Monday, June 10, 2002

June 10-14, 2002

JUNE 10, 2002

Do you ever just think your head is going to explode sometimes from all the questions and worries and quandaries circling within? It seems lately that I can't make a decision without it either having to be re-decided soon after, or opening up a whole range of secondary decisions to be chewed over. My head is full to overflowing with decisions, decisions, decisions. Yesterday, just the added stress of having to decide what to order for my kids at Burger King made me burst into tears, so I may be reaching Critical Mass.

Sometimes I think reading e-mail support group lists makes it worse, because then you have to debate everybody else's decisions in your head as well. Maybe it helps you see that other people have it worse; but more often, for me anyway, it sets up debates in my poor overstuffed head over how I would do something differently than the original poster or her respondents. I suppose I could post my own problems to get other people's help in decision-making, but I'm afraid that new perspectives might only prolong my indecision -- or that everybody would disagree with what I'd almost decided. I do a good enough job of disagreeing with myself, thank you very much.

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JUNE 11, 2002

We've been talking a lot at school about the developmental level of my son -- or rather, developmental levels, because while he's up to nine-year-old speed in expressive language and close to it in academics, the path from there through motor skills and down to his emotional level of about four is a slippery slope. I don't know what level the rest of his class is at emotionally and behaviorally, but on their class field trip yesterday I got a clue: They're at whatever stage it is that involves constantly reporting even the minor indiscretions of your playmates to the nearest adult and seeking immediate redress.

"He pushed me!" "He scratched me!" "He touched my head!" "He made a bad noise!" All day I heard it, usually complaining about my son because I was his mother, but sometimes directed at other classmates or bus companions as well. I know we're in an era when we're supposed to validate children's concerns and encourage them to come to us with anything -- after all, maybe this time when that whiny kid comes out of the bathroom he'll be saying that a bad man tried to touch him and not that his classmate got a little water on his arm at the sink, like the last five or six times. We should always be ready to listen with sympathy and open ears. But honestly, after three or four hours of this, what I mostly wanted to say was, "Oh, mind your own business and shut up." I don't know if I was comforted or disturbed that the teachers and aides took pretty much the same attitude. After all, they deal with this all day, every day. I just have to deal with it on field trips ... and, of course, every night at home here in sibling-rivalry-ville.

Will my daughter finally get the kind of classroom she was supposed to get three years ago? Will accommodations agreed upon in June actually materialize in September? What precisely does "instructional aide" mean? Will our district ever really get how to do inclusion? Stay tuned for another episode of ... "The IEP Zone."

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JUNE 12, 2002

When last we left my daughter's IEP, it included provisions for an instructional aide for all subjects, which Mom interpreted as meaning a person with special education training in the classroom to do reteaching and provide support, and the school district interpreted as meaning an untrained person to act as a one-on-one aide unable to do reteaching or educational support but really good at hand-holding.

This continues a trend that started three years ago when she was first mainstreamed. That year, "instructional aide" was first interpreted as a special education teacher to be in the classroom for several children who needed support; however, when that teacher interpreted her role as co-teaching and the regular-ed teacher interpreted that as a pain in her butt, the special-ed teacher disappeared and was replaced by an aide who interpreted her role as making copies for the teacher and keeping the special-ed kids out of her hair.

The following year, an instructional aide was promised but never appeared. We made a deal with the principal to have the Basic Skills teacher help my daughter out, and that seemed to work out alright. But at IEP time last year, I was assured that an instructional aide was essential, and that my daughter would be put in a class with other students who needed an aide and that a person with special education training would be in place to help them.

Come this year -- no other special-ed kids in her class, no person with special education training to help. After a month, the very nice but untrained one-on-one aide turned up, and has been helping my girl ever since. What this help consists of, I'm not sure; I've been told she can't make graphic organizers for her, can't coach in test-taking skills, can't do any of the things in the "Inclusion" book I sent in, can't actually talk to me without the teacher present. She does make nice flashcards for vocabulary words, though.

So now, again with the IEP, and again with the "we'll put another child who needs an aide in the same class and give them a trained person to help." It would be really interesting to see if the actual right sort of support would make a difference for my daughter; she's learned about the same whether she's been in a self-contained class or on her own in the mainstream, so I'm skeptical at this point that anything much is going to help or hurt. And skeptical doesn't even begin to describe my feelings about the right sort of support ever actually being provided. Still, it's a nice dream.

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JUNE 14, 2002

One week and three half-days of school left, and then we're cut loose for summer. My daughter has gone from hating fourth grade to being nostalgic for it; she wishes it were September and she was just starting the year again, instead of facing fifth grade just two months down the road. Next year at this time, she'll be graduating fifth grade and facing middle school, and the both of us will be dreading it. Fifth grade, I can handle.

Summer, too, although it's always a disruptive time, with its good points (can you say "no homework," ladies and gentlemen?) and its bad points (new routines, new drop-off and pick-up times, kids with too much time on their hands). This year should be a little more leisurely than last, since my son isn't going to the Super Expensive Special Needs Camp an hour round-trip away but a smaller regular-ed program just five minutes from home. Of course, now I have to worry about whether he'll fit in there or whether he'll get kicked out. But at least I'll be out of the car while I'm worrying.

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