Separating Church and State

The separation of church and state has been a well-known concept since Thomas Jefferson was around. My understanding is this was written into the Bill of Rights to help people maintain their religious freedom. So they could hold their own personal beliefs, free from government actions or control.

In my own life, with Eddie, I’ve had to do a little separating myself. As I’ve written before, I’ve spent the last few years being Eddie’s Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI). This was something I expected when I went back to school. I knew that if Eddie was always going to have services, I’d have to be certified to do it. Otherwise, we’d be moving to find teachers all the time.

However, I found that being the parent and the TVI was often a paradox. I knew special education law, and I knew what my rights were as Eddie’s parent. Unfortunately, as part of the school’s educational team, I felt unable to voice concerns. I had to remain diplomatic at times when I just wanted to be mad.

Lucky for us, we had a choice this year. As many parents know, we don’t get to pick our teachers very often…and we hardly ever get to pick specialists. The schools do the hiring, and we have to live with their decisions. Well, my son’s school had an opportunity to contract with another TVI, and they went for it…with my whole-hearted consent.

This week, we had Eddie’s IEP meeting and 3-year reevaluation for special education services. This is often a difficult meeting, and a very long meeting. As 10 of us sat around the table, my husband and I listened to all the things Eddie was doing…and the more numerous things he was not. Nothing came as a surprise, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

The best thing about the meeting was that for the first time in two years, I could just be the parent. I didn’t have to be agreeable. I didn’t have to do what was expected of me…even though I pretty much did. I could do and say as I felt was needed for Eddie…without worrying about my impact on my professional relationships. It felt really good.

This had me thinking about the comparison of church and state. I was finally able to act on my own personal beliefs, without control of outside forces, and without control of etiquette, and expected professionalism. I could act on what I know about Eddie that I cannot prove…what I believe he is capable of…and what I don’t believe the school truly understands.

My relationship with Eddie now is simply mother and son. I get to slide back into being his advocate, and not feel the pressure of also being his TVI. Fortunately, he does have a pretty great team…and his new TVI is amazing. This means my battles are few, but at least I now have the freedom to fight them.