I watched Facebook for posts on the kiddos and their day and though I saw nothing, I figured I could try to get her to tell me if she had in fact worn the beautiful gown from one of my closest friends. She got off the bus and crawled into her seat. Her sisters buckled her in and I began to probe her asking if she had in fact worn her dress. She said "no". I asked if she tried it on. Again, she said no.
This morning as I rubbed my bleary eyes, I saw I was tagged on our PTA page. There, unbeknownst to myself or her sibling who attend the same school, she stood, by her teacher and a friend donning the gown I had packed. Teary eyed, I felt sincere joy knowing that even if she just participated for a little bit, she put that dress on. She wore it for a photo and she had in fact participated.
I had no idea.
Three years ago, my child headed into a school that I hadn't ever set foot in. I hadn't seen her classroom or really met anyone that would be involved in her daily learning yet I sent her off, scared on a bus with complete strangers.
First, they had no car seat. Lucky for me, I called the school and the bus driver made sure to have her in one on the way home. It was in fact in her IEP that I had requested it and it was the first small blip in communication.
From that day on, we have continually had to be very honest with the fact that communication is key for me. Another incident that occurred was when a teacher was absent for multiple days. It hadn't been noted and for days my child kept saying "no, so and so". As the days passed I began to worry that she in fact was being harmed and though I wanted to believe the best, I didn't know anyone well enough to trust and so, I worried. Once again, I contacted the school and was told in fact the teacher was absent and would be for a week. Whew.
Communication still isn't where I want it and honestly, this is why. My child is verbal so often I think that those around her expect she can share her day to day life, what she experiences and how she feels but the fact of the matter is, she's verbal but non-communicative. Its a difficult position to be in as her language skills are actually adequate but her processing and expression is that of a toddler and so, unless I am told, I never know.
Here are three tips for teachers who have not walked in our shoes...yes, that means those who do not have a child with limited verbal skills and children who have special needs.
1. If this was your child, is it enough?
If a teacher slips on that "mom hat" and looks at their communication sheet, is it enough? Have they in fact covered everything they would want to see if it was their child. When I communicate to my teachers and therapists, I try to share as much as I can to make it the best situation for everyone involved. So if it is everything YOU would want to know, then its enough, if not? Its time to change.
2. The Phone Works.
I know that rules are such that teachers are in a sticky place. Paraprofessionals can no longer write notes as they once could and the number of children per class has increased due to the increase in number of diagnosed children. No time to write? Feel free to use the phone. I would rather have an afterthought, a conversation, explanation than be left to wonder and yes, you can text too...though I know its frowned upon.
3. The More You Know.
Many parents with kiddos in my shoes feel a lack of trust. I won't lie, I still struggle almost daily with trusting the team that surrounds my daughter most of her waking hours. The more I am told, the more open, the more I will begin to trust. I know that often teachers are concerned to share too much due to the potential backlash but I promise you, the more a parent trusts, the better the relationship can be. Often when a child is diagnosed, many are told to "play the game". For me, I don't want a game, I want a relationship that will help my child find success and in the long run, success for you too.
I am glad that my child wore her dress yesterday. I just wish I had known. Had I known when she got home or even at the moment it happened, it may have made our day better. My daughter had a very difficult afternoon and had I known that little spot of sunshine, those challenging moments may have had less of an impact on us as we could celebrated the small steps.