“Brave parenting is listening to the Knowing—ours and our children’s. It’s doing what’s true and beautiful for our child no matter how countercultural it seems. It’s about how when we know what our children need, we don’t pretend not to know.”— Untamed by Glennon Doyle
One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn while raising a child like Solly is to listen to my inner voice. Some people may call that voice God, some, like author Glennon Doyle whose book I’m currently devouring, call it the Knowing, others may call it gut instinct. However you’d like to refer to it, it’s that little voice that pipes in or nudges you to say: “This doesn’t feel right. It shouldn’t be like this. Let’s do something different.” That little voice has guided me through moves, through therapy clinic changes, across the country seeking the right therapies and medical teams. My inner voice has compelled me to do things quite differently for Solly than many in the special needs world do.
Yet, that voice has led to Solly to learn and develop beyond what Mike and I dream possible. I still struggle when the little voice calls and tells me to move against the crowd and I ultimately drive Mike and my closest friends crazy with texts and phone calls looking for confirmation that my crazy ideas – SDR, medical cannabis, stem cells, moving across the country (again) – prove a better outcome.
That little voice has yet to fail me. I’m learning to listen to and trust it.
Yesterday, I withdrew Solly from our local school district for the upcoming school year. Given our environment in the United States and the continuous lack of consideration for children with disabilities, I couldn’t bear the thought of sending Solly to school – virtually – with a band-aid approach to support and services. (If you missed out on my last post about the struggles we’re facing with special education, catch up here.) To be honest, our school system has done everything they can while staying in accordance with the law and local unions: we were offered an interim IEP, built on medical records and a virtual interview with me, that would be finalized when school resumes in person. But the thing is, an interim IEP wouldn’t be able to begin to give Solly what he needs: one-on-one instruction, interpretation of his expressive speech, and a calm, slow approach to education. That combined with virtual learning would only frustrate him and cause him to fall further behind his peers than he already is. Solly needs someone to take things slowly, figure out how to teach him, and work with him to help build his confidence and mastery of the skills needed to enter elementary school.
In short, Solly needs me. Can I do this?
As we’ve been discussing how to handle this upcoming year and we started to discuss the possibility of homeschooling, I got really down on myself. My education and career have always been business-orientated, I know next to nothing about teaching a kindergarten curriculum. Not to mention adapting that curriculum to meet the needs of someone who is still technically nonverbal and who learns quite differently than the typical youngster.
After serious reflection I came to a realization: I have been teaching Solly since day 1. Most people watch in awe as their babies discover their hands and feet, learn to clap their handles or shake a rattle, learn to adjust their body and get into sitting, learn to say Mama or Dada. We didn’t get to experience any of that with Solly. We have taught Solly everything he knows that never came naturally. Had we not gotten him into therapy as early as we did, had we not learned to fight for what he needs, we wouldn’t have learned how to carry these techniques into our home and everyday interactions with Solly so he could learn how to hit those inch-stones. I’ve been working with Solly almost every single day of his life, I already know how to teach him. I can do this. I will figure it out.
So. I have ordered a curriculum for him and have engaged a neuropsychologist to do a full, in-person, comprehensive assessment to develop an education plan for the upcoming school year. That will include a synopsis of how he learns, what accommodations he’ll need in the “classroom” and what therapies he’ll need to support his learning experience. It’ll be the equivalent of an IEP, but it’ll just be a plan that we’ll put into action with me as his teacher, his current therapy team as his school therapy team, the possible help of an in-home tutor, and socially distanced play dates with friends to make sure we get the social time Solly craves. We’ll also explore other possible interventions that can help him along the way. Some of the other positives with this plan include a flexible schedule with extra intensive therapies. Since this is a huge effort, I will add Bea into our homeschooling program so she can have a first year of pre-Kindergarten and get some special learning time with her Mama.
It’s daunting and I’m already exhausted just trying to think through it, but, like with everything else, we will figure it out. And I know it’s the best thing for Solly. Because my inner voice tells me that it is.