Today I did something I never imagined I would do. Today I submitted a referral form to the school requesting that Birdie be the subject of a Child Find Committee. It was easier and harder to do than I could have ever guessed it would be. It was easy to do, because in my heart of hearts I know that despite her incredibly amazing brain for knowledge, Birdie could really use some help developing her "social brain". What made this process so damn hard was that in some ways it feels like a bit of a loss, too. So much for me having a pseudo-normal kid... not that was ever truly a possibility. I mean really, look at me!
My feelings are so confused about this whole process. I absolutely DO NOT think that Special Education (SPED) for my child is something to be ashamed of. SPED encompasses learners of all types and needs, equalizing the school playing field so that all children can experience their own maximum amount of educational success (in theory). I do not see an IEP as a stigma that my children will bear into adulthood, but rather as a tool, that when used correctly, will optimize their learning environment. I am ecstatic that, as a parent, I have the opportunity to request that Birdie be considered for special education services, without waiting for the school to decide for me. This being said, the Child Find referral form also feels like a confession of failure or inadequacy on my part. It feels like I'm saying "Okay guys, I'm not up for this task (aka public education) by myself and neither is Birdie (which is true), because I have produced another defective child (which is still up for debate)."
Last year, I had a really hard time accepting Princess's autism diagnosis when it came, even though I suspected the truth long (like since she was an infant long) before it was put into words on paper. However, I never suspected Birdie was on the spectrum-- at least not until she started school. And even though this time it isn't as hard to accept-- because who am I kidding, Birdie is on the spectrum, asking the school to confirm this makes me feel like I have somehow failed. I have essentially asked (practically begged, even) for the chance to explain to the powers that be how my child is defective and needs their help. I love my children and I love them the way the are-- quirks and all. But I am also human, and I am subject to the biases of the world-- a world that describes my children as "atypical", which usually translates with an implied amount of brokenness and negativity, rather than with implied brilliance. I know Special Education will help Birdie succeed just as it has helped Princess, but I just don't want some of the assumptions that come with an IEP to "devalue" her worth in the eyes of her future teachers. She is a brilliant, funny, caring, curious child-- not an IEP, not some pain-in-the-ass kid with an inch-thick folio full of accommodations and special needs. She is just Birdie, who just happens to have a very unique brain.
|Birdie in Kindergarten at her Thanksgiving|
No matter how you try to distance yourself from the words you are saying or how much you "put on a strong face" for the committee, you just can't prepare yourself for that emotional experience. I hope you never have to.