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Love, Logic, and Advocacy: How a Mother's Determination Changed Her Son's Future



Advocacy for the WIN!!!!


Often times when families think of advocating for their children, they think of fighting.


In my research, EVERY SINGLE MOTHER interviewed used the word “fight” when describing their relationship with the school and service providers.


They were fighting for their children.


I don’t fight for children.


I advocate.


By definition, advocate means to publicly support or speak in favor of a particular cause, idea, or person.

Advocacy is supported someone, who needs help.


And, effective advocacy for children is the opposite of fighting.


It’s logically partnering with others to help a child WIN!!!


As many of you know, I taught for a school year during the Covid season.


And, I have been forthright about the fact that I didn’t see going back into the classroom as a particularly favorable experience.


However, near the end of the school year, I knew EXACTLY why God sent me to that school and why He assigned me that class.


I had 19 second grade students that I was charged with teaching, caring for, and loving for 180 days.

I had not been in the classroom in 17 years. The last I taught in a traditional school setting, I was in my 20’s and not yet a mother.


Therefore, I had not yet mothered a child with a disability. So, the compassionate and empathy that I currently possess had not yet fully developed.


However, when I walked into that classroom that year, I walked in as the mother of a high schooler on the autism spectrum.


So, I walked into the same job, but with new eyes.


One of the students in my class was on the autism spectrum.


So, while you are not supposed to have favorites…from DAY 1 “Henry Chin” had my whole heart.


He reminded me of My Baby.


My role as his teacher was to ensure that Henry felt safe and included in his home away from home…our classroom.


Outside of our classroom, it was a rough year for Henry.


The teachers and administrators were not adequately trained to support Henry the way he deserved to be supported.


Some of the specials teacher saw him as a behavior issue.

He was not.


It got so bad that one day Henry cried before going to Music.


He had anxiety about the environment and rightfully so.


I could not look into that child’s eyes and tell him he had the go into that environment.


Henry trusted me to protect him and keep him safe.


I was called into the assistant principal’s office for my decision.


And when asked what gave me the authority to keep a child out of another teacher’s class.


I answered simply and confidently, I am the mother of child on the autism spectrum and I did for Henry what I would want someone to do for My Child, keep him emotionally safe while he is away from me.


But the marginalization of Henry didn’t just occur in the classroom environment. It extended to assessments.


As an individual on the autism spectrum, Henry was exempted from certain assessments.


On my roster, the was literally an “N/A” by his name.


In my eyes, Henry was gifted.


He would sit in our classroom and draw the most AMAZING pictures, during my lessons.


However, when I asked him a question, while he didn’t appear to be listening, he could always provide an answer.


Therefore, I asked to administer the reading and language assessment to Henry…an assessment from which Henry was exempt.


I called him to my desk, sat with him, and guided him through the test…ensuring that he got breaks to help him stay focused.


When the assessment was scored…the data revealed that Henry’s reading and language skills were on a SEVENTH GRADE LEVEL!!!!


He was 7, seldom spoke…and he was gifted.


I went to the gifted education teacher to plead Henry’s case.


She told me, based on the his standardized test scores, he was not eligible.


Shortly after that, while picking up my students from their weekly library time, the school librarian approached me.


She showed me an extremely detailed drawing with keen perspective that Henry had created during their short time in the library. She also pointed out the level of books Henry would consistently check out…huge fantasy novels.


After listening to her feedback, I shared with her that believed Henry to be gifted.


She agreed.


So, I lobbied on his behalf and she referred him.


We partnered to help Henry win.


On the day of the eligibility meeting, I was READY.


When they said his standardized test scores were low, I said you can’t use a standardized test to accurately measure a non-standardized mind.


When they said, he hadn’t produced enough work samples for them to adequately assess his eligibility, I shared the anecdotal data that I been collecting all year.


When they said his family didn’t seem particularly interested in the gifted program, I said they are likely living in triage mode, while learning how to parent a child on the spectrum. I also indicated they had multiple children and Henry was the oldest. Therefore, they are navigating the early stages of parenting and gifted education and its significance may not be at the top of brain. I further explained that Henry’s family were immigrants and might not fully understand the US education system yet.


I advocated for Henry like he came from my own body.


After I made my stance, it came down to a simple vote…by the handful of people in a small room.


A simple vote.


After they voted…


Henry was “gifted”.


And I cried.


I cried because Henry was now considered “Twice Exceptional”.


He will receive special education AND gifted education services for the remainder of his K-12 learning experience.


In my eyes, that meant more eyes on Henry and a better opportunity for him to maximize his personal potential and ensure that this very special child didn’t fall through the cracks.


On that day, Henry WON!!!!


That’s advocacy…supporting people who need help…so they have the opportunity to WIN!!!


For the past week and a half, I have been knee-deep in advocacy for my own son.


SDYM is required to take the ACT test for college admission.


A year ago, I had him take the ACT so that I could get a baseline of his performance and understand the testing conditions.


From the experience, I learned that the testing environment was not conducive to his success and he would also need a year of significant test preparation intervention, before attempting the test again.


Therefore, I lobbied with his special education team to get increased accommodations for his testing experience and was told that SDYM would take the test at the school over four days with extended time. 


Additionally, I enrolled him in a test preparation center, where he has spent the last year preparing for the ACT, mirroring the conditions of the accommodations I was told he would receive. 


SDYM was scheduled to take the ACT this month. We have been preparing for this for a year.


However, when visiting the ACT site, I noticed that he was scheduled to take the test at a neighboring high school on a Saturday and I didn’t see his accommodations listed.


So, I contacted the school.


The school informed me that our request for four day testing was denied. I was advised to get a doctor’s note and they would resubmit the testing accommodation request.


I left the school and called the ACT board. They told me that in addition to not having the four day accommodation, SDYM didn’t have the extended time accommodation that he had last year because the accommodation had expired.


They further informed me that 11:59pm THAT DAY was the deadline to submit requests for accommodation for testing this month.


I was frantic.


But, in a matter of hours, I produced the doctor’s note and went to the school and sat with an administrator as he submitted the request.


I went home relieved…believing that all was well.


After several calls to the ACT board to verify his accommodations, I was finally told that My Son was denied accommodations because the doctor’s note alone was not sufficient. The ACT also required his IEP to explicitly state the type of accommodations that he needed for testing.


They then informed me that if SDYM were to take the test this month, he could do it in a small group, but with no extended time.


Those conditions were not acceptable to me.


My job is to create an environment where My Child has the opportunity to WIN. I would not send My Child into a losing and frustrating situation.


Finally, the ACT board told me that the next testing date was in April and the deadline for all accommodation requests for that test date is March.


Therefore, I got off the phone and immediately wrote an email to the school, requesting an emergency IEP meeting within seven days.


But, this was about My Baby and his future. I couldn’t stay still and wait.

So, I got dressed and I headed to the school.


I asked to meet with an administrator and was told that they were all occupied at the moment.

I informed the school secretary that I cleared my day and I will wait in the office until someone became available.


SDYM’s assistant principal read and responded to my email.


And, as I was writing a response to let her know that I was in the building, she came around the corner.

She invited me into her office.


I explained to her all that had transpired over the last week.


In response, she called an immediate emergency IEP meeting.


ON THE SPOT!!!!!


She called all necessary parties into her office.


My ask for SDYM was extended time, testing over multiple days in his school environment, and an audio of the test so that he didn’t have to focus on applying so many executive functions during the test.


The assistant principal used her walkie-talkie to ask a security guard to go retrieve SDYM from the band room.


SDYM came to her office. And, the assistant principal, who is also a Special Educator, gave him a reading assessment ON THE SPOT!


The assessment results determined that he was eligible to have audio for all standardized tests…not just the ACT.


And just like that, Ricky II’s IEP was updated, signed, and submitted to the ACT board.


The assistant principal looked at me and said, “Dr. Brown, you have had some morning. Can I give you a hug?”


I said, “yes” and together, we cried.


Yesterday morning, I called ACT board and learned that My Son had been approved to take the ACT in April at his school site, during his school day, over multiple days, with triple time extension, and an audio of the test!!!!


Yesterday, SDYM WON!!!


Advocacy is not a fight. It is a loving and logical partnership with others to ensure that people, who need support, have the opportunity to WIN!!!


I AM AN ADVOCATE.


I help children and families WIN!!!!❤️❤️❤️

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