The meeting was sandwiched in between the end of the junior high school day and me needing to leave to pick up Patch from Elementary school. We had thirty minutes to determine whether Gleek qualified for a 504 plan and what the paperwork should say. It was a formality really. The school administrator and the counselor had both spent several hours with Gleek during an incident several weeks ago. They saw the need. The other three in the room were teachers, there to provide insights into how Gleek behaves in various classrooms. Everyone listened and agreed that some extra care is merited. For the most part the only challenge Gleek represents is that she is difficult to re-direct and often distracts herself with drawing or with a book. Ninety five percent of the time, she is absolutely fine, normal, charming. The other five percent she is really intense and requires special handling. We signed the papers with instructions for that five percent.
It was a pleasant meeting. I had a good rapport with everyone there and felt that they’re on my team to help my girl. So it puzzled me that I felt sad as I drove away. I pulled on the feeling to see if I could figure out where it comes from. It was attached to two things. First I remember the last time I had a meeting like this for Gleek. It was about this time last year when everything was so chaotic and she was in crisis. We had far more questions than answers. It made me sad to be reminded of that time even though this year is far different. The second thing was that this meeting crossed a threshold. I’ve made Gleek’s diagnoses official with the school. It is a positive step and necessary, but there is a little stab of sadness because I’ve acknowledged that my daughter needs something outside of what schools habitually supply. When I write it in a sentence like that, I’m puzzled why I feel sad. Almost every kid needs something that the school doesn’t usually supply. Why should having Gleek’s needs quantified on paper make it different. If anything I wish that all kids could have their needs so carefully considered. The sadness lies in the fact that situations which are not hard for most other kids are very difficult for Gleek. She works very hard to be the charming and kind person that her teachers see in their classrooms. Because all during the ninety five percent of the time when everything is fine, she needs to be prepared to handle the five percent when emotions rev out of control.
The trickiest part about having a child who is fine ninety five percent of the time, is that I begin to forget why we have all the structures in place. I begin to second guess. I am tempted to do away with the parts of the structure that are time or money consuming to maintain, things like therapy. Everything feels good, but then I have a 504 meeting where I have to list out the official diagnoses. Then I remember that these people in the room and the psychiatrist who signed the diagnosis paper, would have no hesitation in bumping me if they felt that Gleek did not need the resources they are providing. The fact that they recognized Gleek’s need helps me to know I’m not just making this up. I would like it to all be my imagination, because then I could just stop imagining it, problem solved. Instead I get to walk alongside my girl while she treks her way through a long and difficult growing process.
The good news is that Gleek is already amazing. She already manages things far better than one would expect from someone with her particular bag of challenges. The even better news, I can tell we’re aimed toward a good future where she is empowered to choose her own life and succeed at it. The path is likely to be winding and dark in places, but the 504 meeting means that Gleek has guides at school who have instructions for how to help her. This is good. I’m glad of it, even if the meeting itself tugged out some sadness.