On being "that mom".

Monday, April 29, 2013
Ok. So where to start. Most people reading this blog know that I was an ECSE (early childhood special education teacher) for 4 years prior to my "I never went back to work after my maternity leave with Claire" time. You can read about my official resignation here: http://hackberryadventures.blogspot.com/2012/04/on-giving-it-all-up.html

I definitely missed the adult interaction time at first, and then went through phases of resentment, mostly at my near 80k student loan debt, that was sort of being "unused" at that point, but continually draining the bank account.

Then, flash forward to last May where every penny of that debt was used to get Henry much needed help with his social anxiety and sensory issues (read ASD: Autism in the education sense): http://hackberryadventures.blogspot.com/2012/06/on-other-side-of-fence.html

With his four months at the preschool in Chaska (where he only went two mornings a week), he hadn't spoken a word to a peer, and as far as I know, to a teacher either. He'd nod his head yes or no for things, but that was it. He'd play near kids, but not once did I get a note home saying he was making friends. It breaks my heart.

So, really, when I think about that, I don't think current staff/placement is totally to blame, but this mama has about had it.

As much as I never would have dreamed of it back when I was teaching, I have become "that mom". There are a few different types of "that mom" I encountered over the years. In my old line of work, you'd get a variety of reactions/acceptance levels/denial/etc for whatever the end result of an educational evaluation would be. Some families were beyond happy to get the help their child needed. Some needed some extra hand holding. Some families did everything (or didn't do everything) they could to NOT get the help, as in the end, some didn't want the help or the labels that came along with it (which will FOREVER boggle my mind, as I can't see not WANTING your child to get help).

Then you had the moms who would fight to the death (usually in tears) to get everything they could. I've definitely turned into the latter. We've now been at this new preschool for 3 months, where Henry goes every day, Monday-Friday. You can read more about the details of the start of the new preschool here: http://hackberryadventures.blogspot.com/2013/02/our-new-normal-school-feeding-therapy.html

Like I said, we've been here for 3 months, going for 2.5 hours a day, every day. I've never been 100% happy with his placement. In Chaska he was in an inclusion setting where he had 15 other typically developing kids to model social skills and play after. Here, he's in a room with 9-10 other kids, all with their own varied special needs. This small district simply doesn't have the programming that our old district, or the surrounding larger districts around here do. Thank you stupid district lines.

He will tell his teacher goodbye now for a sticker, or sometimes for an entire pack of fruit snacks. She started by having him do it with me there, then at the door before they came over to the car, then inside the door, etc. But that's it. I think he'll answer "mama" when she asks who's here to pick him up.

No playing WITH a peer (although he has talked of possibly chasing on the playground), no talking to a peer, no circle time participation, and really, I don't know what else they do beyond that in the 2.5 hours he's there. He doesn't tell me much anymore and the teachers don't either.

When I was a teacher, I would send a little daily journal home with at least 1 good thing that happened that day. If it wasn't every day, it was at least 2x a week. In the 3 months he's been here, I've gotten a hand written note home twice. Twice in 3 months. I hear almost every day that he "Had a good day" and the teacher rushes off to wherever she goes to next (I guess lunch, so I understand), but really? A good day when he started was no crying. A good day after a month would be seeing a smile. A good day now? I want to hear that he's interacting. I want to hear that he's enjoying himself and seeking out peers.

We had his official IEP meeting (or ARD as they call them down here) right before spring break at the beginning of March. The ARD was up on a projector and was mostly written out already, but was there for my parental feedback before it was finalized.

Imagine my surprise when there was a goal on there for Henry to count to 10, label numbers and label the letters of the alphabet. Umm, say what? I most certainly shared with them at the start of his time here how bright Henry was, but that information clearly didn't carry over. I had to re-write the goal to say that Henry will use his voice to share the knowledge that he ALREADY KNOWS and (HAS KNOWN FOR 2 YEARS.)

That's my other beef. Even though they wrote in something about Henry getting more 1:1 academics at his level, I'm not sure that's happening. Aside from not having proper social models, that is my other big fear, that he's not getting enough academic enrichment in his current placement. We also discussed the possibility of Henry spending some time in the regular classroom. At the time every one else in the room said he was just getting comfortable and they didn't want to push it by overwhelming him with a new room (he'd likely start by going in for circle time or play time, like some of the other kids in his current room do).

I was told we could revisit it later.

Well, here we are in practically May, and when I drop Henry off, he still has all sorts of anxiety, shown in his body language, frowning face, and unwillingness to even kiss me goodbye or say goodbye for that matter. The teachers have to carry him out of the van every day.

As little as he seems, the clock is ticking. He WILL go to Kindergarten in the fall 2014 when he's five (despite what any "hold summer birthdays back advocate" has to say about it), he's going. So this next preschool year is crucial in him gaining more social confidence and skills.

So almost two weeks ago I asked about him getting some time in the other classroom. I was met with "Oh, that would be a great idea to get some typical peer models!!"...said to me in a way that sounded like it was the latest, greatest, newest idea (which it obviously wasn't). I also asked about what specifically is being done/taught to help with his social skills, and I've never really gotten a straight answer.

They should be doing small groups/games, etc, but I don't think they are. It shouldn't be a choice anymore for Henry to just nod his head. In my time as a teacher, if a child had the ability to speak, there were things you could do to get them to speak, even if just a word. It was an expectation. A child isn't going to reach their goals if you don't push them to increase their skills. I feel like the expectation for Henry to actually talk is very, very low and they aren't pushing him enough.

Oh, and I found out in the past few weeks why Henry is constantly telling me he had Goldfish for snack. Because that's one of the few things they offer that he eats. And they give it to him if he doesn't want what the rest of the kids are having. *headdesk*. They know he's in feeding therapy. You'd think it'd come up as a question of "Mom, how would you like to handle this? Henry doesn't eat xyz. at school." But nope, I had to bring it up.

I feel like I have to do all the work. Which is fine, I'm his parent, and I'm not wasting that 80k I spoke of above. But I was a better teacher than this. I followed through on scheduling meetings and requests like this from parents were top priority. And if I said we'd revisit something in the future, I wouldn't pretend like I never said it and wait for the parent to bring it up again, and then act all surprised like it's the best idea ever. I sent notes home. I CALLED when something major and awesome happened with a student. I did everything I could to help my students make gains.

What bothers me the most though, is that in the 3-4 times we've discussed Henry's participation in the regular classroom, whether it be the end of this year, just briefly for circle time, or next year where it could be more full time, I always ask what his ECSE teacher help would look like. And every time I'm met with "I'm not sure" (from two different professionals).

Alright. We may be in a new state, but there are state laws, and FEDERAL laws, for crying out loud, that are in place for kids with special needs to get their needs met via their IEP/ARD (whatever you want to call it.) If I opt to put him in the regular classroom next year, his ARD needs to be met, no question about it. So does this make me leery to even put him in that class? Yes, absolutely. Because clearly, something isn't adding up.

So that's my afternoon rant. I've become that mom. The probably perceived "annoying" mom who will stop at nothing until she's happy with her child's situation but never really seems happy.

But, if you dropped your child off at school every single day for three months and you don't even get a smile, or I love you because he's too anxious about the teacher talking to him and the school day itself, you'd be unhappy too.

Unfortunately for me, it seems there are very little options for anything much different than what we are experiencing now. I'm doing some checking, but I'm not holding my hopes up for anything yet.

In the end, I want Henry to make a friend. I want him to just run up to someone and start talking to them or playing with them without me being there to encourage it. I don't want to see the constant anxiety in his face during social situations anymore. I want him to be excited about playing with other kids and having fun. So, if it means I have to be "that mom" until progress is made, than I guess will be.

*I'm not going to spell check this.* :)

1 comment:

Amanda Kelley said...

I'd be that mom too! Glad you shared this!

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