Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

"I Get Blamed Because My Expectations Are Too High." A Family Responds to Uncertainty

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

"I Get Blamed Because My Expectations Are Too High." A Family Responds to Uncertainty

Article excerpt

A Family Responds to Uncertainty,

We are here to see you about coming with us to the I.E.P core meeting for our seven-year-old son, Peter. Peter has cerebral palsy, which interferes with his schoolwork." Mr. Hayes, a short, slender man in his late 30's spoke softly. "Dr. Davis, our pediatrician, told us we would get a lot more done at the meeting with the school people if we took a professional along - and he recommended you.

"Each year, Ruth and I discuss what we are going to do and say, and, each year, we both come away feeling dissatisfied. We don't get what we want for Peter and, sooner or later, I get blamed either because my expectations are too high, or I'm so emotional that the school people think I'm not rational.

"We do have a problem figuring out how much we can expect Peter to do. I'm cast as the one whose expectations are too high, whose criticism is too severe, whose punishment is inappropriate. I say that I'm 'cast' that way because I don't see myself doing these things. It isn't that I don't do some of these things occasionally However, if I wait and don't speak about my expectations, my wife takes over and does all of the things that I'm accused of. Cathy Jones, a neighborhood busybody who is in your profession, focuses on feelings and expectations. No matter what the issue is she always speaks with certainty And she's always giving advice to all the women in the neighborhood. I think that she's caused more arguments between my wife, Ruth, and I than anything I can even imagine.

"When I get home at night, I'm not sure which of Cathy Jones' feelings and expectation speeches Ruth is going to present to me that night. Last week, we were discussing the meeting that we are going to have with the I.E.P. team. Every year, there's a discussion of how the program should be worked out. How much time should he spend in regular classrooms? How much time should he be spending in resource rooms? How much time should we spend with him at home? In all of Peter's life, no one can say with certainty, outside of our neighbor, that this is what we can expect. At times, professionals will tell us something specific, but they will usually back off when it doesn't quite work out.

"I dearly love our pediatrician, Dr. Davies. He is one of the sweetest men in the world. There are days when I wake up in the morning and thank God that he is Peter's doctor. He has helped us through some very difficult times and always answers our phone calls. He always listens. What more can you expect? If you ask him for direct advice, he says we can't be sure. Or his answers are stated in such a way that it's our responsibility to make the decision.

"The last couple of years we have not been happy with the way the school's gone about making decisions. My wife can say it's just me, but I don't think she's been any happier. They start by telling us that Peter has done better than they expected. He is doing work that's not far behind grade level. In fact, they say his reading is improving, and he has greater potential than they thought. And that parallels what happens at home. As I talk to him and try to do some work with him, I think he has a lot of ability that hasn't been shown yet. But if I say that, my wife thinks I expect so much that I have been hearing answers that he hasn't given.

"This year, when we raised the question of school with Davies, he said that, in his experience, school personnel really don't listen as much to parents as they might listen to professionals, and he said you have done a good job of representing parents in the past.

"I have mixed feelings about using you. Why can't I speak for myself? Why can't my wife and I represent what we think is best based on expert opinion and our own perspective? That's when things and people like that neighbor next door absolutely drive me up a wall. When I disagreed with Ruth about Dr. Davies' advice, she came home with the `over-expectations theory. …

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