A Broken System…

Today I met once again with the powers that be at my son’s school. I can’t tell you how many of these meetings we’ve been called to or requested, but somewhere in the vicinity of 7 in three years. They all blend together after awhile: a blur of words intended to give hope, promises and suggestions that haven’t worked or come to fruition, and a lot of people taking notes… that I assume get filed away. The paper trail of a broken system that has failed my child, and let us down—over and over again.

Image: internet

Image: internet

At this meeting, there were: all of his teachers— good educators who do care and come in with hopeful faces; the Principal, Assistant Principal, the school psychologist, my son’s guidance counselor, me and my son—looking wary and anxious. “I guess we’ll need more chairs,” says the Asst. Principal, who called this meeting. Weren’t we all expected to attend? Is it a surprise to see so many, around a table the requires squeezing close together? I notice that my son has taken a seat at the head of the table and for a brief second I think that maybe he has called upon some small reserve of self-esteem: this is about me; I’ll sit at the head. It is a bold move, with so many adults in the room and I quietly hope that he has done it consciously, with a bit of confidence regarding his own role in all of this. However, a teacher who is a good teacher, but does not believe this meeting is necessary, comes in and asks Little Man to move. I watch my boy slide around closer to me… and is it my imagination, or my mother’s heart, that sees his face drop just a little? More.

The Principal’s office looks out on a main courtyard where students rush to and from the places they need to get to. The blinds are wide open— no privacy here. I watch a few kids I know walk by and look at us all, seated around the conference table, and I know that my kid is cringing inside. They will all know. They will ask what I did wrong. They will wonder what’s wrong with me. I think the same things, wishing I could just go close the blinds and open this meeting to real dialogue. Get to the heart. My bleeding heart, that can not bear another meeting that ends in empty promises for my kid. The window remains open, and a friend walks by and waves.

The Assistant Principal runs the meeting, while the Principal- who does not usually attend, but has opted in this time- sits back a bit. I watch her face as the meeting gets underway. I like that she generally gets to the point and she hears what is said with fresh ears. Fresh to our situation at least— she has years of experience; those ears are not new on this block. We all hear the same old, same old: “Little Man, is such a good kid… all of his teachers love having him in class… He is one of the nicest kids we’ve ever met, and I mean that!… Everyone agrees that Little Man is a great kid… very smart…”  His teachers all smile; some nod, and some try to encourage him across the table. Some of them have heard this too often, like us, and know that it is fluff. If his education was built on the number of times he or I has been told what a “nice” kid he is, or how smart he is, we wouldn’t be having meetings. The fact is: nice doesn’t help his grades and his intelligence isn’t being represented by those grades either.

image: adhd-mindbydesign.com

image: adhd-mindbydesign.com

He is a nice kid… unusually nice. He’s perceptive, funny, kind and compassionate. He is smart, very smart… but ADHD turns his thoughts into a swirl of ideas, intentions, efforts, that all spin and sputter and cough out a small fraction of what he can actually do. He is bored; he is frustrated; he is beaten down— by a system that is so broken that it really doesn’t know what to do to help him reach his true potential, or feel as successful and capable as he could and should be. It is a system that strains under the weight of the kids who are too smart for, the kids who struggle with, the kids who digest and move on easily through, and the kids who spin with inside-  a curriculum that has been determined to be best. Best for which of those kids? Not mine. Not a friends. Not many of the teachers who are required to follow it. There is no real wiggle room for teachers, who want to be more creative, or challenging, or passionate. There is no wiggle room for kids who struggle (in whatever context that might be) without IEPs and 504s and Special Ed and HCL and a slew of other letters, attached to their names.

And so we meet again. We meet, and the same nice kid comments are made and the same questions are asked of a 16 year old boy (a year young for his grade— oh to go back to kindergarten and not make that mistake again!), who sits there listening to us talk about him, and answers “I don’t know… I guess so… Uh, I… well… I don’t know” to nearly every question he’s asked. “What do you think we can do differently Little Man? What do you think we should do?” Enormous questions for a kid to be asked, when the adults are all stumbling over the very same questions!  Does he need the help? Hell yes! Does he want help? For sure! Does he want to accept a label that will follow him, and that he and his peers see as a stigma, but which comes with a possible solution that might actually help? “No,” he answers.

I see the frustration on the administrators and teacher’s faces. The Principal steps in:  “What would be the mature decision here?” She asks. All of the adults sit and wait. They watch Little Man. We all know which answer the power that be is looking for. Little Man stares… a deer in a road full of rushing cars. “I… well… I guess… I don’t know.” One of the teachers, a kind person and well meaning, tries to explain to Little Man that this is not a punishment—that the class he’d be offered and the assistance he might get, would help him and is not because he is not smart enough. My boys eyes stare down; he nods obligingly; I touch his knee under the table, and try to convey my support and love. He looks up and thanks her, but I know he is disappointed. He is disappointed in himself, and there is nothing we will all say that will change that.

Questions are thrown around; all of the teachers state that they believe Little Man should get the help he needs, which I have pleaded for for FOUR YEARS and been denied. Each year we have been told that he doesn’t “qualify,” that other things will be tried… things that have never come to fruition: Sorry, there are no resources- we thought we’d be able to but can’t- we’re working on it- sorry. As I sit there something has happened and as each of his teachers stick their necks out and urge the system to do the right thing, I see that we will probably be told that we don’t qualify… still. And so I jump in.

Why don’t we qualify? What has to happen here? He is a junior and there are few chances left. Nothing that we’ve been told would happen has happened and we just keep returning to this table with the same issues.  I say all of this carefully. Tread lightly but with determination. I can’t let my kids down one more time, but I need these people to want to help us. “Unfortunately, your son has to fail—fail completely, to qualify.” What!  Could this be true? Like the broken criminal system: someone has to shoot up a movie theater, or kill his wife, or do something equally shocking to get the help or legal intervention that was asked for over and over again?  Do not misread that logic. My son is not in any way comparable to a violent or unstable person… the situation is comparable. Things have to break all the way down: he would have to fail a year and be held back, to get the help he needs.

The school psychologist speaks up. She has been a wonderful help, but she has not gotten us anywhere up until now. “Actually, we really have enough data to support giving Little Man these ‘services;’ we would not necessarily need to go the usual route… and we might be able to get it in place before the next semester starts.”  The assistant Principal has been watching the clock throughout the meeting, intermittently reminding us all that we don’t have much time— 25 minutes to be exact. Twenty-five minutes to fight for my kids life, as he speeds toward graduation and more missed opportunities, and in minute 23 the psychologist has said what I never would be said: we might be able to finally do something tangible and solid. I get that too: They are all taking time from other things; their schedules are packed, conceivably with other kids who need their help, and this is all they have to offer. That is the reality: there is 25 minutes for this topic. My son.

I jump in, and I’m told that we “are really out of time.” But I am not going to sit there. I push on and try to plead my boy’s case. All of these teachers have just told you what I’ve been saying for three years at this school. They are the ones teaching my child and they all see that he needs this. He may not fail the year, but he hangs on by a very thin thread all year—it is exhausting for him, for me, for his teachers. They can all tell you, if they speak honestly, that Little Man squeaks by with grades that in no way reflect what he knows or is capable of— The teachers are all nodding now. The clock is being watched and I’m told that the staff needs to go, that we can come back to this… No! I understand that you all need to go, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that you all came here and that you have shared your thoughts, but I know that if we get up right now, we’re going to stay on this same path.

And then a miracle happens. The school psychologist takes out a piece of paper and says: “If we sign this right now, we could try and get this in place by second semester. I think everyone here as agreed that it would be real help for Little Man. I brought it along because I think there’s more than enough data to make this happen.” The teachers have to leave, but now that there is a golden ticket on the table, they don’t need to stay. They all try to encourage Little Man and reassure him that this is for the best. He’s not buying it. But he’s not old enough or wise enough to know that the system is broken and this is the bandaid that really might help. The teachers and my boy leave, but I am not moving. The assistant Principal collects her papers and says again, that we all need to get going, but I am not done.

I sign the paper, and wait as the others leave and I’m left with the guidance counselor and the Principal. It’s her office. I tell them this that this needs to happen; it can’t fall away like all the other plans that have not worked out. And the Principal sits back and digs deeper; she asks more questions; she fills in some blanks from the meetings and efforts that she was not involved in. She listens. The counselor backs me up, and soon they are telling me that we can really make this happen. That time is short, but we can make it happen. “We are making Little Man top drawer,” the P-r-i-n-c-i-PAL says.  I know that she says this to reassure me, but my mind rushes briefly: wouldn’t he be better off ON the desk than in a drawer? I’ll take top drawer; it’s better than filing cabinet.

As I walk to my car it’s raining. The campus is empty now; the kids are all in class. I feel hopeful, much better than when I arrived an hour before. As I’m walking, a man pushing a large garbage can and a broom walks toward me. As we get closer I see that he is very young; he hardly looks older than the seniors at this school.  I smile as our paths cross, but his face is so flat. His eyes look empty and he looks so unhappy to me. It flashes through my head: who is he? Is this what he wants to be doing? Was the system broken for him too? Or does he just hate the rain?

It is a broken system. Our schools, which have many good things to offer, also withhold so many other things. Teachers are not payed enough or supported enough. The good ones struggle on and keep trying to bring something positive to the kids they teach, and the bad ones still get tenure and our kids have to navigate around, over and through them. The services that my son will now hopefully get (it’s not done until it’s done, I’ve learned) are something that our kids see as a stigma. Sadly it is, within this system—though it should not be.

A few famous people with ADHDimage: encwor.blogspot.com

A few famous people with ADHD
image: encwor.blogspot.com

It doesn’t matter how many lists of famous, intelligent, creative people he sees- who had ADHD. He feels different amongst his peers, and having to take a class that confirms that is one more tough thing to swallow. The very same class (as in virtually identical) and service is offered in the private school that my older son attended (Little Man refuses a boarding school) and there is no stigma there. It is offered to all of the students. It is taken by the majority of the students there, and you are no more or less capable if you are in that class. In the public schools, the label Special Ed has come to mean something other than what it really is and what it should be. And you have to bleed to get.

As a final note:  This is the hardest thing I’ve done in my life: helping raise each of my three kids to be the people they are destined to be. Figuring out what each of them needs as the individuals they are, and making that happen is a rough trail, and my knees are bad. For each success and proud moment, I also feel- every day- that I have let one or more of them down… in some way or another. The burden is huge, the guilt bottomless— that we didn’t know sooner that failure was the key, that we didn’t push for other schools, that we didn’t know to go a step up and bang on other doors, that we could have-should have done other things, and more. I’m intelligent and capable enough to know that I was doing my best with what I knew at each step, but that doesn’t always help me feel better when I look in my son’s eyes.

How do parents who work full time, or don’t have the financial resources, or don’t speak English, or don’t understand the system at all, or don’t care (they do exist)— how do they navigate this system? What happens to their kids? For all the balls I’ve dropped, there are so many I’ve kept in the air. What about all those other kids, who have no one to juggle with? My boy struggles with the low self-esteem and self-doubt that a broken system has helped feed, every day. And no, I am not putting all of the responsibility on the system. If you read Black and Blue, or many of my other posts, you know that I struggle with this on a personal level, on a regular basis. Right now, I am so grateful for a possible step in the right direction, but can’t help but look at the path we’ve taken and wish we’d had a few better options.

Share your thoughts. Have you struggled within or with the educational system? What worked and what did not?

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About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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32 Responses to A Broken System…

  1. Another powerful post, Dawn. I feel for you and your son. The system is broken- as a teacher and parent I saw all too often how some kids got services and others who needed them, did not. I had my daughter tested many times, trying to get her extra time on tests, etc. to no avail. She wasn’t severe enough– yet had enough issues to make test taking traumatic and thus disasters.
    Good luck — hopefully this semester will help turn things around for him. And from what I’ve read about you and the three kids, you’ve done an amazing job.


  2. mamaheidi60 says:

    I’m going to begin with details you may already know, just to give context to my remarks. But first, quit feeling guilty or doing the coulda, woulda, shoulda dance. Knock it off. (She said with all the love in her heart!) It is what it is and your family is what it is. You have the future to look ahead to and I can say, for us, 8 years out of high school, Little Man will be successful!
    My husband taught in this system for over 30 years. My daughter should have gone to the same high school as Little Man, but we pulled her out after 3 months. There are good teachers everywhere and I realize the staff is different today, but… I think the response at that school is different than another school, also public, in town.
    My daughter too has ADD, without the H, high anxiety disorder and a few other challenges thrown into the bargain. Most not noticable while she attended private school, with me, for the first 6 years. There, she was able to develop her own coping skills. And she apparently had the security of me nearby. Didn’t know it at the time. BUT, obvious later. She was/is a terrific writer, but had great difficulty reading. We either read material to her, or found it on tape.She was allowed to be creative in her assignments and in her choice of how to learn and respond. We really had no idea she had ADD until she began public middle school in 8th grade. We just chalked it up to her individuality.
    When she moved away to go to college, she got Books on Tape through the Lending Library for the Blind. If they didn’t have a text, they would get someone to read it to her. She couldn’t listen to a lecture, look down at her paper to make a note and then look back up and catch up. She could not take her eyes off the teacher or she would be lost for the rest of the class (that showed up as soon as she joined classes of 25 or more and experienced more “lecture” style of presentations.)
    There was an 8th grade suicide attempt, but that is really separate from everything else and is not an issue today, 12 years later.
    My husband and I both thought she had ADD and we were aggressive in our pursuit to get a diagnosis and to get help in school. Once she was tested in the “other school”, she was placed in a class where she got so much individual help. The attitude in that building was positive and the environment didn’t allow for put downs based on need for a different learning situation. Visits with the principal or other authority figures were viewed neutrally – kid could be asking for vegan pizza to be served. She went through a cycle of meds until she found one that worked, after she researched and decided she would give it a try. She now says, she won’t give them up until after she’s done with college. She can’t imagine getting through without the assistance.
    She was tested and given options for IEP and 504 (whatever the number, accommodations). She chose the 504 plan which follows her into college and has given her the ability to take as much time as needed for test taking. She is bright and was not failing classes in high school, but she took an incredibly long time to get through the testing because of the reading and needed so much time for assignments. The Psychologist took about 24 hours to administer what would normally have been 4 hours (don’t quote me on numbers, it was a long time ago…). Also, she has been given extra time when needed on assignments, even in college. She had one college teacher try to talk her out of being “needy” – she dropped his class.
    Little Man needs to know that his style is unique to him, but many folks have ADHD and are out there leading great lives. There is soooo much life after high school. Hard for them to believe in the midst of it, but ask him if he knows how long it took certain adults in his life to get through school, do they have college degrees, are they using their degree. It really is important to keep that big picture out there.
    And you, you have to feel good about what you have given your kids. So Little Man doesn’t want Boarding School. He probably knows he needs to be home with you! There’s a somewhat trite story I remember from years ago, but the message isn’t trite. We have ideas about going on the trip of parenthood. We pack for a warm sunny climate. We suddenly land in a cold climate. We throw out the sundresses and buy fleece coats and boots. It’s still a trip! I thought my daughter would finish college in 4 or 5 years. Nope. Still working on the first 2 years. I could wish it were different, but then she wouldn’t be the wonderful young woman she is. I’m guessing Little Man wouldn’t even want to try a different high school. That’s okay. It is what it is.
    Oh, and I think the teacher who asked him to move was just plain rude. Bet she wouldn’t have asked YOU to move. That’s rather indicative of the culture “there”. That one little move! Just sayin’. You know you have my full support in all this. Because I can say, I knew him when!


    • Thank you for this thoughtful and thorough response Mama. I appreciate every word! We too looked at the “other” school, for all of the reasons you state… but Little Man did not want to leave his friends. We knew that several of them would “drop away” and they did, but there was no convincing him. His comfort level is very dependent on continuity… even if what we are continuing is not ideal for him. We’ve had regrets about that decision, but again… tough calls. I know he will be successful and that he will do ok. Getting there is a long, painful haul some days. But I do know he will get there. Thanks for taking the time… and btw: you did know him when, and you did a very fine job of helping him do well! Many thanks for that friend! xo


  3. stubob says:

    Unfortunately, “government schools” are inherently “one size fits all.” To break the monopoly – or to break out of the monopoly – one must choose from a wide selection of competitive private schools in a free market. The only reason not to do so is affordability, since you must still pay for the government school through government coercion, aka taxes. I fell sorry for those who cannot afford to pay twice (school vouchers would solve that). For those who can, the solution is obvious.

    Aaron is too young to veto an alternative choice. Aaron is very intelligent, gifted, in fact.. Of this I have no doubt, and I’m not his mom. He is being short-changed.



    • Thanks for weighing in Stu. I appreciate your perspective and agree with much of it. While Little Man (and we try very hard not to use their names for the small privacy it allows) is too young to veto, we respect that his emotional well being is very important too. Living away from home would have been very difficult for him, on many levels. He could do it now, but there are new challenges with his age. Circles, and circles. Thanks for stopping by the blog and sharing your thoughts.


  4. Lillian says:

    I’m not any help in the been-there-done-that yet, but I think that thought, “How do other people face __?” so often. Especially in the context you stated of people without resources/language barriers/time/the list can go on forever…We’re just starting to navigate this whole education system and it just feels so overwhelming without any specific challenges sometimes that I don’t know what to do. It’s become massively clear to me already in preschool and kindergarten the role my oldest will hold in a classroom and it saddens me and I’m not sure what to do with that. I’m watching as a friend fights endlessly for resources for her third grader and it is so frustrating and disheartening that every time I think about it I say a quiet prayer for every parent facing any bureaucratic fight on behalf of what they know in their heart to be right for their child.


    • Thanks Lillian. Even as I look at your gorgeous photos and read your wonderful posts, I know that it is very hard when they are little and it is all a bit like feeling your way around a dark room. Who knows, maybe it was easier when we just went to school and there was little input by parents, etc I don’t really think so, but I don’t understand the depth of the issues either. I know that I often figure things out a step or 2 behind the correct pace. The idea that you need a “complete failure” to get things fixed, is so very disturbing. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.


  5. jch1006 says:

    I just want to say YOU are a fantastic Mom with a great son!!! I completely agree our school district is ‘broken’ and our particular high school is not too impressive and needs a lot of improving! So sorry you are having to fight this uphill battle! xoxxox


    • Thanks J! I think a lot of school systems around the country are broken, but it is sad to live in a place that I love, and yet feel that our kids’ education is what suffers. Thanks for the support, and for sharing your thoughts.


  6. Education attorneys are not utilized nearly enough and not nearly early enough. Find one in your area. Ask for a consultation. Have him/her review the plan and the lack of prior planning. Don’t go to another meeting without the attorney. You’ll be amazed at what happens. I had to sue a district (and won) over a variety of issues. It didn’t happen nearly early enough. My kid got battered by a screwed up system and left bitter as gall.

    I’m not kidding. Get an attorney.

    I am not an ed law lawyer. But I am a b*tch of the first water now. When my granddaughter had problems in school I was at every meeting. I did my research and I came across like a cross between Godzilla and Attila the Hun. I’ve verbally clobbered the superintendent of schools and principals, raised hell at the statehouse level and made threatening noises about lawsuits – which were really going to happen if something was not done. The ineptitude is horrendous all over. I have not needed to call in two years, but I would do so in a heartbeat if any of the kids were in struggling in bad schooling situation.

    Best of luck


    • Thanks for taking the time to read my post and provide such passionate response. I am hopeful that we are finally getting what we’ve worked toward, and can’t really imagine getting an attorney. However, I can see why this would be advisable in many cases, and had we understood that we might have gotten the help we needed years ago, had we understood the system better… then we might have pursued other avenues. It is a very tangled web and as I said in my post, I don’t know how some people get through it at all! Thanks for weighing in!


  7. I see the education system hasn’t become any easier to navigate than when I (or my children) were in school. That reality played a major role in our decision to move from Seattle to Olympia when my children were still in primary grades. You are to be commended (given a medal?) for enduring the institutionalized drama that we call public education. It sounds to me you have made all the right decisions at the appropriate times given what you knew at the time. At the very least give yourself some credit in lieu of guilt for deciding what is best for your son. I sincerely hope you get the outcome you seek. Good luck. You are a great mom, and your son will be grateful for your love and support – eventually.


    • Thanks Global; always appreciate your input! We love where we live, and this place has offered so much for our kids… but, the one regret we both have is that other jobs in other places would have been better choices for our kids’ academic well being. It varies so dramatically around the country, and when we hear what our nieces and nephews in CT are getting/doing it is stunning. The schools in FL where my other nieces and nephews are in school are so much worse than what we are dealing with… it is a crap shoot in many ways and choosing an amazing place to live and work, did not add up to ideal things with schools. There are some very good, even excellent, elements to schools here- depending on which elementary/middle/or high school you end up in… but overall, we have struggled with some very big issues.

      I imagine you are packing and getting ready to leave Panama. Can’t wait to hear where you land! I’ll watch for the post. 🙂 Best of luck with it all.


  8. I had to walk away from this for a bit. Few things get me more impassioned than this topic. I’m dyslexic, Dawn. I started attending special classes in middle school. I went to “tutorial,” while my friends/classmates went to English and foreign language classes.
    My daughter is mildly dyslexic, too.
    As you may or may not remember, back in the 60’s and 70’s we didn’t have ADD or ADHD. We did have dyslexia and other forms of learning disabilities – which, interestingly enough, present/manifest in the same way ADD and ADHD do. If I were diagnosed today I’d probably get a different label. Back in our day, our school systems seemed much better equipped to deal with these issues than they do today. Why is that? Today we have such a broken, inefficient, bureaucracy that we have to deal with. It’s beyond frustrating. I become full of rage.

    I had to move heaven and earth to get my daughter’s school to make simple accommodations for her. (Taking tests in the hallway without distractions from the other kids, eliminating the ticking clocks and the sound of pencils on paper – giving her more time to take the test as she reads and processes slowly. Etc.) I knew these were just some of the things that would help her succeed. Eventually, the teachers, counselors and principal agreed to allow it. Now, in hind sight, I should have gone the whole ten yards and asked for it to be written up and on her records so that when she took the ACT and SAT she would be given more time, etc. And yes, she would’ve benefitted from being in Special Ed classes. Going to school and making the grade – any grade – was sometimes like climbing Mt. Everest. It was for me, as well.

    There’s a book called, “A Mind at a Time” by Mel Levine. It’s an excellent book that I think you’d enjoy. The author explains that 80% of us have some form of learning disability. We all have different learning styles and ways of processing information, etc. (Some of us have to actually be standing to learn, or moving our body, or have things put to music, etc.) Our schools are not equipped to accommodate all of these styles, otherwise, your Little Man would be just fine. We’ve got a one size fits all society and to make matters worse we’ve got idiots who don’t recognize that there are other types of intelligence and styles of learning. They look down or stigmatize anything that falls outside of the norm.

    Little Man will take his cues from you, Dawn. Try not to get too defeated but instead, gird your loins and get out there and be an advocate for what we know is true. These kids think outside of the box, they are determined and can have laser focus when they’re interested. They have the qualities of highly successful entrepreneurs. They can be inspiring. They can lead. They’re original. They’re charismatic. They’re completely lovable and yes, VERY INTELLIGENT. Just ask billionaire Richard Branson or Charles Schwab, founder, chairman and CEO of Charles Schwab Corporation. Some of us have to cut new pathways, the same way that water moving down a stream finds its way around obstacles — Little Man will find new ways and be all the stronger and more versatile and compassionate for it. I look at it like a major blessing — I wish other people did, too.

    The challenge of being different, recognizing it, embracing it and using it to my/our advantage, is not something I would want to change. It makes me special and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
    (The way our schools deal with these issues – yes, that needs to be changed.)

    Little man will be a happy success no matter what he chooses to do because he has a loving mom who sees his full potential at all times and does not define him by any of this.


    • Thank you Lisa! Such a thoughtful and well stated response!! It is moving to hear from so many people who struggled with the same things. Thanks so much for sharing your own experience and wisdom. I always enjoy your perspective. I’ll check out the book… Maybe after Israel. 😉


  9. ME says:

    All good advice in your comments. I do worry about our country when I realize that public schools are such factories. The gifted student struggles, the talented craftsman struggles, the caretaker struggles, even students who thought they might want to be teachers are struggling because they aren’t all square pegs. Medication is recommended by non-doctors (do I really want to medicate my child to get through a system that has no basis in the real world?). Proper paperwork is valued above the student. There is nothing wrong with Little Man that freedom from this system won’t cure (as long as his self-esteem can survive).

    A year and a half and he’s free. Make sure he has time to do something he loves and pat yourself on the back that you have raised a child who will make the world a better place.


  10. Valery says:

    There is so much to learn as we parent our children, and no map to get us through. Plenty of great books to read, but don’t they always seem to come after the point of usefulness? I could not agree more about being pro-active and the lack of support for it. Nothing could be more frustrating.

    I look back at my own parents whose efforts I did not understand or appreciate at the time. My mom got math tutoring for me directly from Mr. Flaherty, after-school on his own time, from his own kindness and love of teaching. The system, if there was one, provided nothing for me. My mom would not have known to ask, except that she was in the middle of getting her teaching degree at the time. I managed to adapt to the system, enough to get good grades. My little brother had a tougher time. I remember my mom taking us to get our IQ’s tested, and we hated that: we believed that she was trying to prove that we were lazy, not stupid! Oh, how angry we were. It never occurred to either of us that she was trying to prove something to the system, trying to get something for us, especially for my brother. I think I need to give a very belated thanks to my mom. Geesh!

    Throughout the years teachers would say, “Why can’t your brother get good grades like you?” Yes, they actually said that directly to both of us, and to our parents. As if we were expected to know the answer and correct the problem on our own. Couldn’t possibly be a flaw in the system, right? By my high school years I couldn’t stand to hear that again, to see the pain it caused in my family. So I did what I thought would help: I “dumbed-down” & got bad grades on purpose, just to give my little brother a break. Sadly, it worked. But who really benefited in the long run?

    It seems to me that you are doing everything right, more power to you! (Sorry for the lengthy reply, but… ya know?)


    • Wow! Powerful stuff Valery. I had a very similar experience with my own brother, though my mother had NO idea what to do or how to approach any of it. She blamed my brother and he lived in a seemingly endless cycle of criticism and blame. He was gifted and bright, but he slowly gave up and did not finish high school. Such sad stuff, when I look at my own boys and know what was probably going on in my brother’s head… that I did not understand at all then. It is striking how differently things worked then. Flaherty was just one of several teachers I knew who did that kind of thing… that said, Little Man has some very caring teachers who really do go out on a limb for him and us. The system makes it harder with so much added to their days and the expectation that teachers work out solutions for every kind of kid that comes their way… when there are other options to explore. No exploring here. Thanks for sharing this personal account of your own journey. Powerful stuff, old friend! xo


  11. veronicad1 says:

    As you know, I’m just starting this walk beside you, with a child who also has unmet needs. I’m so grateful you wrote this–to shed light on this problem, to encourage helpful responses from others, and to show me (and others) the more effective ways to support our kids. I love that you were aware of the seating arrangement and all that it could have meant to and for him. I notice the same things. I’m here for you to talk to, if you need it. I also plan on calling you when I need advice! Thank you!


    • I’m glad that the post helped and agree that the responses are VERY good and helpful. I feel like the responses could be a whole new post! 🙂 There’s a concept. I fully understand the path you are on, as our older son walked that one. As I’ve said, many kids’ needs are not met: whatever the needs are. This is not just about kids with ADHD. I have a friend whose son is so talented in areas that our schools and system don’t really support… he is not necessarily a college track kid. But I have zero doubt that he will be very successful someday doing what he is passionate about and very good at… those things are just not really offered at school. They are moving him to another school that does offer more of it. So many kids and so many different paths. The answers are so blurry.


  12. The system is so very broken. My middle son needs more than what the school has had to offer him. His teacher last year didn’t have the ability to challenge him. His teacher this year is much better suited. The school system dropped any kind of pull-out enrichment class, and we’re going to have to fight to get him what he needs. And even then, it’s all going to fall back on his classroom teacher. It’s so frustrating.

    One of my kids is bright but spent years failing standardized tests. This kid was often placed in remedial classes because all they based placements on was test scores. NCLB is leaving behind entirely too many of them. And now the school system is pushing for a longer school day. Sorry. Not happening. Quit using standardized tests as the be-all-end-all and let the teachers TEACH!

    I am so sorry you guys have been caught for so long.I hope things are in place for him before he goes back to school.


    • Thanks Becoming… I know you have had a rough time with your boys and I have read those posts and totally empathized! Each of my three kids has had challenges in school, but have managed very differently. It is so frustrating to see my youngest feel “Less than” his siblings and peers, when we know he is not. I can say it and say it, but the prevailing message to him is that he doesn’t measure up (via standardized testing). You make some very good points here; thanks for stopping by and taking the time!


  13. Crystal says:

    Wow.. what a post and what a remarkable feedback you’ve been given. I can’t stand the school system anymore. It has become a major joke all the way around. We have decided to home school our kids, and the boys love it and wouldn’t have it any other way now.

    I struggled through school as well with paying attention and being able to read. It’s a battle to get the help you need.


    • Thanks Crystal! I agree that the feedback/comments here are truly remarkable! Great advice, meaningful experiences shared, and sincere support and encouragement. I am really moved and impressed.

      I once thought of home schooling as an odd thing, a way out there option… it has come a very long way and I now believe it is an awesome path for many families and their children. Good for you for following your gut and doing what is right for your kids and your family! Thank you so much for stopping by and reading the post, and then taking the time to share your thoughts. 🙂


  14. Off Duty Mom says:

    I would love to recommend a book: “Help To Help Your Child” by Bobbi Sullivan.

    It is helpful for all parents to better navigate the educational system for their kids. Better yet, it lets you know that your wishes MUST be followed as long as your child is in a public school. You can make demands. They MUST listen to you. You just have to know how to advocate for yourself.

    Check it out. Recommend it to others. It is a helpful piece of advice.



  15. My Little Man struggles in school, too. The way he learns is not supported by the way our public education system is set up. I agree that the teachers and schools do not have enough support. My Little Man finally qualified for an IEP last June, and the meeting where it was written did not leave me with a lot of warm fuzzies. Basically, the Sp Ed instructor who wrote the IEP had never met my son, didn’t know him at all, and wrote the plan solely based on the district’s psychologist report. She didn’t read any of the evaluations from my son’s physical therapist or the neuropsychologist (who tested him for several hours over 2 days). At one point, she looked at me and asked me what I wanted on the IEP. What? I am not a teacher. I have no idea what should or even could be on one. Next time we meet, I’m going to have an advocate from WA Pave.org with me.

    Realistically, because I can’t change the system overnight, and there are no other school options in my area that are truly any better, I will spend my efforts to communicate to each and every one of his teachers how to best reach him, support him, and how to not shut him down. I will do whatever I can to make sure he’s aware of his superpowers, so that while school makes him feel dumb, he’ll know that he is still awesome.


    • Thanks Mariner and you rock that!! Good for you, for figuring it all out early and getting things in place! I encourage you to read some of the other comments in this post, as there are some really brilliant ideas and suggestions… including some book ideas. Great feedback all around! Thanks for contributing to the conversation.



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