Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Parent-Teacher Conferences In Perspective

Most parents (or at least I) have the dream of walking into a parent-teacher conference and hearing that our child is a pleasure to have in class, a student leader, perfectly well-behaved, and succeeding in all academic areas. Who needs the "needs improvement" or "unacceptable" columns on a report card? Certainly not my perfect child.

Then, reality hits. Not every child is perfect. When it is a special needs child that you are dealing with, that perspective drastically changes. I know that Andrew struggles in certain areas. His ADHD makes it difficult for him to pay attention and his delayed social skills makes it difficult to work cooperatively in groups. He has horrible impulse control and is extremely stubborn. He is very good at reading, but he hates math and is frustrated that he doesn't get the answers right all of the time.  It is really a struggle for him to learn the math skills needed to succeed. He has fine motor issues related to his Cerebral Palsy, making writing extremely difficult and time consuming. With him, I am not looking for perfection. I am looking for "almost there."

Andrew spent preschool, Kindergarten, and his first year of first grade in the special needs classroom at our local elementary school. We all knew that there was a lot of potential there, but he had some behavioral, fine motor, and self-help issues to overcome. By the end of his first year of first grade, his teachers and we decided that it was time for him to try a typical classroom. He was going to repeat first grade with the same teacher he had for inclusion the year before and be on a resource plan. And you know what? He did great! We had areas that still needed to be improved upon, but he blossomed around typical peers and regular ed curriculum.

Now, Andrew is in a typical second grade classroom with a whole new set of peers and a whole new set of professionals. We had to change schools since he no longer needed the special needs services that they provided at his previous school. I was extremely nervous with this change, but knew that it had to be done. Once again, Andrew put my fears to rest.

The first six weeks of school flew by. I just had my first parent-teacher conference with his new teacher (well, his first REAL, scheduled conference. We confer through email all of the time.). Andrew is doing great! He is working well in groups and is at grade-level for most of his academic subjects. He still needs to work in math (go figure), but is approaching grade level in writing! This is a kid who literally could not write all of his letters at the beginning of last school year. He is now writing paragraphs (although not completely legible) on his own with his classmates. Handwriting is still an issue, but they are also working on typing. He had a few "needs improvements" in behavioral issues like paying attention, but we knew that was an issue. He is even following the school rules on a regular basis. Overall, I am extremely pleased.

So, my child might not be the perfect kid who sits with his hands folded, eagerly awaiting the next academic subject to come his way, but he is his version of perfect. He is succeeding when it wasn't always clear if he would be able to. He is learning to be around typical peers and the typical peers are learning to be around him. He is making lots of friends and is being accepted for who he is. That is my new dream for him.

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