My memories of the public school system are…not so great. One thing that comes to mind is my battle with my junior high school principal about the clothes I insisted on wearing, which were generally dyed, bleached, cut up, sewn back together, deconstructed and reconstructed. The principal kept sending me home for being “distracting to the other students.” In response to which, I distributed pamphlets (that I wrote) about freedom of expression. My sweet but NOT rebellious mother nearly died of embarrassment. She cut my clothes to pieces with a scissor one night.
So it comes as no surprise that I approached my dealings with L.A. Unified School District with trepidation. I dreaded the paperwork, the headache, the bureaucracy. I dread “the man.”
But my back was against the wall. T had been kicked out of three private preschools within two days of starting them. Over the past couple of years, it’s become clear to us that T has special needs socially and emotionally. The private preschool programs that are equipped to address his needs are at best an hour drive from here. So, I bit the bullet, made the phone calls, filled out the paperwork and got him assessed by the school district.
Last week, Scott and I went into a meeting with the director of services, a psychologist, a special ed teacher and an occupational therapist. We walked out of the meeting with an IEP – an Individualized Education Program. Tariku is set to start public preschool next week. In our corner we’ll have a behavioral support team, an occupational therapist and a teacher who is familiar with and prepared to address his needs.
The education professionals we’ve encountered throughout this process have far exceeded my hopes. I believe they really care what happens to T. We sat in that meeting with them for nearly two hours and I felt heard and validated. I cried when I thanked them all at the end.
On this parenting journey I get to learn again and again that my assumptions are so often wrong. Half the time, I’m making decisions based on fears that have their origins in my own childhood. That childhood is long gone. While I believe that its wounds deserve to be acknowledged, I don’t want to live from a place of hurt. I want to live from a place of hope.
Tariku starts preschool again next week. I’m going to go ahead and be hopeful about it.