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You know that whole sink or swim thing? Well, we couldn’t stand by any longer and watch them let our 2E daughter drown. Lily was attending a middle school we’ll just call CYA Academy. The turning point was an IEP meeting in which the teachers and staff took turns explaining to a crowded room why Lily’s poor grades were her own fault. If she would study harder and turn in her work, she wouldn’t have D’s & F’s. Lily shrank in her chair, her head bowed, humiliated. I felt sick to my stomach.
After the meeting, our advocate admitted this school was a lost cause. They had no intention of really helping her… it was time to find another swimming pool, so we packed up our pool toys and left.
After much searching, we found another pool, one that really seems to understand twice-exceptional students, and so far, Lily is floating along just fine. In fact, more than fine, she’s swimming a flippin’ 400IM with the weight of her learning challenges still strapped to her.
Funny how that happens when you find a pool that welcomes all learners and lifeguards who want to save lives and have the skills & strategies to pull it off. Lily knows that at her new school the teachers are there to support her when she gets tired or feels weak, but they’re also there to encourage her to swim as far and as fast as she can.
After just 4 weeks at her new school, the transition IEP meeting was like visiting Opposite Land. Lily smiled, participated, giggled and added her suggestions and thoughts. She could see that her teachers and the staff liked her, enjoyed her personality and ‘got’ her. Every concern was met with agreeable and thoughtful discussion. It was a partnership, everyone working together to try to help her succeed. It was so weird, but wonderful!
The countdown is on. The day I’ve been dreading all summer is just around the corner… Lily starts middle school in a week and a half. I’ve heard that there are other parents who actually look forward to sending their kids back to school. I can’t imagine that, because for me, the school year is a lot of hard work and with Lily starting middle school, it’s going to be even more stressful.
This morning, I set up a special visit to her new school. I know Lily needs extra time to learn her way around. We walked around to all her classrooms and she was okay for awhile, but eventually she got overwhelmed and started to get upset. She wanted to know exactly how things were going to happen, where they were going to happen, when they were going to happen… starting with getting off the bus–step by step. I tried to do that and she seemed to calm down.
We still have 6th-grade orientation and back-to-school night before the first day of school, so I’m hoping that helps. I mean, this is a twice exceptional kid who has months of adjustment every school year and this is at the same elementary school she’s been attending since Kindergarten. A new school, plus all the added Executive Function demands of middle school… could be a rough transition.
That’s actually an understatement. I’ve been trying to plan for her middle school transition for more than a year. I shopped around for public schools, got Lily several evaluations, found her a psychiatrist, a psychologist, taught myself to advocate for her at school using www.wrightslaw.com and the book Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, shopped around for private schools, wrote demanding letters, attended many meetings, helped write a Behavior Support Plan and helped write a comprehensive IEP. Thousands of hours and dollars later, I feel like we have good support in place for her, but the real test comes in a couple of weeks….