One woman and her last-minute attorney filed into a conference room. A large wooden table with a dozen chairs, bottles of water and ink pens in the center. Two suited men sitting very seriously in front of four-inch thick stacks of paper bound neatly with file clips waited sternly. Two rose to shake hands with my attorney and regard me awkwardly. One offered his hand, the other sat without greeting me, reconsidered and then stood again to shake my hand very briefly.
Anxieties pushed over when the principal entered, slick as a car salesman and shaking hands as happily and nonchalant as if it were a wedding. I am certain that the air around me dropped a palpable 20 degrees when he dared ask me how Ben has been doing. White knuckled rage. I suppose it is a normal maternal response to anyone who has hurt your child.
The mediator arrived and explained the rules. I reminded myself to keep breathing and then the spotlight was on me. With care and as much courage as I could muster I articulated the history of events as they were leading to this day. I looked at the moderator and did my best to blank out the eyes of the men all around looking at me and scribbling notes on their legal pads. I willed myself to hold back tears, this was the moment I most needed to be strong, to show them I was not intimidated. In the middle of my diatribe I had to press my hands under my legs so that no one would see how they were shaking.
Once I completed the history, the sides took separate spaces and I had long periods to get to know my last-minute attorney. As it happens, last-minute does not in any way mean incapable. He was not only kind and concerned, but also compassionate sharing his own experience as a father and as a consultant when my state wrote the laws that support IDEA.
So what happened?
Well, I cried once but was able to recover my resolve fairly quickly.
I lost my temper once, but was able to rein it in enough not to seem crazy.
The District will provided training on the special needs of children on the spectrum for all of their teachers in a manner that promotes acceptance and advocacy before the beginning of the next school year. They will provide me with both the curriculum used and the records of who attended.
They will also evaluate Ben’s specific needs and help me to find an appropriate school, even if they must provide transportation out of the district or pay for a private situation.
I came home and slept more fully than I have for more than six months.