Thursday, April 20, 2006

The advocacy reflex

I think if you've been a special-needs parent for a long time, at some point you develop an advocacy reflex that goes off at the merest sight of injustice -- maybe the way a breastfeeding mother will automatically leak if she hears a baby, any baby, crying. Tell me I'm not the only one who goes around my child's school IDing kids who probably have fetal alcohol effects, or sensory integration problems, or learning disabilities, and wanting to tell off the teachers who seem to be dealing with them in such ineffective ways. There've even been a couple of incidents when that's gone against my need to advocate for my own kids; my daughter's had trouble with a couple of bullies over the years who seem to be to be so clearly driven by their own special needs that I can't even get properly outraged at them.

Recently, my advocacy reflex has been tripped by a boy I've been asked to tutor at the school. His learning disabilities are less profound than my daughter's, but she has it all over him in terms of organization and conscientiousness in completing assignments. My daughter lives in fear of failing one class; this kid has failed all his classes for seven consecutive quarters, and is about ready to fail sixth grade for the second time. There are supports and accommodations that seem obvious here, and I've been peppering the poor guidance counselor with questions about why teachers aren't doing this, and why teachers aren't doing that. With any luck, maybe I'll be able to make a difference for this boy -- but more likely, I'll just widen the circle of educators who think I'm all about making excuses for unacceptable behavior. Yep, that's my job, and I'm good at it, too.

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