I joined our school PTA back in January. It’s kind of a sad group. Not in terms of the mood, but in terms of the number (or lack thereof) of parents who turn out for the meetings. In a school with over 400 children, we can count on about 10 parents showing up for the meeting each month. I really thought about not going anymore because I haven’t been feeling like I was getting much out of it or that I was able to put much into it. I did get something useful out of this last meeting though so that has encouraged me to keep going.
The last meeting we had focused on how we as parents can help our children to achieve by being more involved and being their advocate. I sat there while a school leader told us about all the things that we as parents need to do and that the teachers and administrators really do want the best for our children. At 1st I tried to be subtle. I was itching to say something but was nervous about drawing attention to myself. I am more of a behind the scenes kinda gal. I was hoping that the speaker would notice me shaking my head and making faces at what he was saying and ask me if I had something to say. That didn’t happen so to hell with subtle, I had to bite the bullet and for the 1st time in my life stand up and say in front of people … “hi, my name is (my real name) and I have a son who is in the special ed program here.” It was a moment I’ve been dreading. I knew it was a matter of time before I’d need to say those words and I was not looking forward to it. The thing is … Once I did it, I didn’t feel at all like I thought I would. I thought I would for sure have a lump in my throat, a topsy turvy stomach, a shaky voice and that I would feel the tears building up behind my eyes. Instead, I felt strong and empowered. I was speaking for my son who can’t speak for himself. My voice was loud and sure and steady. I told the group what my concerns were and that I did not feel supported by the school. The speaker’s response was that I should have read my sons IEP and made sure it said what I wanted it to say before I signed off on it. That made me mad. Is there a stronger word than mad? Put it there instead. Well, that gave me even more strength to stand up and speak for my son. I explained how I didn’t even know all that was available and if the school indeed wants the best for our children then they have a responsibility to let parents know what they have access to. I was told to take my concern to a higher power and then we moved on to other topics. Some support huh?
What happened at the end of the meeting is why I’m writing about this. I was approached by 2 people who were appalled at the stories I told and appalled at the response I was given. 1 of them has a 2nd grader and she happens to be a Special Education 8th grade teacher at another school. We exchanged contact info and she made me promise to call her to discuss what I had been through so far and how she can help me to get Jay the services he needs. She promised to send me information on what all my options are for the summer and even offered to go with me to my next IEP meeting so that we could “together”
petition demand more and better therapy for my baby.
The 2nd Mom to speak to me is the aunt of a 15 year old with autism. She told me how difficult it was for her sister to navigate her way through school, and therapy and IEP’s etc. But she eventually was able to get her son into an amazing school that knows how to teach children with autism. The school system provides transportation out of their town so that he can get the specialized teaching that he needs. She now advocates (for free) for other Moms who are dealing with these issues. She simply does not want any other mom to have to go through what she did.
In the end … isn’t that what all this is about? All this blogging, all this talking about our private issues, all this “lifting the skirts” on our lives. So that we can help each other. I am so grateful to my fellow Moms. So grateful that I was able to make these contacts. So grateful that they reached out to me without me asking for their help directly. They could have easily left and not said a word. Moms really are an unstoppable group when we work together. We’ve got to work together and help each other and fight the system together. We’ll make much more progress for all our children that way than if we try to do it on our own.
To the 300+ other parents who decide not to join us on PTA meeting night … you’re really missing out on a wealth of information and support. Not from the school, but from other parents.