Had an IEP meeting for Bella last week.
And I have to say, it left me flooded with emotion.
This is a little girl that started off in life pretty disadvantaged. Mother drank while she was pregnant, leaving my little girl dealing with problems of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum sort. As in, very low IQ, significant learning disability, speech disorder, reading disorder, distractible, the list goes on.
Then she was abandoned. Police found her when she was just a toddler, and took her to the hospital, where she stayed for nearly two years. From there she went on to the orphanage, where she remained for the next two years. No one there expected much from her because they couldn't understand her garbled speech and they felt she wasn't the brightest crayon in the box.
The adults didn't give her much attention.
The kids didn't give her much attention.
Couple years later, we fetched her outa there and brought her to America, where she promptly started Kindergarten.
Her teacher didn't really know what to do with her.
For the next couple years, her teachers didn't really know what to do with her.
But she got ESL services and speech therapy and Reading Assist. They worked with her best they could. She kinda-sorta repeated 1st grade ("Transitional 1st" and then regular 1st). But the child struggled.
A 504 plan was written up, and accomodations made for her disabilities. An IEP was started. She was put into classrooms with instructional aides. She attended summer school (sorry, "Extended School Year"). All these things have helped.
But this year has been her best yet. This year she had a PCA (Personal Care Ass't) who followed her from room to room now that Bella's in middle school. She has helped her keep her schedule and her papers organized. She has helped her learn how to study effectively. And along with her amazing teachers, she has helped improve her reading, her math level, her writing.
She has helped her become a middle school student. A middle school student who has a locker, and knows her schedule, and talks and laughs with her friends, who has joined clubs and does her homework, studies for tests, has crushes, and doodles on the corners of her book covers.
And I sat in this meeting, at a small round table on a little chair, and I watched and listened as this group of 8 - 10 men and women told me all about how Bella is doing in history and science. About how she has learned to branch out with her writing to include so much more than the four or five topics she used to write about. I watched their faces glow with emotion as they talked about how special she is, how sweet, how kind, how helpful and compassionate to others.
Suddenly I felt the warmth of tears in my eyes as I remembered my little girl's beginnings.
No one to care for her.
No one to notice her special gifts.
No one to try to lift her up and challenge her.
No one to love her.
And I looked around this table at these people in her life.
People that truly cared about her and would find a way to teach her. Find a way to help her to be successful, to help her learn to navigate through life.
And with the tears stinging my eyes, I interrupted the meeting.
I tumbled out some words of thanks and gratitude for what they have done for my daughter. For doing their jobs so well, certainly, but most importantly, for caring. For seeing in her what I see, and cherishing that.
I don't think I did a very good job at expressing my thanks, and I quickly let them get back on track at going through the sheaf of papers we all had before us.
But as I sat quietly listening, I thought to myself,
Who would have thought that this little castaway girl that no one noticed would have all these people sitting at a small round table on little chairs, all talking about their goals and plans. All sharing with each other stories of what she said or did that showed how very special she is. All in love with this tiny girl, with the multitude of problems, that no one noticed....