I’ve been advocating for my son since kindergarten. At first, I wasn’t exactly sure why I was advocating, but I knew there was something different about my son and he needed a voice. Upon evaluation a week after completing kindergarten, we learned he was twice-exceptional. He hit the ceiling on the evaluation tool and was also found to have difficulties with working memory, processing speed, dysgraphia, and ADHD.
“FINALLY,” I thought, “we can move forward and make progress because we have all of this data in our hands.” With the report of findings and suggestions for accommodating his unique learning needs, we met with the elementary school principal, guidance counselor, gifted educator, and the long-term sub who would be in my son’s classroom for the first half of the year. While the report showed our son to be performing above grade-level in math and reading, the school never suggested to us that he skip first grade. Nor did they discuss how they would be challenging him academically. My husband and I requested he receive gifted services, but the school didn’t do gifted pull-out until third grade, we were told. However, they said the gifted teacher would work with our son during an enrichment period for the entire year instead of just for a quarter, as was done with students in grades k-2 whom teachers identified as possibly qualifying for the third-grade gifted program. We left that meeting not sure what was going to happen. Our son’s long-term sub was great with him. She understood some of his rigid thinking. She was able to diffuse him with humor and distraction. She knew he was capable of doing more challenging work and looked for ways to build on his strengths. The year was going better than we had expected.When the regular classroom teacher returned, we found that the flexibility, humor, and creative problem solving that had worked well in the first half the year wasn’t happening anymore. We were back at square one looking for ways to help our son. We brought in ideas regarding the use of assistive technology (AT) to help him complete work, rather than have him engage in maladaptive behaviors to avoid tasks. We shared articles about processing speed and working memory. We brought our psychologist from the local university to help us advocate. We asked that our son be moved into the next grade for reading in February. By May, the school agreed he could go to reading with a second-grade teacher.
These meetings continued for the next three years. In the fall of his third-grade year, he was being accelerated in reading. Transitions and having to miss specials to go to reading were difficult for him (and us). His reading teacher, who was a fourth-grade teacher, suggested we revisit whole-grade acceleration. After more meetings, he was accelerated over winter break. It was a very positive move. His half-year of fourth grade was likely the best school experience he’d had since preschool. Then, fifth grade came. It wasn’t like fourth grade… so more advocating.
This fall, our son started sixth grade. The school he attends contacted me the day before classes started to tell me that they were aware of three students who had been formally identified as twice-exceptional who had not qualified for the sixth grade TAG program. This was bothersome to them as they were keenly aware these students had extremely high abilities. The reason they were contacting me was to see if it was okay for them to change my son’s schedule to put him with these other two students in a science class that would be co-taught with the regular science teacher and the TAG teacher. I was moved to tears. I hadn’t made a fuss when we learned our son didn’t qualify for TAG. I already knew that the measures used for placement in the TAG program were not going to showcase my son’s strengths. I had shared my concern that the way the TAG program was set up as a science class ignored the fact that there were a lot of students gifted in other subject areas who would miss out on the opportunity to grow in their areas of strength. I also shared that I was concerned about gifted students struggling with the social-emotional aspects of being gifted without a peer group with whom to connect. It was those comments, along with the voices of two other students’ parents, that brought a school study team together to realize that, at least for the 2e learners they knew of, something needed to be done.This year has gotten off to a wonderful start. Sure, there will likely be speed bumps. However, seeing my own child feel comfortable and safe at school and be willing to tackle work that has previously triggered task avoidance has been rewarding for all of us.
Advocacy works…it isn’t easy. And you sure may not see the fruits of your labor as quickly as you’d like. But never stop being the champion for your kid. And, while the change may not happen as quickly as you’d like for your own child, remember that we’re all in this together. The work we do now helps pave a smoother path for the families that follow behind. Keep up the good fight. Advocacy works!