At the core of what I offer are ways to allow parents to remember to trust their guts. This sounds very simple, but many of us do not in certain situations, especially when dealing with a teacher, professional, or group whom we trust.
Sometimes a communication such as a judgement or perception of our child, or even a solution, may be different than what feels right to us. When your gut tells you something is “off,” in a situation involving your child(a judgement, perception, even a solution,) this is important information. Not to dismiss the professional whose intention is to help your child, but to pay attention to your own input into the process. Use it to to take a break, gather more information, stop a process….. whatever is needed to get more clear on why you are feeling or thinking something different.
Here is an example: During a meeting at my son’s school, involving the school psychologist, the special ed teacher (with whom he had never worked,) his teacher, the principal, a special ed support person, and a reading specialist. My husband and I were told that he had some behavior issues. While nobody would say it, I felt that they were hinting that he may have ADHD. That my son might have ADHD is not a problem for me. I believe accurate diagnoses are important and often bring a relief because you know what direction to go in to get your child help. What I wanted was to get to the the bottom of what was going on, to find the cause of his behavior. But something was telling me that things weren’t adding up. The meeting felt like things were going too fast. (This was the first time I was hearing any feedback of this sort, although I knew something was up and had observed many a day on the school yard to see how things were going, but found nothing wrong.) I also had the strong impression that something had been decided about my son without my input. They were all ready to put him in a category and they didn’t know him well enough to do so. At the same time, they had observed him in situations I hadn’t, information I wanted. The feeling in the room as though something about him was already decided was strong. I was upset and felt like the “defensive mom” in the meeting. What I needed, I realized later was to slow things down, gather information, and work as a team. I wanted to know why he hadn’t had this problem in previous classrooms? What was different about this year?
After leaving the meeting, giving it some thought, and talking to friends, I felt more clear and somewhat less defensive. At the next meeting, I would ask questions that I hadn’t quite had time to formulate and ask in the first meeting. I am also a psychotherapist and knew that, at least in the DSM of the time (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders,) that if you were to diagnose a child with ADHD, the child had to show symptoms in more than one location (for example, at school and at home, or at school and at the babysitters.) I think I had said “but he isn’t always like this!” (fulfilling the defensive mom role,) during the first meeting, but only received blank stares. I needed some specific examples.
I thought of scenarios to illustrate this by the next meeting. At the time my son was writing his version of the eighth novel in the Harry Potter series. He couldn’t write or read fast enough, so he would dictate a few pages while I wrote them down, then draw pictures, then dictate again. One day he did this for 5 hours straight. I am not exaggerating. My husband left to go to the store twice during that time, and I had to eat at some point, but my son did not want to stop. This didn’t seem to fit the description of the unfocused child that the teachers had described to me. He was also in a Harry Potter after school class (seeing a theme here?) at the time. This was a small class of 5 students where they enacted scenes from the books. He had no behavior problems in this class. I brought both of these examples up at the next meeting. They seemed very interested in this, and one day I saw the special ed person visiting the Harry Potter class. What I brought to the table was a very different view of how they were beginning to see my child.
Needless to say, it didn’t work out at this school for different reasons, but my point is that in our work as parents in supporting our children, trusting our own instincts about them and figuring out how to bring this to the table is just as important as the professionals we put our trust in, if not more.