Monday, May 6, 2013

Lessons from the Parent Side of the Team Meeting

The evaluation came home the day before the scheduled team meeting.  We just about fell through the floor.  Our four-year old daughter was listed as "at risk" in areas such as hyperactivity and aggression.  While I'll be the first to admit there is a dark side to our adorable, cute, loving, and generally obedient little girl, I would never classify her as an ADHD-induced bully either.

I spent significant time with our resource room teacher the next morning trying to get ammunition to help us in this battle.  She produced paperwork about ADHD in young children, how giftedness can present itself as hyperactivity, how students with communication issues can sometimes show negative behavior.  We talked extensively about adoption, ethnicity, and family illness.  (My daughter was adopted from South Korea and is the only minority in her class.  I was sick the bulk of 2012-2013 school year with a rare neurological disease that...well... I don't like the details at all.)

Friday afternoon, we sat down in the meeting with her teacher and speech therapist, the school psychiatrist, and assistant principal.  I was friendly but questioned everything.  I know what it's like to be on that side of the table but was willing to fight for my little girl.

Then it came to that "at risk" section of the evaluation.  When I asked about that, all the school employees mentioned there was no need for concern.  A handful of "at risks" is nothing to worry about.  "Clinically significant" (or some such language) was the issue for concern.  Ohhhh.... So, this isn't what we think it's going to be? My wife and I laughed a nervous laugh and sat back for the rest of the ride.

In the end, we found that our daughter no longer needs speech therapy.  In fact, she no longer has any developmental delays...and...sadly... she no longer qualifies for public preschool education in the state of Kentucky.  

We need to find a private preschool option for next year.  (That's a different story.  I'm hoping we can scrape together enough tuition money.)

As the shock wore off,  I couldn't help wondering about the evaluation process.  How could we be so far off base? How could we have missed the cues?  We went in thinking it was going to be a battle for our daughter only to find out that she's a model student, so good that she's graduated out of the program.

My wife and I are both educators with roughly 34 years teaching experience combined.  The large bulk of that is in upper elementary, but we do know our stuff.  If we misread the evaluation (with its "at risk" and missing key background information) how would a layman parent read it?

I'm stinking proud of my little girl.  She has done an amazing job overcoming a ton of stuff in the three years she's been in our home. In one year, she has gone from talking in 2-3 word phrases to talking nonstop for 10 minutes (which can give me a headache, but I love it).  I'm happy for the great ending.

I just wish the evaluation had been a bit more clear to Mommy and Daddy.

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