Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Just say "NO"

There is a particular parenting website that I've been checking out for the last couple of years. It has forums on every parent- and child-related topic under the sun: from baby names to teen health to homeschooling and beyond. One of its forums is "Special Needs," and I check that one out most frequently, sometimes just to read the posts and gain information, other times to ask or answer questions. It's great when someone writes, for example, "My son is going to start taking Valproic Acid for seizures; has anyone else used this medication?" and I can respond with some first-hand knowledge of that specific subject.

But lately I've been disturbed by the negativity of a particular person who posts regularly. Someone might write to ask, "How does the school pick an EA [educational assistant]?" and she will write, "Your school will probably resist your request for an EA; be prepared to fight for it." Someone else might ask, "How does an IEP [Individual Education Plan] work?" and she will reply, "Don't worry about having an IEP; worry about all the roadblocks the school system will put in your path to make your child's life difficult." This is her take on every subject raised: everyone, particularly the school system, is out to thwart you and your child and to deliberately and maliciously keep you from getting what you need.

I finally had to stop visiting this forum--not before writing my own post stating my discomfort with this endless negativity. There is nothing wrong with expressing feelings of dissatisfaction or discouragement; there is nothing wrong with saying that we feel we've been wronged; there is even nothing wrong with complaining (that's often what these forums are great for: being a place to vent to others who understand and can commiserate). But purposefully and repeatedly trying to infect others with a negative, cynical spirit when their circumstances may be very different from our own is wrong and toxic.

I know that I can't let that kind of spirit affect me, especially at this point when we are preparing to start Jonathan in kindergarten this fall. The principal called yesterday to say that a transition meeting is scheduled for June 6 so that she, the teacher, the special ed teacher, and everyone else involved with Jonathan can discuss his entry into "real school". We feel a bit anxious, but hopeful and excited too. If problems arise, we will have to deal with them--but to anticipate them ahead of time, and assume that those whose job it is to help Jonathan are going to resist doing so, is unfair to both Jonathan and the school.

Besides, in the life of faith there has to be a sense of hope. We all feel discouragement and confusion, even despair, at times, but walking with God means we never lose hope--and we resist those who might try to rob us of it.

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