Middle School: “Receives Special Education Services”

Today is Middle School Registration. I only have one child (unless you count Jonathan and the dog) and she “receives special education services.” So, I don’t know what it is like to go through the education system without that added blessing.  I know from speaking to friends that there is a normal bit of trepidation about entering middle school. I know that there is always a bit of anxiety for any of life’s transitions regardless of the situation. I also know from speaking to my friends who have multiple children and have children receiving and not receiving special education services that those anxieties are different for those of us in the “receives special services” category.I have rocked along pretty well this summer.  Haven’t fretted much about the challenges that will face us in middle school.  We had upteen meetings last year before school was out to try to make sure we have every single i dotted and t crossed in Rachel’s IEP (Individual Education Program) and that everyone knows what we will need for a successful transition and meaningful educational experience in middle school.  There were 19 people (yes 19 as in 10+ 9) at her last transition to middle school IEP meeting in May. In fact, one teacher apologized after the meeting for her inability to communicate about Rachel during the meeting. She doesn’t like to speak in front of adults and was a bit overwhelmed by the large group of attendees.  Imagine how many parents feel when they experience this same thing. Neither my husband or I have a problem speaking in front of anyone, but many adults do. Imagine that you need to advocate for your child and you are surrounded by that many people who are supposed to be experts? Now, I am glad that we had every single person who might have had any input for Rachel’s plan but you see the challenge I think?  I digress.

Over the weekend I felt nervousness sneaking up on me.  I started wondering if her schedule would look anything like what we had discussed and how these new folks, as well-intentioned as they are, would deal with this high-maintenance mom?  How much will we need to adjust the schedule? Will that be a major ordeal or pretty easy? Which set of teachers will she get? Will the teachers really want Rachel in their class and be willing to work with us on the accommodations and modifications that she needs?  Or will she be seen as a burden? Who will be the new para and will she be good at communicating with me?  Will Rachel use her good manners and respectful manners with the new paras because she DOES NOT LIKE HELP and can be a bit hard on those who try to give her help? How will we keep Rachel organized? My little OCD-tendencied girl doesn’t carry those tendencies over to school organization and it makes it quite challenging.  Regardless of all our planning will she get in the ala-carte line every day and spend $50 on lunch the first week and gain five pounds?  Will they remember that she uses special paper but it needs to look like everyone else’s?  Will she ever be able to open her locker even though we’ve been practicing all summer?  Will there be new kids who set her up to be bullied or take advantage of her?  Will her existing friends find it “uncool” to be her friend now that they are “cool” middle school kids?  Then there is the “daily PE” and changing clothes routine. From talking to all parents, this is one of the key areas of anxiety for everyone!  Will some of the friends she has made these past three years be in her classes with her?  We have been very fortunate to have teachers who would work with us and friends who are true friends. True friends who knew how to help Rachel but who also learn from Rachel. I’ve heard all the stories about the changes and challenges in middle school for all kids but more for those who are differently-abled.  Will we dodge those bullets? I suspect we will dodge some, endure a few, and overcome most.

Some of these dilemmas are annual occurrences.  Each year you wonder about the teachers, friends, accommodations, modifications, communication and friends. Each year you start with some new people but this year we start with ALL NEW people. We all must get used to each other.  We have always worked to make Rachel as indepenent as possible because we know that is how she will manage these life transitions.  I can’t answer very many of these questions for this year yet, but I promise to give you updates throughout the year. What I can tell you is this:  We have planned and prepared. We have prayed.  Now, I will trust Him who can do immeasurably more than I ever asked or imagined to guide the path of one Rachel Nicole Mast.  I will trust Him to use Rachel as He always has. I trust Him to push me out of the way when I am interfering with the plans He has for her. I am trusting Him to nudge me when I need to play the high-maintenance mom.  For those of you who know me well, you are laughing hysterically at that word “nudge.”   Welcome to middle school.


Picture is of Rachel’s 1st day of kindergarten. She is one of “Brewer’s Babies!”

Glenda responded:
You, my friend, have done an excellent job of expressing yourself, once again. You are a marvel to me. And so is Rachel. I will be praying for you guys through this transition. Love you!!
Laurie_brewer responded:
Rachel got her mama’s strong will and determination – she’s going to be just fine. 🙂 Welcome to middle school, Rachel! We’re all rooting for you!
Donna Brewer (Facebook) responded:
Donna Brewer
i wish i could say my middle schooler has had only a positive wonderful experience. I hope and pray that positive and wonderful is what Rachel and you experience. These past two years have been filled with nuisances, lack of communication, bad judgements on part of school and lack of support in areas that are ridiculously silly. Hannah too wanted nothing more than to cheer with her girlfriends on the sidelines at home football games. what is the big deal with that? I hope that Rachel’s school will allow her to do so. Our principal however has disappointed me in being an advocate for the differently abled population. Thankfully this is Hannah’s last year at this school. She is an 8th grader beginning next Wednesday. We also have a new teacher coming on board. All i can do at this point is pray that somehow, someway this last year as a middle schooler can bring me hope back into promises of brighter days and brighter future for Hannah, because that hope darkened during middle school transition for my daughter these past two years.
Jawanda Mast responded:
Jawanda Mast
Thanks for reading and posting. Dona, I am sorry for your issues. Our path is not issue free and you know that. You all will learn about some of our bumps this year. You can make it inclusion work but it is harder in some places than in others. I just pray that you will continue to advocate for your Hannah. I know you are tired, weary, discouraged and disappointed. I know you want what is best for your child. I pray that God will give you the strength you need to put on your armor and continue the battle for Hannah and for others. Your work will make a difference. And I hope you will continue to follow and share your thoughts and struggles because we can give you support and maybe even help you come up with more strategies for your situation. I know many will learn from what you have to share. Your Hannah is fortunate to have you!
Donna responded:
Jawanda thank you for responding and more importantly for your support, prayers and encouragement. Yesterday was the first day of school and I’m happy to share that i feel positive!!
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