I have had writers block, been in a funk, at a loss for words…. call it what you want, but I just haven’t felt the burning desire to write and share until today. You see yesterday, two moms reached out to me to share that their child was seeing a local doctor in our area for vision therapy (Vision therapy it a controversial topic and I will talk try to remember to blog about at a later time). When these two momma’s confided in me about their kiddos, that burning desire and passion for sharing my family’s story was reignited. (Also, my M&M (a former student), my husband and my dad were all like what’s up…. where your blog be at?)
You see I LOVE sharing Colton’s story, my story, our story. I want people to know that it is normal to be different. Honestly, I love different and unique. I don’t want to be plain Jane, boring vanilla. (Sorry if your name is Jane. You are not boring, and I think you are awesome). Every single one of us learns differently. We think differently, we see differently, we even taste food differently. We are DIFFERENT and different is beautiful. However, in my experience, I have found that even though we are all different, and we boast and encourage that we should embrace being different…….. society doesn’t always know how to help, support, accommodate, accept, or adapt to different. As a whole, we don’t practice what we preach. We are not always open to new ideas and we struggle with change. We struggle to try new methods, ask hard questions, or take the time to research and learn about those differences that make us each so unique.
Those two mommas touched my heart yesterday. I felted honored that they would share their story with me. When Colton was struggling and I was going through those beginning stages, no one understood what we were going through. No one believed me, no one validated my concerns, and no one had any answers. The school didn’t see what I saw. They didn’t see the bright, inquisitive, curious young man that I saw at home. They saw a frustrated boy that couldn’t read or write. They “thought” they saw a little boy who was becoming defiant and ripping his paper. When I asked Colton about his paper, he simply explained he had erased his paper so many times and so hard, that his paper had ripped. He knew he was different because he saw his peers thriving but he didn’t know how to express himself in first grade. He didn’t know to ask for help or how to ask for help. He didn’t know that copying off his neighbor was cheating, he just didn’t want to look stupid or dumb. During a parent/teacher conference, Colton’s teacher suggested he may need to change into an ILC (Intensive Learning Classroom). Colton had not yet even been evaluated for special education services. (This is another topic for another blog, but I can tell you that this comment was inappropriate. First and foremost, he had not even qualified for services. I don’t know if I had even signed the permission to evaluate at this point)
These momma’s reminded me of how far Colton has come, yet how much we still need to overcome. They reminded me that we all need a safe place to share our stories. They remined me that there is power in numbers and we must openly talk about our differences. They reminded me that if we don’t talk, we cannot advocate and support our children and each other. If we want our children to have the services and support they are ENTITLED to, we must educate ourselves and advocate for what we know is best.
You see, I am annoying passionate about dyslexia, students with a diagnosed visual processing delay and ADHD. These are my soap box topics. I know I am annoying, I know I am passionate, and I know where to find reliable resources. I also know that I am persistent. I know that I will say something I shouldn’t, I know I cannot control the facial expressions I make. I know that I am loud and I know that I know my shit. I also know that if I don’t know, I can easily admit it and I will challenge myself to learn. I earned my second masters in literacy and focused the majority of my research on dyslexia. I have spent and continue to spend countless hours reading about ADHD, vision therapy, dyslexia, cognitive impacts, medication, diet, exercise, researched based theories. You name it and I have probably stumbled upon a website or article about it.
Here’s the thing, I had to do these things on my own. I told you I am an educator and have specialized in special education. In all of my years in education, professional development opportunities, staff meetings, etc., I was not taught about these topics. I had to do my own research. I had to find reputable, reliable, peer-reviewed resources to educate and inform myself. If in the world of education, I am not taught these things and I have the inside scoop, how are my mom friends supposed to navigate the world of education as an outsider?
I feel like these leave me in a tricky situation. It is a blessing and a curse. I was an educator first and became a mom later. As a new teacher, I supported education and educators first. I would praise all of the amazing things we did. When parents questioned me, I told them what I had been trained to say, I put the school system first. We were right, we are the experts. Then I became a mom and my view of the system began to change, especially as I saw how my own child was treated and I am an insider. I am not the new, naïve educator that I once was. I have over a decades worth of experience as a special educator and I have a child that qualifies for special education services. My role as parent comes first. My role as a parent supporting other parents and children comes first. I struggle in my role of protecting educators and public education. If I see or hear about a situation that seems off to me, that makes me think “what the f**k”, I am going to speak up. I will be honest though, I am always hesitant to speak up because I know I am speaking out against my colleagues. I always have this eternal battle deciding what I should do. In the end, I always give parents my honest, raw opinion. I can’t tell people what do to and I do NOT have all of the answers, but I do know where to look and I know how to point people in the right direction and say “hey, have you thought of this, have you asked that, have you even checked out website XYZ.”
I always wonder if I should share my knowledge with others, but then I think about myself. I think about all those times when I have called my best, most trusted nurse friend to ask her medical advice or run something by her that seems off with the medical advice I received. You know what I want? I want, no, I expect, the honest, raw truth. I reach out to that one particular nurse friend because I trust her and she knows the ins and outs of the medical field. She will tell me the “inside” information and give me suggestions to talk to my doctor about. She will even tell me the doctors she and her nurse friends trust and admire and which doctors disgust her. When I go to her, that’s exactly what I want and I trust she will give it to me straight. Those two conversations with my fellow momma friends reignited my passion to not only tell our story, but to help others. It reminded me that my persistence (even though I can be annoying) has allowed me to be the best advocate possible for Colton. My dad reminded me that being in a funk is not an excuse and I must continue to persevere because the world needs Colton’s story.