Monday, February 6, 2012

The Right to Say No

I am so very tired. Not the kind of tired you get from an overwhelmingly exhausting day parenting children on the autism spectrum. Not the kind of exhaustion you get from a really good workout or over reaching when scrubbing down the house. I am simply tired of people thinking you have no choice but to spend your time taking care of what is important to them and your life does not matter.

I have always told everyone that one of the really important parts of taking care of yourself is to make sure that you have something of interest to do outside the home. For me that included becoming involved in the PTA (or PTO) in your district. When the boys were little I spent hours upon hours donating my time to help out at school. It was also my way of thanking the district and the schools for supporting the boys by giving my time to something other than special education. I chose to spend my time doing things from which all children would benefit.

I was a classroom parent, I chaired PTA committees, I even lent my rather non-monetary skills to be treasurer for the high school PTA. (Luckily the auditor helped me every year clean up the bookkeeping mess I made of things. Oh the money and the receipts were all there, I just can't balance a damn checkbook.) I volunteered in my district for over 14 years while the boys were part of the school system. No, I never ran the PTA by any means, didn't have the time nor the patience and no it wasn't like my volunteer work was a full time job either, but I definitely did my share.

Now I also spent over ten years being a parent-member for the CSEs. Exactly what does that mean? To put it simply, I am a special education advocate that volunteered my time, to sit in on other people's meetings to make sure that every "I" was dotted and every "T" was crossed. There were times that I sided with the district and there were times that I helped point parents in the right direction in order to get the district moving on services. While in reality I was not a "parent advocate," I was actually there at the behest of the district or rather to keep everything above board and to be an extra set of eyes in certain situations, I always felt it was my job to make sure if I thought the child needed support or help, I talked about it and brought up the questions that people either forgot to ask or didn't know to ask. To put it bluntly, "I was for the child." But at most of the meetings I sat in the corner and said and did nothing. Sometimes for hours on end.

Since the boys are no longer part of the district I thought that I would not be allowed to sit in on these meetings. But the high school called several times so far this year and I went to some meetings. I like the high school. They are good people there and if they can, and it is within their purview, they will help a student. I even would sit in on some of the middle school meetings. They are generally really good people there as well and while I do not know many of those teachers anymore, I do know the special educators and they are very competent as well.

The group I really do not like however are the elementary school groups. Now, let me rephrase that, I do not like the elementary school group at one particular elementary. I think the administration is abysmal and ignorant when it comes to special education and the emotionally disturbed, egomaniacal, narcissistic ego driven bitch of a school psychologist needs a strong anti-psychotic. Can you tell I really don't like her. It started when I helped a parent get their son diagnosed with aspergers against her wishes. I saw what was happening, her incompetence and I pointed the parents in the right direction. She never forgave me for fighting her on that issue. In fact she did everything she could do to deny that boy services and any time I ended up at that school for a meeting if I said black she said white no matter what the situation happened to be. It was an ego thing for her and she didn't care who she hurt to try to prove she knew more than me. She truly was and is a detriment to the children of that school. I unfortunately could do nothing about her, you see she has tenure.

Astonishingly, I had a similar problem with the VP at the 'new" elementary in our district. This is the VP we had to threaten to sue when CM2 was in 2nd grade. You might remember that this VP decided along with her special ed protege, that my son was "cured" of autism and didn't need special ed services anymore because he could add and subtract. Of course the District special ed director sided with us, so after that event, every time I was at a meeting with the VP and my ideas were shot down, she would let me know that I was wrong and she knew more than me. She also purposely challenged my  ideas everytime I brought something up. Luckily she is no longer in the district. Unfortunately she went on to torture other children as the principal of a different district's elementary.

So anyway, here I am sitting at home doing my thing, and the district calls and asks if I would sit in on a  meeting at psycho-psychologist's elementary school. At first  I thought to myself OK. I had thought it odd that I was called, as I hadn't sat in on an elementary meeting in years. Then I started to remember the situation of why I didn't sit in on those meetings and the people over at that school. I remember I had told the district years ago in the special ed office that there was a huge problem between me and the psychologist and they shouldn't call me. Interestingly they didn't challenge it at the time. Apparently it seems it was not the first time they had heard that kind of story about her.  Unfortunately it seems they forgot or noone told the new people in the office.

Anyway, I called to see who the special ed and classroom teachers happened to be. It turns out that they are two of the few people I really like at that school. I knew that that classroom teacher would make sure to defend that child. What I didn't want to do was deal with the nasty psycho-bitch psychologist. It would not be good for anyone at that meeting, especially I was concerned, not good for the child. So I thought about it this past weekend and decided to decline.

Here is when it got interesting. I called the district to tell them I can't sit in on the meeting but that the parents can call me if they have any questions. Now instead of telling me that they will find someone else and thanks for even trying to come, the secretary on other end of the phone, said "We don't need you to talk to the parents. We need a parent-member for the child to get services. So I will find someone else." At that point I just hung up.

All I kept  thinking was, WTF.  There is a CSE chair, the special ed teacher, the classroom teacher, the psychologist (albeit this moron), the OT, the PT, the speech therapist, if this child has major issues, their own doctors and reports, but this needy child would not receive services simply becasue "window-dressing me" didn't show up? Apart from the fact that that is not legally correct, the district needs to only make a good faith effort to find a parent-member otherwise they can hold meetings without one, there is no way in my huge town I am the only parent-advocate alive or available.

What I think it was all about is that that secretary now had to get on the phone and make some more phone calls. I suppose she resented that she had to do her job. Oh a little note, to be able to be a parent-member/advocate you have to have a child in the special education system. In other words you have to be a special needs parent. But this sad excuse for a secretary figured, didn't add that into the equation of my life, no she figured that since I was a SAHM I had nothing else worthwhile to do.

I have to tell you, I so resent this entire situation. Where is it written that I, not even having children in the district, need to go to a meeting where I am not wanted, will only be viewed as the manican in the room, might be problematic for the child and do it on my own free time too? In all the years that I have come across situations I think I resent this one the most.

I resent it because it was treated as if  I am nothing. That my time and my effort and my life is nothing. That I am there only to serve their needs in the district and if I have the nerve to not want not go along then I am evil. Heck when I said I couldn't make it, the damn ignoramus didn't even ask if everything was OK. I probably would have told her that years ago I had issues with the psychologist, it was not good for the child and I think it would be problematic for me to attend. But no I suppose I am thought of as a spoiled privileged-cow who decided to go play tennis instead of doing my civic duty and hence made her life busier.

Well screw that. I am so done. I am so done with people thinking I have nothing better to do than to do their bidding. I am so tired of the first words out of someone's mouth, once they know the boys are in college is, "what job are you doing now?" I am sorry, but where is it written that even if you did stay home and raised your children that once they are out of the house you have to go back to work? Where is it written that you have to do anything you don't want to do unless there is an important issue on the homefront involved? When did I give up my right as a grown person to make my own choices in life and to be able to say "NO" for whatever reason I want, even if it was to just go play tennis? (Don't play, tried, and can't. Also its just not me.)

I suppose in reality its not this particular secretary that made me angry, its the entire way I am viewed in the world around me. She was just the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Is it not enough that I need to continue to aide and support the boys? Is it not enough that I have a husband who works a tremendously stressful job and I try to run a household so he doesn't have to worry about anything? Is it not enough that I love my social media outlet and try to help people and write and blog and discuss things that are of importance in their lives; things that noone else can tell parents of special needs children unless you have actually experienced it in your life?

So I am tired. I am tired of being viewed as a nothing and a noone by society. I am tired of people trying to use me, tell me what to do and how to do things too, especially those people in the world who ask me to do somethings for them for nothing. I have had enough. Yes I know, noone can take advantage of you unless you let them. Honestly if I was helping others, I tended to turn away from the taking advantage part of the equation. But truthfully, its more about the audacity that some people think they can try to use you and then get mad at you when you say, not gonna happen.

So I decided to finally start saying "no" if I feel disrespected no matter what the situation.  Going to do it more often now too. Hey only took me 51 years.

Until next time,