By Valerie Abbott
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wrestled with conflicting emotions during the last week of summer break. And the older I get, the more I struggle. The first day of school, just a few days away, will be filled with excitement: new shoes, new teachers, new friends, and new experiences ahead. Yet, I can’t help but anticipate the first day of school also as the end: the end of summer fun, of sleeping in, of a slower pace. The end of flowers and late night cookouts and cold limeaid cocktails.
As the parent of a child with a disability, there’s an additional layer of anxiety coating the normal back to school jitters. I suppose this may be true for my child as well as for myself.
Will my child be accepted and included?
Will the teachers embrace and implement what is carefully crafted in the IEP or 504 Plan?
Will I know when something isn’t working – academically, socially, emotionally?
I thought when my child entered high school, these worries would be less intense – but they are not. Since Kindergarten, some school years have been easier than others. Some teachers have been better to work with than others. Some kids have been nicer than others. I have to remind myself that although the school, the teachers, the staff may try to do what they think in the best interest of my child – my husband and I are her biggest cheerleaders, her strongest advocates. And, as long as she is in school, we can never take our eye off the ball.
So, if you bump into me this week and I look dazed, confused and apprehensive – well, I am. No doubt, by late September my annual struggle with worry will be behind me and I’ll be thankful again for the blessings that come with new routines, new mommies to meet and new things to experience in the year ahead.
But, my eye will still be on the ball.
**Valerie Abbott is a 1-3-6 Family Educator and Learning Community Coordinator for the Center for Family Involvement at VCU. In this dual role, Valerie works closely with parents of deaf and hard-of-hearing children and professionals to help reduce loss to follow up. A graduate of Hollins University, she lives in Henrico County with her husband and two daughters, one of whom is hard-of-hearing. **