By Amanda Ledbetter
It’s almost time for parent-teacher conferences.
If you’re like me, when the teacher speaks about those areas that need improvement, it can feel as if you’re the one being assessed.
I remember meeting with my daughter’s kindergarten teacher years ago. When she handed me the progress report, I only noticed one thing.
The letter N.
There it was, beside “Ties shoelaces independently.”
I’m the one who needs improvement, I thought. I’ve failed her.
Haven’t we all done this?
Haven’t we seen the N or the F – or even the diagnosis – and felt like we failed them?
I was texting with a friend recently whose son just received a learning diagnosis and, like me, she blamed herself.
“I’ve failed him,” she wrote.
There were those words again.
I remember the day we received my son’s autism diagnosis. I was sitting in a small office, waiting for a doctor to come in and – in my mind – define my son’s future.
She sat down, smiled briefly and began explaining about 25 pages of data while I sat there glowering at her. She talked about his deficits in speech, fine motors and social skills.
And even though she praised us for starting early intervention and encouraged continued therapy, I was scared and worried that I couldn’t be the mother he needed me to be.
And all I could hear were those words.
I’ve failed him.
It’s easy to get lost in the moment and allow a diagnosis — or even a bad grade — to doubt how we have prepared our children.
Thankfully, that day did not define my son’s future. Yes, it changed our life in many ways, but it didn’t change who he is or take away his potential for a meaningful life.
It will soon be time for another parent-teacher conference for my kids. And while there will be areas that need improvement, I’m going to focus on the positives.
James loves school, his teachers and his friends. Ellie is excelling in math and art — and even learned to tie her laces independently.
They are happy and learning more each day.
And that’s how I know I’m not failing them.
When we’re sitting in those conferences, let’s celebrate how our children have progressed and rejoice in the fact that they are overcoming challenges that were once incredibly scary or difficult for them.
And you know what?
So are we.
Amanda Ledbetter is an advocate for those with autism and admissions director of Oakbrook Preparatory School in Spartanburg, S.C.
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