Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Being Cassandra

Thank God for Astryngia and her miraculous way of digging up the sort of vital information that parents of Aspies need, yet seems purposely hidden in amongst un-parent-friendly gobbledygook, the jargon steeped secret language of the 'professionals'.

Looking at the way the SEN Code is simplified into basic leaflets so that teachers can understand it, each sheet with no more then five summarised points like a Powerpoint presentation, I wonder how even our educators are supposed to get hold of the latest findings.

Anyhoo, that's how I know that this all encompassing frustration, this urge to become squeaky and tearful in pained disbelief is called being Cassandra'd.

Son has a new teacher. She has spoken with him, come to agreements with him and generally set herself up to manage him properly. This is as much to do with her personal pride as anything, but her admirable determination to excel seems to exclude me. Close home-school communication doesn't fit into a career path where the emphasis is on single handedly saving the day. Admitting that there is anything to discuss or anything that a parent could add to the plans she already has in place is just not in her game plan. I found out today that I am being sidelined - that 'close home school communication' now means me getting 'told' (well after the fact) rather than being involved.

I have just had to challenge her assumptions, ask her bluntly whether she sees the points I raised in an email as an attack on her (excellent) school, or, as I intended, as concerns that Son's differences can disrupt the flow of even an excellent school, and cause him distress as much as anybody else. Its about the boy being too much for the system, not about the system being below par. There are such fine lines to tread.

Thank God this school actually has been excellent for a good few years since he was diagnosed; that he wasn't written off. Thank God I have experienced being treated as part of a team who all want the same thing, because the sensation of shrinking in height was tangible, the dark pit of chaos and fear. The old, pre-diagnosis feeling of being treated like some sort of weirdo pushy mother who should be dismissed condescendingly as an annoyance and disruption. It flooded back in a split second and threatened to overwhelm me.

Catch 22 is if you let them see your total frustration, become squeaky or red faced or apologetic or even angry, if you become a gibbering wreck in response to their cold blindness, you only underline their original conclusion.

I have Parentlink on my side. Well, correct that, on my child's side, but part of that support for him requires that his mother is treated with due respect and not reduced to a quivering wreck of no use to anybody. Parentlink is the name for our local LEA Parent Partnership Service, and every LEA has one. Bloody invaluable.

Teachernet says:

Working in partnership with parents is a very important aspect of the Code of Practice. A strong partnership is required between the school and the parents/carer. Every effort should be made to encourage parents to work with the school and other professionals, to ensure that their child's needs are met as early as possible. In order for them to play an active part, you should provide relevant information so that they can reinforce learning in the home. With the SENCO and your support, parents should be able to:

  • recognise and fulfil their responsibilities as parents and play an active and valued role in their child's education;

  • (more stuff about understanding the forms and procedures)
For Astryngia's benefit (I'm sure she's seen it) the page on gifted and talented pupils says:
Teachers should aim to make learning challenging and enjoyable, so that all pupils, including the gifted and talented, achieve their full potential. Gifted and talented pupils need to be given opportunities to study some, or all, subjects to a greater depth and breadth and, sometimes, at a faster pace. However, it is important to bear in mind that, whether gifted or talented, a pupil is first and foremost a child who will need encouragement and support in order to develop as a whole person. This support is crucial where there are marked discrepancies between a child's gifts or talents and their emotional, physical or social development, or where there are specific learning difficulties.
There are hoops to jump through, procedures to follow. Never mind if you can see your goal two steps away; as a parent of a school age child, you are part of a team. If it involves holding hands with all these professionals, telling them they are all wonderful and expert and invaluable and life savers (sometimes its true) and skipping in circles singing Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush all at the same time, then watch me. Its slow, its frustrating and it makes me want to cry sometimes but at least its a way forward.

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