Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Blubbering Advocate

I just can't quit this blogging thing. I get very far afield but I always come back to the thought that writing about something will help me sort through it. So here goes.

As many of you know, my son Julian has various developmental delays that make life very interesting at best and downright exasperating at worst. Take getting out of the house these past two mornings for school - two hours from start to finish. But we face the prospect of tomorrow renewed with a game plan of strict enforcement that will make all the difference in the world...or so we tell ourselves because we do need somewhere to hang our hopes.

Today there was a "speak out" in our fine borough of Queens sponsored by two different advocacy groups to give a voice to those who don't seem to fit into the "90% of parents who are happy with the quality of education that our children are receiving in NYC." The number is grossly inflated and, to borrow a Mark Twain quote used by one parent in the meeting, is "lies, more lies and statistics."

A parent I know with a very compelling story advocating inclusion for our special needs kids told me about the speak out. I don't know what I expected from a speak out, but it's a good bet that you'd be given the opportunity to well, speak out. A couple of parents read their stories before the meeting and then the floor was opened up to discussion. Damn my lack of forethought to not have written anything up myself as I am infinitely more eloquent in print than in public speaking unprepared. Oh and there's that little phobia about public speaking to begin with that I may have neglected to mention previously. My heart pounded in my chest with each parent that shared as I too have a story to get out there and it is Julian's story and he can't tell it for himself. I needed to be his advocate as I am daily in emails, conversations, and conferences with his school administrators and teachers.

I raised my hand, possibly half heartedly but sure enough they pointed my way. Then I started speaking which in my head was to be eloquent and compelling but in reality was anything but. I began to cry. All of those stored up emotions about doing the right thing for your child being put on the line and I cried, but I continued through my tears and spoke. Spoke about Julian being in a self-contained class and the pitfalls inherent in such a setting. Spoke about the various school staff who come into contact with this special segment of the population who have no clue as to the intricacies of working with them - or anyone for that matter, as individuals with individual needs. Spoke about exclusion by school administrators or teachers (depending upon whom you believe) from grade activities. And then I finished. Dried my eyes. Listened to the feedback from my sharing.

Of course, by now I had regained my composure and could have told his story to anyone who would listen. But you know, that day may just come when I can stand in a forum and deliver a speech on behalf of Julian without a quaver in my voice or a tear on my cheek. Of course, the day may sooner come when I can witness Julian do that for himself. Either way - look out NYC. We're here, we're staying and we needs some changes made.

On a sidenote, if you are interested in just how Sarah Palin plans to fight for special education in our society, read this guest post by an attorney advocate on a wonderful gem of a blog, Your Mama's Mad Tedious: Diary of a Special Ed Teacher.


Ariel the Thief said...

Writing down does help to sort through.

You are a courageous woman. I wouldn't be able to speak in front of people for my life. But what's surprise? Julian needs a courageous mom, and you know it.

Al said...

Julian has a champion! Way to swing that bat, G!

School systems, large and small, are notorious for bragging about their achievements on the average (read that "test scores"), while doing their utmost to bury their mistakes in the particular ("Julian").

It's a real fight sometimes getting an unfeeling bureaucracy to pay attention to a needy child. But, when that child is yours, it's a fight worth fighting, and winning.

You go, Mom!

tsduff said...

I have always admired people who, because of an upheaval or turn of events, become public speakers willing to face all kinds of scary people and places simply to get the message heard. Ariel said it right: Julian is a lucky boy to have such a strong Mama backing him up. I'm so proud of you.

Anonymous said...

You're an amazing woman, G :)

Writing does help clear the clutter.

The more the NYC school system does in the name of student progress and accountability the less progress seems to be made

Of coure, Julian is lucky to have you

G said...

Ariel, you'd be able to do just takes the right reason.

Al! Firstly so happy to see you round these parts and hope you are well.

You hit the nail on the proverbial test score. So right you are. Thanks for the encouraging words. :)

Terry, aw thanks WCS, but I know you'd do or have done the same for your own. xox

Pia, thank you so much dear friend. Your third paragraph perfectly encapsalates my frustrations. The truth of the matter is - I'm lucky to have Julian (but you knew that) :)

Hope all is well, I have been skimming but not commenting - I'll be back soon when time permits.

Anonymous said...

Good for you. Tears can be eloquent too.