Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Making the Tough Calls

As every other parent on the planet, I am always trying to do the best for my kids.  We all do.  It is a tough balance between doing what is best and allowing them to learn on their own.  This year has been a roller coaster of highs and lows.  Teetering on that edge of what is right and what you feel in your heart. Kids have this knack for making you question your decisions sometimes. Little stinkers!

Lincoln is our youngest and you would think that by the time you have your third kid, you have this parenting gig down. That is not the case.  The lovely thing about it is, each kid is different in so many ways.  That is what makes parenting more of an adventure. Not always the fun adventure but an adventure nonetheless.

Lincoln has been quite the adventure since he was born.  Each day is exciting and fresh and well, unpredictable.  He has a way of bringing a smile to anyone and everyone.  I'm not sure how he does it but he's a charming little guy.  Chuck will always take the credit for that.

During this school year, Lincoln has been pushing and plodding along but as the lessons got harder and the words got longer, he started to lag behind.  His teacher and I noticed it and talked about it a lot.  We kept our eyes on his progress and talked about how we can work to keep him where he needs to be. The gap was getting bigger and we finally made the decision to have him evaluated to see if there was something that the special education office and school psychologist could find that would explain this gap. I was nervous that they would wait until next school year to get the series of tests done.  By law, they have 60 days from the day they receive my permission, to test him.  There were less than 60 days left in this school year.  Thankfully, they did the testing right away and they were gathering the information from several sources for the results.

He does have what is being labeled as a learning disability.  There is no specific name for it, it means that there is a discrepancy in his results.  In a series of tests, all pertaining to reading and comprehension, he tested "high above average" in some areas and "well below average" in others.  This means that he needs some help in some areas of reading with the special education staff in order to bridge the gap.  The director of special education feels that it is very likely that with this intervention, he will be able to close that gap and may not even need help in the future.  He may "catch up" to his peers and be fine as he gets older and uses the learning tools they give him to do it all on his own.

The director was saying that they would create an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for him and they would make sure he would have the appropriate teacher for second grade.  I immediately looked at his teacher because in our previous conversations, we decided it would probably be best if Lincoln repeated first grade.  We decided that before we had this meeting though, so does that change things?!  I felt like I had already made the decision so am I again faced with making the decision based on the new information?  They felt that he could go on to second grade now but I thought we had that cleared up.  Shoot......I didn't want to have to decided again.

And then, the director gave me advice........

"Listen to your mom gut."

Isn't that what we all usually rely on?  She was spot on.  There I was sitting there second guessing my decision thinking, well, it would be nice to not have to explain why he is repeating first grade and he would be happier just going on to second grade.   No!  Stop it, you made the decision.

Repeating first grade will essentially help him bridge the gap much more easily than to send him to second grade where the benchmarks and expectations are higher and he has an even bigger gap to close in on.  It just makes sense for him to repeat.  He is also young, he isn't going to turn seven until the end of July so it's not like he is going to be so much older than his classmates in year number two of first grade. He will fit right in, age wise.

He has no issues with making friends and his teacher this year is going to be his teacher again next year since she is an inclusion teacher (classroom with children with IEP's, special needs, etc.) He told his class that he is going to be repeating first grade next year and the teacher started cheering and waving her arms, his classmates starting booing and saying they wanted to be with him next year.  It's really bittersweet.

It wasn't an easy decision but we are looking at the future.  Do we really want to send him on and watch him struggle and get frustrated?  No, I cannot handle another year like that.  It may not be an easy year next year but he will be getting help where he needs it and we are hoping to build a great foundation for his educational future.  The director also said that through the intervention, it is our hope that he gains more self confidence and feels better about himself.  Who can argue with that?!  No one and certainly, not me.

Parenting is definitely not an easy thing, but it is so far beyond rewarding.  I wouldn't trade my silly, loving, crazy boy for the world's riches. 

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