I will start with the triggers part of this post because it lends itself nicely to the first half of the title. A couple weeks back in DBT group we were asked to write down our triggers, I had a hard time because my triggers are usually internal- my perception that someone is mad at me, answering a question wrong etc. I couldn’t think of a trigger that someone else could cause. What I mean to say is I didn’t think there were any topics that were “sensitive”- until today.
I have been locking horns with the special education department in my son’s school over their non-compliance in regards to two specific areas of his IEP. They are small “things” but they could mean the difference between success and failure for him. I emailed the director and his case manager a couple weeks ago and voiced my concerns. The director told the CM to set up an IEP meeting so that we can discuss this. I sorta avoided thinking about it until today. The meeting date still hasn’t been set, and it was time I started “gathering my evidence”. As I started this I could feel my chest tightening, my heart beating faster, my thoughts racing and my head aching. All I could think was I can’t do this again.
When my son was in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade we lived a couple towns over, where he attended the local public school. Now, I am not sure if I have mentioned his exact diagnoses – but at the time it was Asperger’s, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Sensory Processing Disorder. He has since also added Bipolar II to that list. But we spent 3 years trying to get the school to comply with their own IEPs. We built a large case against them and brought it to the department of education. We started with mediation, which failed miserably. The school couldn’t even live up to their concessions from that. At that time we went forward with a formal complaint against the school. We presented about 30 pages detailing 14 allegations against the school. In the end because I was naive and didn’t eep impeccable records some of the allegations couldn’t be proven but they were found guilty on 7 counts, some of them system wide (meaning affecting all students with IEPs). They were required to make changes and become compliant or face sanctions. I don’t know what happened in that district with those specific allegations, because I pulled him out of school and homeschooled him for 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and the first month of 9th. I couldn’t deal with the constant fighting, the anxiety, and nightmares I was having. I do have a couple acquaintances that have special needs kiddos in that district and it seems like things haven’t changed at all. One day last fall at my son’s dojo a couple of the mom’s were talking about the director, the blatant violations and I found myself in the middle of a panic attack just listening to them talk about it. I forgot about that conversation until today. We moved during my son’s 7th grade year to a nearby district that had a much better reputation.
As I was writing out my complaints with the school, printing out the emails (I communicate only in written form with the school now – fool me once-). It all came back. And I realized I just don’t know if I can do it again. I don’t know if I have enough fight left in me. I don’t have the same support person I had back then. She was amazing, and was an amazing advocate for my son, as well as a support for me. She was at every meeting, the 5 hour mediation, as well as some other dark times in the early years.
I knew putting the kids back in school I ran the risk of this happening again. I knew that I may end up with a school who wasn’t complying, even with the simple stuff. But I had heard good things about this district, the benefits to my own mental health outweighed the POSSIBLE run-ins with the school. But now, I am left sitting here reduced to the same feelings I had all those years ago, but this time I am not as strong. I am not as able to let things lie.
I am starting to feel like an animal trapped in a cage, pacing back and forth, eyes narrowed, growling, in that fight or flight mode, panicked and dangerous (though for me it’s emotional danger for myself not that I am going to go full lion on those around me 😉 )