Being a mother of a child with a disability is not easy - Olivia Corso
My 3-year-old daughter Scarlett started preschool this year, she has Down Syndrome. I've recently learned that with dealing with the educational system, you sometimes need to come off as a bitch to show them how much you care and want to be involved in your child’s education. It all started when I went to sign my daughter up for integrated preschool, and then never heard anything back for months. I emailed and called the school to try and figure out why I never heard back. I wanted to bring Scarlett in for an IEP meeting and developmental testing to see what therapies she would need while at school. During this time, Scarlett was still in Early Intervention with an excellent team of individuals who were also emailing the school to try and figure out why I hadn't heard anything. I sent so many emails that were passed on to everyone because, truthfully, I don't believe they knew how to handle my persistence. I kept getting the same reply, “come in and sign your daughter up for school.” My reply to them was that I had done so months ago but they just kept giving me the run around until I snapped and sent them the exact date and time that I had signed her up for school. I decided to email the super intendant of the public school and threatened legal action if SOMEONE doesn't sit down with me to figure out what happened with my child’s enrollment. I was being persistent because Early Intervention for my daughter was ending in a couple months, and I wanted the her therapists and social worker to be present for the meeting to make sure my daughter would get what was best for her. I knew her Early Intervention team truly cared about her and her future.
Early intervention was my rock while Scarlett was growing, and taught both Scarlett and I so much. Not only was I sending my baby off to preschool to complete strangers who I didn't know or trust, but I was losing this team of people who became like family to us. My anxiety was through the roof about the whole situation, and I was also very very pregnant. Finally, the very scared super intendant got back to me and apologized for the unprofessionalism of the special education department. He promised to get a meeting with the head of special education... hallelujah! I got my meeting with some rude people who were clearly familiar with my email to the super intendant in which I threatened legal action, expressed concerns and disgust about my first encounter with the special education department. The people at the meeting just kept telling me they had no record of my daughter in the school system and insisted that I had never signed her up. Which my bitchy reply was, “well clearly you have some record of us because someone emailed me back and asked if they had the correct phone number for me, which through email I had never given them. Oh, and also I got this in the mail.” (BAM!)
I put down a piece of paper from the public school saying that my daughter was picked through the lottery for pre K! Lottery is for ‘typical’ kids that are ages 4+ to attend the public pre K for free, anyone on an IEP or with a diagnosis automatically gets in at 3 years old to continue developmental therapies. Not only was my daughter not ‘typical’ but she was also only 2 years old at the time. The shocked embarrassed looks on these women’s faces were priceless. They processed my daughter's paperwork wrong and also lost all of her paperwork that got sent over by Early Intervention. I'm glad I WAS a bitch and pushed for the meeting. Because if not, my daughter probably never would have gotten into school in time and wouldn't have gotten set up with the correct therapies.
It has been six months now that Scarlett has been in Pre K, and I must admit our experience has been wonderful, despite the issues with the administration. I absolutely love her teacher and we have a great open communication. I can say that I truly trust her teacher and the new team going forward. I feel like we all have equal respect for one another and a common love for my daughter. But I am always ready for my "bitch" to come out any time that my daughter needs me to be. To have her back. And in my experience, sometimes you need to come off as a persistent bitch when you're a mother but even more so when you have a child with a disability. I always get insecure about being stern and pushing for what's right for my daughter, but then I remind myself that once they get to know us they will understand why. I am not a bitch, I am just a mother who loves her child and wants the best for her. Sometimes I need to come off as a bitch to make sure that happens. I have fired therapists and switched classes that weren't right for my daughter, and I did it all for her because she cant speak for herself. I need to be there watching closely to make sure she is getting what she needs in every aspect of her life. I am her voice because she cannot quite speak for herself just yet. It's sometimes hard to know what's best, and you need to sometimes make tough decisions. Emotional decisions. But by being that bitch, nobody will want to piss you off and will only want what is best for your child in fear of consequences. And sometimes, being that bitch will earn you respect, because people will love you for the love that you have for your child. The expression ‘Mama Bear’ didn't come from nowhere. It came from all of the mothers who will go to high heavens to make sure their kids get the best, and will always protect them from anyone and anything. It comes from a good place.