I've rejected the "universal" acceptance of People First Language, it's not a cause that resonates with me.
This is not to say that I'm never put off by that word. I find it offensive when it wanders too close to my weird and wonderful monster slayer. It is then that I rise up against it. Not when it is used casually or ignorantly, but rather when it arrives with full authority into my world. Insensitive teenagers and edgy comedians don't have power. Professionals do, at least as much as we allow them to have, which is plenty.
We had a meeting yesterday with Schuyler's teacher and the school's diagnostician in preparation for Schuyler's annual ARD meeting later this morning, where her IEP for the coming year will be finalized. With our permission, this diagnostician evaluated Schuyler three years ago, despite my reservations, because the school felt it was important to get a clear idea of where Schuyler stood cognitively.
This evaluation three years ago would determine her IQ (a frankly subjective process of which I am skeptical when it comes to assigning a score to a non-verbal six-year-old), and that IQ rating would put her into a cognitive range. My fear was that this numerical determination would place her within the range described by this word, this very loaded word that I felt had no place hanging around the neck of my determined and bright little girl.
Three years ago, we swallowed our hesitation, trusting in this new school and these new teachers for whom we had moved so willingly. The test was administered, a number was assigned that was high enough to dodge the word, and we went on with our lives.
Last week, we were informed that the diagnostician wants to re-evaluate Schuyler, and we set up yesterday's meeting to discuss that evaluation. And it was at this meeting that Julie and I were gently informed by the diagnostician that based on Schuyler's problems with abstract thinking and her significant delays in her academic and verbal skills, she feels confident that the new test score is almost certain to be significantly lower.
Low enough to assign that word to my little girl.
The diagnostician wants this word to become part of Schuyler's lexicon, not because she has a bad soul, but because she wants Schuyler to become eligible for additional services that this new assignment would bring. She wanted to do the test soon, but suggested that if we wanted, we could wait until after the holidays. "I just need to administer it by May," she told us.
I'm unconvinced. I'm unconvinced that there are services that Schuyler isn't receiving that this bad word would suddenly bring her. I'm unconvinced that these additional services would be enough to balance the feeling of wrongness at having this word, this fighting word of all fighting words, attached forever to Schuyler. It's not a word that can ever be taken away. It's a bell that can never be unrung.
But the bulk of my anxiety tonight comes from the fact that the diagnostician might be right. She's likely to be right, and in fighting this word, I may simply be living in denial, to no one's advantage.
Today's ARD meeting will be a hard one, and we will be listening very carefully to hear what the advantages to having this evaluation really are. More importantly, I want to know what happens if we ultimately decline (or refuse, I guess) to have the evaluation performed at all.
Don't be surprised if I elect not to share the final results of this evaluation, should it actually take place, and please don't feel insulted if we choose to keep it to ourselves. In this blog and even more so in my book, I haven't granted Schuyler a great deal of privacy, for which I don't feel guilt but do often feel trepidation.
But this is different. This is a word, a very bad word, that I will fight, rightly or wrongly, from ever being associated publicly with my sweet and ferocious and clever little girl.