I don’t know why it was so hard for me to write that letter. It was in my head, like a to-do list on repeat. But every time I thought about sitting down at my computer to type it out, my next thought was, What am I going to say?
I knew how to write the words but my heart didn’t want to admit the truth: My child needed help.
We needed help. I needed help.
Writing the letter was about plunging into the depths of my own fear. Asking for testing to see if your child is eligible for Special Education services is…I don’t know…
A road that I didn’t want to take?
D. All of the above
So I put it off. It’s kind of embarrassing admitting that. But it’s true.
Oh, and I had a baby too. (You can read about his glorious entrance into the world and our arduous first month here)
We had Christmas break and then school started again.
I got a call from Benji’s teacher requesting a meeting to discuss his progress in school. Despite all my aforementioned fear, I was so relieved by her call. I had been pressing and pressing and pressing her for answers the entire fall semester and it was about time that she called me.
I asked that we meet as soon as possible.
And then I had a deadline.
I wrote the letter.
I didn’t know what other people’s letters looked like but this is the one I wrote. One thing I did know though: In Virginia, once you writing a letter requesting testing for your child, the school is obligated to honor your request to see if your child is eligible for testing.
From the day I submitted the letter, the special education team had 3 days to evaluate and acknowledge my request.
Then within 10 days, the team would evaluate my request and make a decision about whether or not to start the testing process.
After the decision to evaluate was firmly in place, we would be on a 65 day time frame to complete all testing.
By submitting the letter, I was putting myself, my son, our situation, On The Clock.
It was about to get real.
I armed myself with a copy for the teacher and one for the principal, and I also attached copies of the informal evaluation we had done in October.
I was ready to fight for my son’s education.
What I wasn’t ready for was the news that his teacher gave me in our meeting.
We were both nervous but polite, probably too formal.
She talked about his lack of progress, his struggle in reading, writing, spelling, and sometimes in math. We discussed how the interventions we had put in place in the Fall were going: his breakout reading group, his extra reading time with the Reading Specialist daily, and his twice-weekly before school session with his Book Buddy, a local college student.
“The thing is,” She told me. “If we don’t see significant improvement by a certain time this semester, we are looking at retention.”
I nodded but my mind was whirring.
What is she talking about?
Root word: Retain.
Retain: To continue, to keep in place.
Wait..! Is she talking about holding him back?
I interrupted her. “Is he going to fail first grade?”
She hesitated. She repeated. I understood what she was saying/not saying.
It was time. I brought out the letter.
“I know we’ve discussed Benji’s struggles this past semester and I am so glad of the interventions that you have put in place at school. I know you’ve said that you think he just needs to try harder but I think there is something else going on. This is my formal request for Special Education testing.”
I wrote the letter. I took the step. I was advocating for my son.
I didn’t know what in the world we were getting ourselves into.
Why is doing the right thing so hard?
How did you face your fears to do the right thing for yourself or your child?