Help is Just an Ask Away

Last week I found myself sitting at a round table surrounded by five professionals all discussing the success of one person- my little boy. To my right was an occupational therapist, followed by his Kindergarten teacher. Next to her was the Behavioral Interventionist, the school Principal, coming back around to the School Counselor on my left. We were all there, working as a team, to create a 504 plan that would set up my son up for success for next year. A 504 plans allows students to stay in a regular classroom, while giving the teacher guidance for special allowances or modifications to make that give children with unique needs their best chance of success.

It had been a long and stressful journey to get to this moment. Over the last year, as you are all aware, the covid 19 pandemic changed the way many children experienced school and learning. Our family chose to attend school via the hybrid model: in-person when it was safe and online when it wasn’t. There were many months he was online. He hated it and I hated that he hated it. He really struggled to sit still and had a hard time engaging with the screen. I talked to other parents and read articles that all validated what I was going through, but something wasn’t right. I couldn’t help but think that some of his struggles weren’t completely typical. After weeks of power struggles, self-doubt, and less-than-stellar mommy moments, I did something that is a lot harder than it sounds. I asked for help.

It worked out that my son’s six-year checkup was around my personal breaking point. At the pediatrician’s office, I vented my frustrations and concerns while my son conveniently demonstrated my points by hanging upside down off the exam table. I asked her at what point should normal, active child behavior be assessed for something else. She told me I could get an assessment at any time and referred me to an Occupational Therapist. From there I got an OT assessment that found that my son, though typical in many ways, needed some work developing his sensory processing ability and impulse control. I was relieved- our issues weren’t due to a parenting failure after all! We got set up with weekly OT visits and I thought my worries were behind me. Then in-person school began.

My child thrives in an in-person environment. BUT, in-person highlighted some of the struggles he has around respecting the personal boundaries of others. His first major incident, I got a call from the Principal. Then the School Counselor called. Twice. So, once again, I bit my lip and asked for help. It turns out, all of these school personnel have a lot of knowledge and experience at their disposal. Not only that, but they genuinely care about my son and want him to succeed. Which is how I found myself at a team meeting to create a plan that will help him build the skills and vocabulary he needs around self-management, while also giving him the space and structure he needs to continue to grow and thrive. He will begin this plan with his 1st grade teacher in the Fall. Leaving the meeting, I felt a warm and comforting feeling I hadn’t felt in a while: supported.

In my work at the Children’s Trust Fund, we always encourage people to ask for help when they need it. Turns out that is easier for me to say than do. While I know that asking for help is a strength–especially when it comes to my children’s well-being—somehow, I felt like I should tough it out and deal with everything myself. Boy, am I glad I finally reached out! Parenting can be really hard. We need that village of support to raise our children. None of us has all the answers but somewhere in that village—if we are brave enough to ask—we will find the help we need.