Yesterday, I had the boys’ annual CPSE meeting. For those of you who do not have a young child with special needs, that is the Committee on Pre-School Education. Every year, while you parents of “typical” kids are deciding whether and what preschool to send your 3- and 4-year-olds, us parents of kids with special needs are meeting with a 5+ person committee to decide the same thing. That’s right, I don’t get to pick and send, I get to review evaluations covering every aspect of my child’s development with strangers, then decide as a group what’s best for my boys.
It’s actually not as bad as it sounds in some ways… But, worse than it sounds in others.
How well I know and how much like and/or agree with the other Committee members and their general attitude is directly correlated with the level of stress these meetings reek on me, the parent. That is in addition to the stress of reducing my child to a black-and-white, numerical representation in the form of a 10+ page report for examination by all these folks. That’s always hard!
Participants may include the CPSE Committee Chairperson; an educator from my home school district; one or more representatives from my county; representatives from the boys’ current/intended preschool; current therapists — OT, PT, Speech, Social Worker, live or on the phone; current teacher(s); a “parent member” (another parent who’s been through this process and wants to help you navigate through the maze); and, of course, me (Mom) and maybe Dad if he can get off from work that day. Luckily, I am comfortable with my Committee Chairperson and with the boys’ preschool teacher. For me, while the time leading up to these meetings is always stressful (as previously noted), the meetings have been pretty agreeable despite some tough topics, questions and/or suggestions. That said, yesterday’s meeting held a very pleasant surprise for me. The county representative — generally an unknown entity — was an active participant and had a very positive influence on the discussion and outcome.
Herb — his last name has been omitted to maintain anonymity just in case the county would rather their rep not actually involve himself personally — was an upbeat guy and pleasant conversationalist. But, that’s not what impressed me the most. First, Herb took the time to put a face with the names on the reports, asking to see pictures of my boys early in the meeting. I realized then that Brian and Michael were not just another statistic to this man. Second, he was the only one who actually keyed in on me… my wants, needs and expectations. When a disagreeable [to me] suggestion was made, it was Herb who noticed and spoke up saying, “Wow! This has been a really pleasant meeting thus far but did you notice how Mom’s body language just changed when you made that suggestion?” He was right on target too. I appreciated his noticing and speaking up. The suggestion: that my identical twin sons who happen to have Down syndrome be split up into two separate classrooms for their 4-year-old preschool experience. While the school reps gave their reasons and I offered my immediate reaction (which was contrary to the suggestion — though I agreed to take it under consideration), it was Herb who had the wherewithal to add his professional opinion cautioning the school representatives that it was the parent’s decision and that part of their reasoning — allowing the boys to develop independent of each other — does not address the potential trauma that could be inflicted if they split up strongly-bonded, special needs twins cold turkey. He explained that IF this was to happen, with my agreement, it would have to be a very gradual process separating them for one hour a day and slowly increasing that eventually to a full day in separate classrooms to ensure that no psychological damage resulted from the action.
I was so impressed with his personal involvement and championing in favor of my boys’ well-being that I am naming Herb, the CPSE County Rep, my Angel Amongst Us for this week. May I add that I found his behavior to be extraordinary as I have been exposed to a number of individuals who have been involved with my boys long-term but who have shown less interest in their development than this virtual stranger did!
Thanks Herb! You were right! It was a wonderful and pleasant CPSE meeting yesterday… Thanks to you!