Updated: Nov 9, 2018
Parent Night at school for a special needs mom or dad is odd. I don't know how else to describe it. It is nice to interact with other parents who get your day to day life to some extent. But we are at an approved private school and the families come from all over the region, some traveling an hour or more to be there. So there isn't a ton of familiarity as we do not intersect with many of these families at sports, therapies or at the local Wawa.
I can't help but notice that many have a slight sadness in their eyes, as we all recognize that we are part of a club that we did not necessarily foresee being a member of. And the start of the year is tough, as it marks the end of August - which is a chaotic, unstructured and unfriendly month for SN families. This chaos then leads to a major transition period. So, there is a touch of exhaustion of mind and spirit as well. There just isn't that same excitement like I feel at my daughter's school on Parent Night. There is a ton of conversation there, ample food and everyone is just...spirited. As a result, I actually came home kind of sad from my son's Parent Night. And I have spent a lot of time reflecting on that.
Maybe it's the fact that all of us are accustomed to the other kind of gathering in the SN world - IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings. They are tedious, long and emotionally draining. Going over how many pronouns our son can properly use and increasing that goal by 5% is the kind of detail I just don't really care about. But in the education world, you need to create goals so they can be achieved. I get that to a certain extent, but I always feel the process to be SO prescribed. Like, let's think bigger. As the parent, I want my son to be self sustaining and to function in our world. My dream is to find his skill set, focus on that and soar to the unlimited heights that we also see for our neurotypical daughter. There must be a job function for a kid that can build a four story Lincoln Log cabin that has skylights and floor to ceiling windows, a porch and a plush lawn, right? That takes skill and vision. But, the education world just doesn't have that same big thinking and I find it depressing. This was compounded when the teacher told us that we can access and practice math skills at home through a new online program. We were told to refer to the kindergarten to first grade sections. Our son is in fifth grade. My husband actually asked for clarification on that one.
The positive? Everyone remarked on how nice, kind and polite our boy is. These comments were unsolicited and were repeated over and over. Considering we once had major behavior problems which included trying to climb out of classroom windows...that was nice to hear. Our boy is kind. He is really funny. He loves top signs and can pick out an octagon in a nanosecond. He loves to sing and mimic the Imagination Movers...and can remember how to get to places that he has only been to once (for a direction-challenged person like myself, I find this to be amazing). He loves hugs and will say thank you or hi to any stranger he comes across, which leads them to smile. Our boy has talents. We just need to access them and somehow find a path for him in this complicated world. Because the fact it...he is not that complicated. He just sees things differently and that should be viewed as a gift in my view. If we were all the same life would be dull and lack innovation. So, as his parents, we press on. His gifts are there...they just need to be unwrapped. And I have another 356 days until another Parent Night. Maybe the next time I will be more emotionally prepared.