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!”