The Little Black Cloud by Jeanette McGurk

There has been a little black cloud hanging over my week.

Nothing terrible, I am not on life support, I didn’t get the unbearable news that I am highly allergic to chocolate, coffee or Moscow Mules. It was the impending doom of my youngest daughter’s ARD meeting.

If you are not acquainted with this term, it stands for Admittance, Review, and Dismissal. At the start of each year, we have an ARD meeting to discuss what services will be offered through the elementary school to my Learning Disabled daughter. It’s been three years since she was tested and the requirement is that she’ll need to be rested to see if she’s achieved her goals and can be dismissed or is she stays in the services.

There is absolutely no chance of dismissal. At 10 years years of age she barely reads on a 1st grade level.

When she was little, everyone had a helpful suggestion. “Have you tried flash cards? Sesame Street? Do you read to her? Do you have the magnetic letters? Have you tried Leap Frog?” “

“No!” I wanted to scream. “I take her outside and put tin foil on her head and hope that will get her little grey cells working.”

Of course I have done all of that, and more. My husband and I have spent thousands of dollars on every sure to get your kid reading strategy we could get our hands on. Alas, 5 years later, here we sit, $600 a month in tutoring, special programs at school, ADHD medication and still, we are only inching along.

It was easier when she was younger. The gap in her skill set wasn’t so blaring. The L’s she pronounced as w’s were cute, as was calling her back pack a pack pack. Now, I worry about her being bullied, not fitting in, and being made fun of.

We flitted through a wonderful summer of traveling and play-dates. Oblivious to all the nasty reminders of how off path we are academically. Until of course, the diagnosticians and resource room teachers start contacting me with forms I need to fill out for the ARD meeting. Drafts of 504 goals and accommodations she will be given to help her “succeed”.

I am a bit cynical when it comes to the meeting because I am CEO of my kid’s plan only on paper. The few times I have gone in asking for anything, the room has gone dark and cold. The principal and diagnostician sprout fangs from their plastic smiles. When their heads eventually stop spinning they announce with ferocity,

“She is getting all the speech allowed per student. 30 minutes twice a week.
She has been dismissed from OT, the teacher may want her to have access to the room, we say NOOOOOOooooo!
How dare you think we would test her for dyslexia, she is too low on intelligence to even test to see if she might be  dyslexic or to see if that program would work.”

That last one is really what is up my craw.

I have been fighting for 3 years to get the school to test her for Dyslexia. I would be happy to test her outside the school, but my husband has been stubborn. We pay a hefty amount in property taxes for schools each year.

So limbo. Limbo because the school thinks my daughter does not have the brain power necessary to go through the dyslexia program and my husband doesn’t want to fork out $1000 for a test the school may not accept from an outside source.

And truth be told, I was willing to accept that she was better off being taught to read by the resource teacher.

However, practically every adult who interacts with my child, including the pediatric neurologist, tutor, and teachers believe she is not low on intelligence. These folks feel her problem is a processing challenge combined with a severe case of dyslexia. Apparently, if it is really a bad case, a child can text poorly across the board.

Which is exactly what my child has done in everything except problem solving and non-calculation math. On those two things, she does rather well.

So Thursday, my dark cloud and I headed into the ARD meeting. I am expected to play nice so as not to draw out the dark forces, and by Christmas be forced to move my child into a private school.

My daughter’s pediatric neurologist told me it was my number one job as her parent, to keep her self esteem up. What I had not realized, was how gloomy, cynical, and devoid of hope I had become about the whole situation.

For a week before the meeting, my attitude was just bad. I didn’t want to do anything. I was pitifully preparing to go in and be pummeled by people who without really knowing her had already giving up on my daughter. Believing she didn’t have enough brain power to get through 1st grade reading.

People who would not fight for her the way I was supposed to. People who were not there to be her hero, the way I am supposed to.

The problem was, by Thursday, kryptonite had robbed me of any superhero powers. I went in, defeated before I had even begun.

So, it was a great surprise for me to sit down at a table where the roles had reversed.

I was the dark shadow.

From every other person, I heard stories of what a joy my daughter is. How delightful she is to teach.

Her science teacher told me she looks out for her on the playground and sees her playing with one other little girl almost every day. A few days when my little peanut was alone, she asked, “are you okay?” And peanut said, “Yes, today I am in the mood to play by myself.” The next few days she was with a big group of kids.  This wonderful teacher took it upon herself to make sure out of the eighty 4th graders running around like a kicked ant pile, that one little slip of a girl would not be alone in the mix.

The speech teacher commented how they had bonded over kid’s bop. The goals they are now working on go beyond the basic from year’s past to verb tenses and synonyms. Progress.

The new resource teacher said just that day they had leveled up. Progress.

This year she finally gets writing as well and this woman, this sweet woman, looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, we will get there. I have complete faith in your daughter.”

Now I am starting to blink back happy grateful tears. Darn brutal school florescent lighting.

Most shocking of all, the Principal had pulled in the dyslexia specialist without me asking, so they can start testing her next week. The diagnostician still thinks she is too low for it to do any good, but after basking in the glow of my daughter’s own private Justice League, I am not so sure.

They are there all day fighting for her. Lifting her up, getting her to that next step, and the next.

No one in that room had given up hope except for me. It won’t be easy, it will never be easy. But it isn’t hopeless either. In fact, much to my surprise, I left the meeting without the company of my little black cloud.

A loving breeze had blown it clear away.

About the Author: Jeanette McGurk

jeanette_mcgurkJeanette McGurk is a Graphic Designer who entered the world of writing through advertising. She discovered writing a lot of truth with a little fluff is a lot more fun than the other way round. Now that she is no longer spending time making air conditioners, tile floors, IT and Botox sound sexy, she writes about the unglamorous yet wonderful moments of life for people like herself; in other words, anyone looking for interesting ways to put off cleaning and doing laundry.

She is a curmudgeon and doesn’t Twit or Instagram. She has heard the blog is dead but since she has finally figured out how to do it, that is the museum where you can locate her writings. http://jmcpb.blogspot.com/.

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