Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Father and Son

This year was our triennial IEP. In California (and most states) the triennial (every three years) IEP is used to establish eligibility for services for the next three years. They usually involve a "re-assessment" to determine future eligibility... remember when you first had your child enrolled and they did all those wacky and seemingly useless assessment tests? Well, those are all done again. Hopefully, you get a great benchmark of how far your child has come in three years...

Sometimes you get the opposite.


We received our triennial assessment report about a week before our scheduled IEP. It was very thorough. It was very well done. It was very accurate. The reports (from the school psych, teacher, speech, OT, and district BCBA) were all done by professionals that knew Jack. They were his teachers and therapists, not someone in a faraway office.

They were very accurate. Julie and I respected the content and findings almost 100% (with the exception of the OT report, because, admittedly, I don't understand what OTs do exactly. I've had it explained to me several times, "dumbed down" several times, explained again several times, and "dumbed down" even further, and I still don't really get it. But, that's not important to this story... only to my future development)

There was a great deal of improvement... across the board. There were things to work on, of course, but it was really nice to see, in black and white, the areas that were working. It was nice to see that the paths and "best courses of action" we had chosen were showing as bountiful. For a few minutes, I silently said "see, I told you so" to all those that wanted to choose a different path ( I say silently, because Julie and I have never received any major opposition to Jack's path. The one time we both completely disagreed with a service provider was a social skills group that clearly wasn't the right fit or philosophy for our boy. Julie saw this way before I did, and urged me to pull him from this camp, but I let them have a chance for a few extra weeks before we unceremoniously pulled him. So... Baby Love, here it is in writing, you were right).


What was missing from the report, however, were any compliments. I spent a Friday afternoon reading a 27 page clinical report on my son, that did not contain one compliment. Maybe that's not the place of these assessments. Maybe the reports are "meta-complimentary" meaning I was required to fill in the blanks... that the improvement is the compliment.

But I selfishly really wanted to read "Jack works really hard" or "Jack has a wonderful sense of humor" or "Jack's exuberance gives him unlimited confidence" or even "Jack has pretty eyes".

And that made me sad.


So, I want to take a second and put those "meta-compliments" in a more readable form.

Jack, you work harder than anyone I know.
Jack, you continuously climb obstacles that most of your peers would run and hide from.
Jack, you have a passion and zeal for life that I am jealous of.
Jack, I have never met a person that could command a room the way you do.
Jack, you are very endearing.
Jack, you never give up.
Jack, you were described as insular and lonely and frustrated at school, yet you still want to go EVERY morning.
Jack, the way you hug your mother has such an honesty and passion and meaning. It might very well be the manifestation of true love.
Jack, albeit colorful at times, you are very verbal.

Jack, you have taught me... Taught me patience, compassion, love, pride, serenity, sacrifice, and a whole bunch of shit about Star Wars.

Jack, you have beautiful eyes.


When Jack was days old, he had to be put on home phototherapy for a case of Jaundice. Julie and I wrapped our three day old son in lights and blankets and spent the next two days taking turns just watching him. My father came to visit and he took a shift or two.

We were scared.

I remember Julie asking my dad "How do you do it? How do you stop worrying? How do you parent?"

And my father said "You do everything you can to provide the very best opportunities and resources for your child. You have to believe in those choices. You have to be resigned that you have done the very best you can. And the rest is up to them."

Jack was three days old.

My father had no idea how true those words were.