’ve always known are not her strong suit.
High School Transition … Already??
So when the booklet that said, “High school! Pick your classes NOW!! NOW! IT’S DUE NOW!” showed up, along with an orientation invitation TWO NIGHTS before the event, I freaked out. High school? I mean, she still hates to read and she’s having so many issues in just math! (Who doesn’t, right?)
(Well, me, actually. I don’t, so I’m horrible and I’m sorry.)
And combined with recent crises in my house, and snow storms, and cancelled date nights, and who’s been sick (the parents, mostly), and the onset of menopause (OK FINE, BRING IT!), I nearly fainted when I read the words, “Middle School Orientation for High School.” They were on the front of the HIGH SCHOOL course selection booklet, which was thick and mighty and full of “if you do A, then you must do B, unless you want to do C, or just forget the whole thing until next year.”
So I reached out and teachers told me it was a different process for my girl and they’d get back to me.
And then life got —INSANE— and then, lo and behold, the darn thing was suddenly DUE, and I’d forgotten that I’d not heard back.
I emailed again and was told to contact the high school, aka, “Go with God, my dear.”
Sheesh. I googled the contact, placed an emergency email and was talked down by a very nice lady at the high school. Still, I wasn’t calm. I wouldn’t be happy until this was DONE.
Meeting #1 got snowed out, so today…after a MONTH…I showed up to the meeting..and late, because I went to the wrong building. (It’s a big campus if you’re only used to tiny schools.)
And they had called and were worried, and looked about ready to leave when I showed up 🙁
You know, sometimes you walk this life as the parent of a child with disabilities, and you feel like most of the time you kicking at locked doors, then trying to find the window to climb in. You get up each day and put on your battle gear to go forth and fight for your child’s rights. Often times, you come back, bruised and bloody, and you long for that Epsom salt bath and bottle of wine, but you can’t because you have toxin-free food to cook, protocols to follow and lessons to teach your kids, not to mention the endless laundry and mile-long list of “what do I have to sign today” forms.
You say your nightly prayers and kiss them good night, wondering how you got so lucky to raise these angels and commissioned with making the world a better place for them. You fall into bed, thanking God for the grace to survive another day and figuring out when the next changes or respite or meeting or deadline will be and desperately praying that they sleep through the night. (I still remember the 5 years Zoe DIDN’T). It’s a bit overwhelming and very exhausting and schools are usually your biggest challenge. I even caught myself counting the years until my kids are done with secondary school last week.
But then…sometimes, just sometimes, you get an honest-to-God good meeting.
I know I have to be careful. “Don’t make friends with the staff” is the battle cry of many IEP-weary parents. I have sure learned my lesson on that one.
But this week, I was so nervous, so concerned, and so overwhelmed by the thought of “My Baby’s In High School” that I allowed myself to accept the good.
Things Are Looking Up?
At least for today, the good right looks very good. The second or third thing out of my mouth at today’s meeting was, “Listen, I’d like to fade back my daughter’s one-on-one.”
I almost fell out of my chair when both women, one who will be my daughter’s teacher and case manager, smiled, laughed and clapped.
I AM NOT kidding! “Yes, yes, that’s what we want! You’d be surprised, almost NO parents want that!”
Really? This is high school. She’ll be an adult in 4 years. I believe with all my heart she can be independent but we have to make that happen NOW. I was thrilled.
I’ll be honest, though, I made more concessions than I thought I would…and it was all my own choice, no pressure. You know that I’m a nut about inclusion but I couldn’t see the point in forcing useless math on her. And she’ll never love reading. So while I’m sad that I can’t share a good novel with her, I’m still teaching her scripture which is far more important. I’d rather get her reading to the level where she can use it for a job, for a skills manual, instructions, news, emails, resumes, yes?
The Schedule: Late But DONE
As for her schedule, she will be included in art, science and social studies, and cafeteria, and possibly homeroom. We haven’t decided on that last one yet. Last year she missed invites and paperwork because of a mix of inclusion and special ed, while being included in the typical homeroom, which made her excluded in special ed..and vice versa.
Either way, the high school has two groups that partners disabled kids with their non-disabled peers. She is going to do an after school club (I insist), I’ve just got to make that happen. They have 150 clubs, so I’m sure she can find one she likes. 🙂
We are going to give her a phone and set up special instructions in case she gets lost. That will allow her a lot more freedom and make it easier to make friends.
I’m feeling much more confident about her high school transition now that that’s done, and that she’ll have a good mix of disabled and non-disabled peers. Of course, they talked about how she would stay at the school until she’s 21, right? Oh dear. That wasn’t my plan…but THAT is a whole other post…
Proud Parent Moment
While this week ended on a good note, but it’s been, as mentioned, a trying couple of days. However, thanks to menopause, I didn’t need a reason to cry multiple times the other day. (Yay, hormones!! What fun!)
Oh that sucked SO bad. Not only was I carrying Momma Guilt, but it increased when I cried in front of the kids.
Now just on my 3rd or so cry, as the words “epic fail” were trailing through my brain, Amelia came up to me, put her arms around me, and told me it would be ok. She said she was sorry, and said, “Jesus put the joy in your heart.”
My barely verbal girl prayed for me and comforted me! I felt much better, because in that moment, I knew she understood what I’ve been teaching her about our faith better than she could verbalize. She knows how to properly apologize, ask God for forgiveness and knows that when God erases the sins in our heart, we can make room for joy.
She truly has a G0d-given purpose on this planet, and just as much worth as any other beautiful child, disabled or not. I fully expect that to flourish as she becomes a blessing to others through her high school years.