Thursday, April 12, 2007

I'm Not Crazy After All

Photo by Pro-Zak
"Your child is having trouble remembering math facts." the teacher looks at the papers in front of her. "I think you should consider having him assessed."

We're sitting in a grade two classroom, with brightly colored paintings and carefully printed letters hanging on the walls, the fish tank burbling in the corner. The tiny chairs that we've squeezed ourselves into are uncomfortable, but my butt isn't hurting near as much as my heart. Assessed? Why? Because something is wrong? What, because he can't remember what 1+2 is and has trouble counting? How is that so bad?

I didn't want to know. Hubs knew long before I did. I just didn't want to know.

I didn't want to know why Jake was struggling. Not because I didn't want to help him, but because I believed that he was so bright, so capable, and it was difficult for me think of what could lie ahead if there was something wrong. Ignorance seemed better. My beautiful baby who could talk at 7 months, who charmed every stranger he met, and who had a spark in him that I had never seen in another child couldn't have anything wrong with him. Could he?

I was wrong.

Ignorance only makes it better for me.

So began the world of assessments. Of pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, specialized teachers and the like. I learned everything on every disorder I could find, and still more on Individual Education Plans and parent's rights in BC. Then there was the fight to get professionals to later believe and accept the assessments, and still more arguing as more professionals threw out labels that weren't even in the assessments at all.

"Maybe he's ADHD."
"How about DCD?"
"Or even ASD?"
"Maybe he's just a bad kid."
"Maybe it's YOU."
"Have you ever thought of Ritalin?"
"Spank him more"
"You're too hard on him"

In my heart, I knew the assessment was right; but nobody else, even though we had been pushed to do it, really believed it. Why? Big bold letters had stated:

Gifted/Learning Disabled. Nobody would have questioned if it had said ADHD. Instead it said gifted, which nobody understands. In my heart, I knew he didn't have those other conditions, and I knew that all he needed was help for the LD and to be understood. He's a sensitive soul, give him time. It's called asynchronous development, where some areas are way far ahead and others are behind. He needs a gentle touch. I'm the mother, damn it, I know him better then anyone. I gave birth to this boy. I felt him in my belly. I know his every cry. Don't tell me I don't know what I'm talking about.

But as the years passed, nobody would listen and the accusing fingers would point both at us and at Jake, reducing him to a quivering ball of anxiety. A former shell of his happy self, he began to talk of school with sheer hatred. My advocating fell of completely deaf ears. The fingers only pointed and the demands began to grow to the point where both Jake and I began to fall apart.

I can't take this anymore.

At one point I remember sitting in the car at an intersection on my way home from work. The intersection was busy, and as I had been driving I was thinking about Jake and our situation. Irrationality began to take over.

Maybe Jake would be better without me, after all, if I'm that bad of a mother. I can't protect him. I can't make people listen. I suck at advocating. He is coming completely unglued at the seams and I can't seem to stop it because nobody will listen to me.

Because after awhile, when enough people tell you you're crazy, you tend to wonder.

The light was green, and I was in the lane to turn left across three lanes of traffic. It was as if time slowed, and suddenly everything was moving as in frames, like a movie. The huge logging truck looming in my direction was billowing smoke as it chugged towards the intersection, it's load bouncing as bark and bits of wood fell from the massive logs. For a split second, my hands tightened on the wheel and gently began to move it to the left. I actually considered turning my car in front of it. I'd be flattened. Dead. And just maybe, this hellish experience we were finding ourselves in would be over.

I never did turn the car. I couldn't do it.
I couldn't give up-because I've never let him give up, so what sort of example would that be?

Today, 4 years after the first assessment, I sat in another assessment office. The top in the land, gold seal, can't-get-any-better-then-this office. As we left, Hubby and I grinned at each other and I skipped through the parking lot as if I were on air.

Why, you ask?

Seems as though I'm not crazy after all.
We had been right all along.

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