Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Birdie and the Child Find Committee

I know you are expecting a conclusion to the story of the girls' birthday weekend, but you will have to wait until next time.

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
Pow Wow
So, even though submitting the Child Find Committee referral form was emotionally difficult today (I keep waffling between cheers and tears), I can't describe the tremendous feeling of relief I had when the referral meeting came to a close and they decided to proceed with testing to determine Birdie's placement.  I am so happy to know, first of all, that my concerns and the concerns of Birdie's teacher were taken seriously.  My relief is fueled by the knowledge that, at the very least, I have done everything I can do to help Birdie at this time.  I have gotten the ball rolling to make sure Birdie gets help at school with the things that "get in the way" of her learning.  We still have several weeks before we will know how this all turns out, but the hard part is over.  What surprises me the most is that what I thought would be the hardest part (convincing the CF committee to proceed), wasn't nearly as hard as dealing with emotions that go with describing to strangers how your child is imperfect and needs help you cannot provide.

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.


  1. I suspect that you know, no matter how much these processes may make you feel like it is so, that your children are *not* defective and that you are *not* a failure as a parent...but I know that these systems, which focus so much on weaknesses in order to determine eligibility for supports, can certainly make it feel that way. It can feel very...dehumanizing was the word that sprung to mind when I had to do intake forms with families for a support agency that I once worked for.

    But you know that your children have wonderful strengths (along with the quirks...and really, what child doesn't have quirks?). Keep reminding people of that as you advocate for them. Ask to start meetings with everyone there saying something that they really like about your children. Keep it strength-focused, so you don't get bogged down in the inherent deficit-based "systems" stuff.

    It sounds like you're a very loving and devoted mother who wants the best for her kids. All the best.

    1. Thank you for your kind words of support. :) As you suspect, I do know that my daughter is not, in fact, defective-- as a matter of fact, she has one of the most amazing brains I have ever encountered! However... the sense of guilt-- the feeling that I had somehow betrayed her-- after presenting her needs to a committee of people that I could only *hope* would see her as the wonderful kid she is, was a very real feeling. I know what I did was the best thing, and I would do it all again if necessary-- but it sucks.

  2. I second what Girl with the Cane said, only she said it a lot better than I ever could. Great post.