About a month ago I took my horse to a schooling show. We've had a lot of fun doing various things all this year, and I was excited about the progress we've made. I was sure that we would have a great outing.
I might not have minded so much about the serious show people that showed up (at the end of the year? For a schooling show? After you've clearly cleaned up on the real show circuit?) if it weren't for the fact that my own horse and I had a really rotten day. I'd brought his two stable mates and on top of that his half-sister and one of his trail riding buddies were there. He couldn't stop worrying about where all of his friends were for more than two seconds, and if he couldn't see any of them he'd get panicky. He was prancing and trying to take off, wouldn't stand still, wouldn't stop calling to them. In the ring he kept trying to angle himself toward the exit. All in all the day was horribly frustrating and disappointing. The judge hated us, but that's OK because I wasn't super fond of us, either.
I try not to care about competing. At this stage in my life if we are doing something that actually awards places, I'm pretty happy either way, so long as I'm happy with myself and my horse. But for days after that schooling show I felt so small and incompetent. My thoughts kept spiraling downward.
Maybe I really don't know what I'm doing.
Maybe I'm doing everything wrong.
Maybe I should just quit trying to do anything except trail riding.
Maybe I'm just an idiot.
I had a couple of really good rides at home in the weeks after that, and a fairly good lesson. Then this weekend we did a half-day western dressage clinic and a dressage schooling show. I entered the Introductory test for the senior age group and the open group, along with a few friends of mine that also take lessons with me.
We placed well, but more importantly Bugs and I had a really good day together. He wasn't perfect, but he was better than he has been and we didn't break our patterns or have a bucking fit across the arena. I really enjoyed the whole day, and being around my friends and watching everyone ride.
I liked the format of the show. It was my first dressage experience, so it was new to me. In dressage each rider goes individually the judge gives scores on each element of your ride. There are a LOT of elements, and even if you mess up on one of them, your whole ride isn't a wash. Not only does the judge give you a score, but you also get comments as to why it was a better or lower score. Those comments not only let me know what we need to work on but also helped me to feel some confidence about the things we are doing right and the direction we're moving.
Last night as I was reflecting on how much better I felt after having a positive show experience, I recalled what I often say to others and what has been a powerful message for me at other times of my life:
No matter how well or how badly things are going, you can count on things changing.
Race Car Man is struggling so badly in school right now. We've had a meeting almost every two weeks all year long, but things are not moving in the right direction. The strategies that have been implemented that are supposed to help him are not helping him; they are escalating the situation. His teacher is frustrated, his dad and I are frustrated, but most importantly, my son is frustrated. His therapist was able to get him to discuss how he was feeling through some indirect questions, and he expressed to her quite clearly that he feels like he is a "bad kid" who makes "bad choices."
I can't adequately explain how devastating that was for me to hear. The tears flowed.
This year has been so difficult. We had asked for an aide for him full-time, and we got one, but the first one didn't last and the second one is still new and in the words of the district "needs training." In other words, not qualified.
The district psychologist has observed him once. I've been pushing for the district to engage the therapist he sees, who is the director of our local autism resource center, to do some classroom observation and feedback for the teacher, and they've resisted. They spent four weeks observing him, had an aide assigned and we had one conference call with the psychologist who still, despite saying he would, hasn't contacted our therapist to discuss the situation. Two months into the school year and things are worse than they were the week he started. My son is not accessing any learning, and we've had to pick him up more than five times in the last four weeks.
Last Thursday he was suspended for two days after a morning in which his behavior escalated almost from the time he arrived at school.
I feel like his disability is not being taken into account when he begins to react to his choices. If he isn't making good choices, maybe none of the choices he's being offered are incentive enough for him. If his behavior keeps escalating, clearly the strategies they are using to try and calm him down are having the opposite effect. Rather than expecting my son to change, I want the school to change their approach. I don't blame his teacher. She hasn't had another student like him. She's been begging for help for quite some time, stating clearly that she has exhausted all the tools she knows and needs help with some new ideas. Its not that she's not open to changing things -- she doesn't know what to change to.
I was feeling really hopeless on Thursday. And in truth, I'm not sure I'm not feeling a little bit that way today. But on Friday I talked to our therapist and she got me in touch with a local volunteer advocacy group, and she was able to give me some bullet points to request from the district, and she provided some potential options for us that I haven't looked into before. I was able to request a meeting with the district special services director and the advocacy volunteer is attending along with my ex and I.
This morning we met with the school administrators and his teacher so that he could come back from his suspension, and I feel like we got a great deal of support and agreement from his teacher, the principal and the school psychologist on the things that we want to see happen from the district.
I needed a reminder that even though things feel hopeless and difficult, they won't always be that way. Nothing stays the same.
I got one.
I can only hope that the direction will be UP.