Parental Tenacity – You Won’t Find a Better Example Than This
If you have a child with some kind of special learning need, it is important that you do not assume that the schools are automatically going to meet your child’s learning need. In an ideal world, you can expect that needs will automatically be met. But we all know that our world falls a little short of ideal. Sometimes it takes a little–or a lot–of extra tenacity on your part.
Almost 15 years ago I got a phone call from the mother of a 7th grade boy asking me to tutor her son in math. I wasn’t looking to take on any new tutor students, especially a student who wasn’t in high school. But this mother wouldn’t take NO as an answer. She stressed that she had checked on various tutor recommendations and wanted me to be her son’s tutor because he had some learning issues. I agreed to meet them and make my decision after that.
When they arrived at my home and came into my dining room, my tutoring room, my first impression was how little this young man was. I generally only tutor high school students, so this 7th grader seemed really little. And, then, he sat in his mother’s lap! That was a first for me! That image of this young boy sitting on his mother’s lap has stayed in my mind. It was so indicative of the affection this mother and child shared, and it was indicative of this mother’s intention to make sure her son was always comfortable and getting what he needed. As we talked it became obvious that she was a very tenacious lady. She stressed that it was obvious that her son had some kind of learning disability so math had always been difficult for him. His previous school experience had been that the school refused to test him. I couldn’t say no to either one of them.
I took on this little 7th grader at the beginning of that school year and we worked together until the end of his junior year of high school when he finished 2nd year Algebra and met his graduation requirements for math. But this article is really about his mother. During that 7th grade year, she pursued, she pushed, she demanded, and worked her way up the administrative channels until she managed to get her son tested. The results showed a very severe learning disability that qualified for special education help. So for the remainder of his middle school and high school years he had constant help with his reading and writing, and occasionally his SPED person would call me and we would discuss strategies for me to use. And his mother? She was on top of everything that happened. She frequently sat in on tutor sessions and took notes, so she could help her son with his math at home. Having a parent sit in on tutor sessions was also a first for me; but it proved to be very effective for her son. And she admitted that she learned a great deal of math herself.
During her son’s sophomore year she started looking into colleges. I think most people really thought her son would not be able to be successful in college. But his mother kept working and kept looking. She found several colleges that actually had SPED programs and would meet her son’s needs. They visited several different schools and made the decision on which school best met his needs. Her son continued to work with his SPED help at high school and he and I made sure he had his math requirements for college.
After he graduated from high school, I returned to full-time teaching and I lost touch with both of them. I thought about them frequently and wondered what happened to him. This past summer I received in the mail a letter with a picture of a very tall young man I didn’t even recognize. He was wearing a cap and gown. The letter, of course, was from his mother announcing that her son had graduated with his Master’s Degree! Her letter was sent as a thank you letter to all the people who had made her son’s success possible. Not only had her son grown very tall, he had also graduated with both his Bachelor’s Degree and his Master’s Degree, and he had been hired as a speech therapist to work with stroke victims–his way of “giving back” to all the people who helped him along the way.
I was thrilled to hear what all this young man had accomplished, and I felt honored to be included in the group of people who had made his success possible; but, of course, the person most responsible for his success is his mother. From the day they arrived at …