Walk A Mile In My Shoes

Who knew when I blogged about my daughter’s horrific experience in middle school on June 20th that it would raise so many questions and stir so many emotions?  Certainly not me.

Many people were kind enough to take the time to comment on the TMR blog, various boards the blog was posted to, and through private messages.  Others reached out to my fellow Thinkers and asked them questions about why I handled things the way I did.   It became clear that I had some explaining to do.

I have to be honest, based on more than a few comments and questions, I felt…I felt…well… I was not sure how I felt.  For lack of better terms, I mentioned the term “bitch-slapped” in one of my groups.  It was through further discussion that Poppy made me realize what I was really feeling was judged.  Yup – that’s the word – judged.

I realize now that without knowing more about our situation, my decision to keep my daughter in her current school seemed a bit odd, if not neglectful.  So here is a little glimpse into our lives based on the questions that were raised:

My daughter, who I adopted 10 years ago, is one of the few TMR kids that is not on the spectrum. Her diagnoses include Triple X Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Attention Deficit Disorder,  Bronchiecstasis, Reactive Airway Disease, Seizure disorder, Sub mucous cleft palate, Lead Poisoning,  Auditory Processing Disorder,  Cognitive deficits, Digestive issues, Sensory issues, and significant speech, gross and fine motor delays.  She has so many similar issues as ASD kids that Goddess (who I knew from college) introduced me to the wonderful world of biomed, and to TMR – and here we are.

Unlike kids with Autism, private schools do not exist that specifically address the needs of kids with FAS or Triple X Syndrome.  She would have been sent to a school for Emotionally Disturbed kids where she did not belong.  She is interested in learning despite her disabilities and has a heart the size of Texas.  She did not belong in an environment with that particular population.  The other issue is that most private schools for Special Needs kids in my area are predominantly populated with male students.  Circumstances with my daughter’s birth family have caused a lot of male related issues, so to put her in that environment was not optimal.  In addition, she needs to be around females if she is ever going to learn how to properly socialize with them.  Unfortunately, home schooling was not an option either since I am a single mom with a full-time job.

So, with limited options, we stayed and went on quite a roller coaster ride.  When the aide was a good one, things were awesome. When the aide was bad, things were awful.  She had one aide from September through January.  When that aide left for a full-time teaching position, the cycle of substitute aides began and things hit the fan.  The first meeting to address my concerns was on February 2nd and they continued (along with daily e-mails) until our final meeting two weeks before graduation. At each meeting, I was promised changes that ultimately did not happen. I would think things were getting better only to have the rug pulled out from beneath us. Feeling frustrated, I hired an advocate. After the first meeting the advocate attended, he stated how well it went.  He smiled and congratulated me for getting everything I wanted, and then was shocked when the school did not follow through AT ALL.  In the end, I definitely won the war and held them to the fire. Sadly though, it took months and months of fighting. Even if I had wanted her in a private school, it would have probably taken me the same length of time to fight for that.

Another consideration was that my daughter is 14 and has spent 10 years in the district. Prior to this year, I always felt as if the school was in my corner. We definitely worked as a team. At one point when things were particularly bad, I considered home instruction (where they would have sent a teacher 10 hours/week) but my daughter wanted to try to continue. At the end of 8th grade, the kids have a ton of fun events. She felt she had earned the right to take part in these events and wanted to be there to participate. She was right. To pull her out and have her miss those rites of passages would have been awful.

The final and perhaps most important reason I left her there was because of her amazing teacher.  All of my issues were with the administration, never the teaching staff.  I am attaching a link to a blog I wrote about him for Teacher Appreciation Day.

I can’t imagine my daughter finishing the year without him as her teacher.  Not that I need to further justify his worth, but just another tidbit about Mr. Medina: after graduation, he gave both my daughter and me letters that he had written to us.  To my daughter, he was very motivational and supportive.  To me, he was extremely complimentary and thanked me for everything I had done for him.  He credited me for helping him to be a better teacher and was encouraging about my daughter’s ability to be successful in life.  He made us promise to keep in touch and wants to be kept up to date on her progress through high school….like he needs to ask.  He was the cheerleader she needed.  He was the reason she survived middle school.  No matter how bad things were, I always knew he was keeping a keen eye on her.  Just think, if I had pulled her out, I never would have been able to take this picture of them on graduation day – and seriously – look how happy she is!!!!!!

When it was suggested I write a blog to respond to questions about why I had made the decision to leave my daughter in a less than desirable school environment, I was not sure if it was necessary.  Whether I liked it or not, people would have opinions and even after reading this, people might still think I made awful decisions.  However, Dragon Slayer made a good point.  She said that by sharing more details about our story, I might just be reminding everyone that we never truly know another’s situation and that there could be a powerful lesson in this.  We would not be here if we were not thinkers, so just maybe it is up to Saint to remind everyone to THINK before they judge.  What may seem like an easy solution to some is just not possible for all.  Let’s just keep supporting each other and loving each other and THINKING!



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13 Responses to Walk A Mile In My Shoes

  1. Melanie says:

    Saint – you are an inspiration. Your post about your experiences with the Middle School brought back such bad memories for me. My daughter is on the autism spectrum and had a very difficult time socially. Her teachers were wonderful and gave me tissues during our team meetings -I cried a river and then some! Her classmates were a different story. I would never judge you or any other mother of a special needs child. It’s a difficult road and we all come to it with different backgrounds. Some have support and some are fighting a lonely battle. You can hold your head up – you did everything you possibly could to make things right. Your daughter is beautiful. How lucky she was to have such a wonderful teacher. It makes all the difference. Sending love and best wishes for a bright future. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Nick Parsons says:

    Hello Saint,
    I find it incredible that anyone would judge you for the choices that you made for your daughter`s schooling. The problem is not which school you chose to send your daughter but the monstrous behavior of your daughter`s class mates. Thank you for the courage to write your experiences.

  3. Melinda says:

    Hey Saint … I didn’t see your original post … But I will say that in the 17 1/2 years that I have parented a special child … I have learned that I have to neither justify my decisions or explain them to others. As a matter of fact I do neither anymore. One of the biggest reasons I quit almost all yahoo groups was because of the drama that happens in those groups. I can only say what helps my child … not yours … and you can only say what is best for your child and not mine. Together the sharing of all of our valuable experiences of information …. is were we find answers that work for us. Bless ya … Your daughter is gorgeous and truly looks happy. And ultimately that is what is the most important for our special children … even if recovery is an illusive word for some … ultimately all children can be happy in their circumstances if their parents bring about such joy….. and surround them with love. Hugs.

  4. Diana Gonzales says:

    Another single mom here, no you really didn’t have to explain yourself. It’s just me and my two and I do what I can with what I have. so I know EXACTLY how ya feel, but the fact that you took the extra effort to explain goes to show that you really want everyone to understand that if you meet a parent of a special needs kid then you’ve met ‘a’ parent of a special needs kid. Our situations can be as unique as our childrens symptoms. Keep fighting the GOOD fight!!! Shine on Sista! xoxoxo

  5. Jenn says:

    Well said my friend <3 love you to pieces – it's interesting how every person has so many possible perceptions!!

  6. Michele says:

    Dear Saint,

    You may have given your daughter the most important legacy any mom could give her child: a lesson in courage. She witnessed your strength, determination, and resiliency in the face of chaos and fear and even attacks by people you had once counted on. And even as she faltered and wanted to quit, she pulled your strength into herself, and got up and went into the battle. She watched you struggle and puzzle it out. She watched you search for answers and alternatives. She watched you fight for her. She watched you never give up. And she graduated……but learned so much more in the process.
    She now knows that she can prevail against the odds. That she does not have to back down at the first sign of distress or obstacle. That she has faith in herself, and can do it herself. That she can push through fear and achieve what she needs to do! This is what our kids will need more than any treatment or therapy. Because we will not always be here to guide, protect, and defend them. They must learn to fight for themselves.
    Your daughter learned her most important life lesson from you! And you did it with grace, patience, endurance, and love.
    You are a wonderful teacher!

  7. Blaze says:

    Every time a car used to speed pass me, my first reaction was to scream, follow them, and imagine the cursing I would give them if I tracked them down. Autism has taught me that we’ll never know the whole story. The person in that car could be very sick, or getting to the hospital after hearing bad news about a loved one, or any number of scenarios. And we’ll never know. I learned how unfair it is to judge when I worked at the ped’s office. It was so easy to jump on mothers that I didn’t view as doing enough for their sick children. But then it became clear that many unknown circumstances existed for some families that I could never fathom. Judging other special needs families just isn’t fair in most cases (some deserve a call to DFCS, but we’re not talking about them or you). This also applies to the school situation. Most of us are dealing with the only possibly the “best of the given choices” situations. Some families can never negotiate a good situation, and what DO you do when both parents have to work, there’s only one school in your town, or you can’t afford due process? I think we’ve all felt judged, Saint, it’s up to us to make sure we point out the possible other sides of the coin. xoxo

  8. Melissa Vega says:

    I loved your original post and commented that your daughter was truly blessed to have you fighting for her. We all have different children, different circumstances, different reasons for the decisions that we make. We don’t have to justify those to anyone! And I am so happy to hear of awesome teachers!!! There just seems to be so much negative talk about teachers these days and the good ones get left out. God bless Mr. Medina!

  9. Elena says:

    You are definately one tough lady, I can’t imagine what you have gone thru. My baby just finish PreK and my son is going to start soon they both have sppech issues and one is autistic. I am petrified to send them to school and thinking that they are going to be abuse by their classmates.
    I mean I take my HAT for you. Your daughter is so blessed to have you as a mom. As for me I hope the time goes by very slowly until its time to send my kids to school.

  10. Em Brown says:

    Dear Saint, I have never been a judger, but if I had been, the one thing that autism would have taught me is that you never know the whole story. Every parent, and even parents without an autistic child, are doing the best that they can. Our son is only 3 and started his first day of school today, it was a huge battle with the school already just to get him placed and started so I can only imagine what the next 10 years will hold. Please do not feel judged, or let it bother you. You know your daughter, you love her, you are doing every possible thing you can to benefit her, there is no need to think about what others might question. Real Thinking Mom’s understand what isn’t written. They know that if you didn’t pull her out of that school there must be a DAMN good reason. As a single parent you are my hero, life is difficult even with someone else to shoulder the burden and the thought of doing it alone – well, as strong as I am, the thought alone scares me to pieces. You are amazing, your daughter is beautiful and that picture is worth the proverbial 1000 words. Sending love and hugs to you …

  11. BB says:

    TMR ladies:

    Can’t we all just get along?
    Hug, don’t judge!

    All of us are and our families are hurting enough already without having to deal with
    “mean girl” behavior from other hurting moms.
    United we stand!

    STOP the MEOW!
    Right now! I mean it!

    I love the tshirt that says ” I love haters”.
    There’s an important message there on so many levels.

    I love you ALL, no matter what!

    Barbara Biegaj in Chicago

  12. Sugah says:

    Love you Saint! Give that girl a smooch from Aunt Sugah!!

  13. Maggie Dancing in the Rain says:

    Hi Saint! I thought about your original post a lot. It is something I will always hold with me as we head through public school. We are just starting our journey, just finished K, and things are well. But I see things budding, see how things could go either way, turn on a dime, flip in mid-air. I thought your first post needed no additional explanation. You survived, she survived, it was hell. But I am glad you shared more because in sharing you helped others consider some of the available options and learn how you did make it. I thank you for sharing your pain, it was impactful!!!

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