School

Imagine you have a job that requires you to do increasingly harder tasks each day that you go there. Let’s say you are working a desk job but every day you are expected to do 50 sit ups. You haven’t done a sit up in years and you have a bad back from a previous injury. But everyone is required to do it so you give it a try and you maybe get in 2 or 3 before you give up. Your boss critiques your performance and gives you a Level 1 – the worst level there is. He also decides that because you can’t do sit ups you probably can’t do a lot of other activities the job entails. You sense his disdain and can’t help but feel slighted in your job. I don’t imagine you are going to happily report to your job each day. You probably will use a lot of sick days and try to find ways out of doing the sit ups. But none of it works and now the sit up requirement gets higher each day and you fall further and further behind. You want to be able to do the sit ups (though you secretly think they are stupid) but your back injury prevents you from doing so. Your boss just tells you to stop complaining.

Or imagine you need glasses. You have been wearing them since you were a child and there is no way you can see without them. You start a new job and are told you are not allowed to wear glasses or contacts as it gives you an unfair advantage over your work mates. You know this is ridiculous and try to argue your point but in the end you give in. You report to work and are shown to a desk. They promptly give you a pile of files that you need to work on. Only you can’t see. Day after day your files pile up. You are consistently being called into the boss’ office to explain why you are not completing your work. You try to explain about the glasses but you are dismissed as making excuses. You hate going to work each day.

The first two examples seem far fetched, ridiculous even. But what if it wasn’t so ridiculous? What about this scenario:

You have a Learning Disability and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and you enter a new grade at school. You and your mother have both informed the teacher in person and in writing about your unique learning needs as a result of these diagnoses – things like needing extra time to write a test or giving fewer questions for homework or needing technology in order to access the curriculum.  Your teacher decides you are exaggerating your needs and that the accommodations you are asking for give you an unfair advantage. You struggle the entire year, routinely receiving the lowest levels of grades for work that you could have gotten top marks for had you had the accommodations. You start hating school because every day is hard and you feel like you are a disappointment to everyone.

 

Every day my youngest son has attended school he has faced obstacles. He had unique learning needs which, if accommodated, could lead to success. Let me be clear here, we did Psychological testing and he came out as average to high average in all areas of cognitive functioning (same as an IQ score). What the testing told us was if he had the right accommodations he was capable of average to above average grades. Instead each day he received the lowest grades because he wasn’t given the proper tools to get the job done. Imagine how you would feel if you repeatedly were given the lowest marks, made to stay in at recess to finish work and sent to the office for unfinished work. Imagine you overheard staff talking about how you are never going to “make it” in grade 9. How stupid would you feel after all of that?

I let my youngest son down. I had no more fight in me after having fought for his brother. I had a few meetings with the teachers and reminded them of the accommodations in the Psychological report. But I didn’t follow up enough and he fell through the cracks. One particularly trying school year his teacher, who was forever disciplining him for his disability, decided to separate him from most of his peers and put him in a remedial group that an Educational Assisstant taught. You read that right, an EA was supposed to be teaching the kids that needed the teacher most. When we found out it had been going on for years, my youngest thought that we knew so never brought it up. When we brought it to the school’s attention they balked and threw out a bunch of platitudes and in the end they continued to do exactly what they had been doing. At that point we told our son, be polite and follow the rules, but we were looking at Grade 8 as a write off. I know some wouldn’t agree with us doing that but the boys self esteem was so far in the crapper that he needed to know that this situation was the schools doing not his. Now school is about to start and he will be in high school. High school was very good for our oldest son so we are very much hoping that our youngest is able to find his niche and get the accommodations he needs.

As a child I found school relatively easy and it was my favourite place to go. I wish that my children had a different experience with the school system. Even with accommodations school is still hard for them. Without them it is impossible. We shouldn’t be sending our kids out into the world to do impossible things. How cruel.

September 3, 2017

Impossible Things

Imagine you have a job that requires you to do increasingly harder tasks each day that you go there. Let’s say you are working a desk job but every day you are expected to do 50 sit ups. You haven’t done a sit up in years and you have a bad back from a previous injury. But everyone is required to do it so you give it a try and you maybe get in 2 or 3 before you give up. Your boss critiques your performance and gives you a Level 1 – the worst level there is. He also decides that because you can’t do sit ups you probably can’t do a lot of other activities the job entails. […]
July 11, 2017

Graduation Party

On June 24th, 2017 we hosted a joint graduation party for our boys. Jeremy was graduating Gr.8 and Corbin was graduating high school. We decided to have the party for 30 people at our local restaurant The Leaf Grill. Everyone who rsvp’d they would be there showed up and even my friend Angela flew in from Thunderbay just for the day. She’s like the boys Aunt, a favourite aunt that likes to spoil them. This time she made these amazing cookies.   The Leaf staff were amazing – we didn’t have to do a set menu but rather everyone was encouraged to order what they liked off the menu. Our food, every last plate, was out within a half hour from […]
May 8, 2017

Mental Health Awareness 2017 – Part 1

Mental Health awareness week is almost over . . . I have struggled all week with what to say. Here is part of my story: I have struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life. As a young child I felt anxious doing ordinary everyday activities like going to school or even playing with my friends. When I was 5, I was in Girl Guides and would get a migraine every time I went. I spent half the time lying on a gym bench waiting for my parents to come pick me up.  When I was 6 I struggled to print properly – it was the first time at school that I struggled with something. I had no idea […]
April 21, 2017

Graduation

The back of one of my Corbin’s graduation announcements. Jeremy is disappointed as I always said I would write a “Suck It” announcement. He thought I meant that I would literally write those words. He makes me laugh.
April 4, 2017

Update

So things have been quiet around here lately but it’s not what you probably think. I have been doing great – I am feeling much better. I think being on insulin has helped immensely. I am not feeling so tired and foggy all the time. I am actually getting some housework done and making meals at night doesn’t feel like I am barely able to make my way around the kitchen. I’m still working on eating better and getting more exercise. I went and got my hair done and I love the style. I bought contacts and new makeup. Today I got my eyebrows waxed for the first time since my wedding 22 years ago. lol. In a few weeks we are […]
December 14, 2016

Advocacy is not a 4-letter word

There are times where, as the parent of a child with a disability, you will be told to fight for what your child needs. Us “special needs moms” – we tell each other “fight for him, you know him best” and “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. People get worked up hearing other parent’s stories. At times I too have believed this way of thinking and engaged in my fair share of fights.  Last week I read a piece that spoke of being a Mama Warrior for your child with special needs and it just seared my heart.  I genuinely felt very saddened by the notion that as a whole, it is thought that parents of kids with a disability […]