School has just started. For our family and many more during the global pandemic, it means online learning – from 9 am to 3 pm.

I was already full of reservations, particularly for my son. I know he can’t sit in one place for too long. I’ve had a discussion with every one of his past teachers about his disorganization and lack of focus when his mind is not engaged. How was he going to manage a semester online, my son who needs handshakes and hugs?

When I got his class assignment, I knew I needed to do something to make sure this year could work. He had a teacher from last year who knew how to motivate him. “I really appreciate the way he thinks,” he wrote back on one assignment. “It is wonderful to see his leadership,” he wrote in a later report card. I thought, maybe this teacher who already established a relationship with him and knew how to push him, could help him start an already unusual year.

When I wrote to the principal requesting the change, her reply was that his placement could not be changed because of personal preference. She cited demographic balance and other data considerations. When I pushed again, making my appeal for my son’s learning needs, she sent me a screenshot of the class placement policy and the demographic data of his grade. His learning needs were not in the data consideration.

I almost decided to be defeated and work with what we were given.

But, after watching the first day where he developed what he described to me as the “zoom stare,” (eyes open just enough so the teacher doesn’t know if you are paying attention or spacing out), I knew I had to try a little harder.

In our district, there is a magnet school for his type of learner. I sent out a desperate email to the point person for the program. I got an immediate answer that if the school was willing to take him, he could change schools, even as early as the next day. Quickly I submitted the needed paperwork, and the school responded they would be happy to have my son.

The second day of school was worlds different. He was talking, working, smiling, and responding. His new teacher was familiar with his type of learner. And while we are facing the inevitable challenges of online learning, I feel we have an ally. But more importantly, this experience reinforces that I am my child’s first, last, and hopefully best advocate.

I birthed him, I changed his dirty diapers, I wiped his tears, I taught him how to share, and potty trained him, despite the fact that it took almost two years. I watch him when he rages in frustration, but also walk him through strategies to better handle situations that make him blow up. I may not have the technical lingo or the schooled expertise, but I have his best interests in mind and a heart full of love that wishes his best happiness.

Parents, stand up for your kids. Push them when they should be pushed, hold them when they need to be held, but also fight to make the world that is good, one that they can thrive in, spiritually, mentally, physically. Don’t let data, cultural norms, or pop culture tell you otherwise. Stand strong for them.

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