Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A pleasant IEP meeting? Not impossible!

I've had good IEP meetings and bad ones, meetings that had school personnel making threats and ones that had me doing the same, some that were just too rushed or too manipulative or too annoying, but my favorite kind -- and the kind I've really had more often than not, at least in recent years -- are the ones that drift off into a long pleasant conversation between me and the teacher and therapists about how wonderful my child is. That's the kind I had today, for my son, with the child study team leader breaking in now and then to try and ask a serious question so she could do her work. Next year will be high-school transition year for my guy, and then we will have some serious things to discuss, and I can only imagine that meetings at the high school level for someone with his behavior challenges will be far less enjoyable, but for now: They like him. They really like him. And that's nice for a mama to hear.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Should I stay or should I go?

My son, the seventh grader, is doing more and more of his homework completely on his own. We have to nag him to his workspace at the kitchen table, but once he's there, he does a pretty good job of working independently. Which is great! Except that his writing is messy, and his teacher would like it to be neater. So she writes notes asking that we tell him to take his time and write slowly. Which you have to do constantly or you get one neat word and a mess after. But if we sit with him and prompt him and prompt him to write neatly, he's not working alone. And maybe, sometimes, because it's hard to just sit there and watch mistakes being made, we correct his work, too. So the work that goes to school is neat and also correct. Much more correct than the work he does at school. So the teacher writes notes asking us to make sure he does his work alone. Which he does. Which is great! Except that his writing is messy. You see where I'm going with this. As far as I can see, the teacher has two options: Messy writing done independently, or neat writing done with Mom or Dad hanging over shoulder. Personally, I'd opt for the former. But opt she must.

Monday, January 29, 2007

When your child's no longer the noisy one

We're still sitting in the "quiet room" in church -- a closed-in area at the back of the sanctuary where families of noisy children can see and hear but not be seen and heard -- partly out of long-standing habit, partly because being in a place where there's less stress on being quiet and still makes it easier for my son to be quiet and still. There are good days and less good days, but yesterday morning was one of those that made me realize how very far he's come. There was a little curly-haired blond boy in the room with us, and he had clearly just learned how to make the D and T sounds, because he was very, very motivated to show them off to everybody. "DIT! DIT! DIT DIT DIT DIT DIT DIT!" was what we heard, loudly, endlessly, punctuated by frequent but ineffective shhhhhs from his DAD! DAD! DAD! And although it was certainly distracting, I couldn't help but shoot many smiles at the noisy one, because I remember so clearly when my son was the one who Would Not Shut Up, and I also remember when being in the room with a kid who Would Not Shut Up would drive my son crazy. But this time he sat pretty quietly himself, no talking, no rolling around, no "Be quiet, baby!" Maybe it really is time we move into the "big church" and give it a try. But I'd miss these little reminders of big progress.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Not ready for prime time

Do you watch much TV? Do you watch much TV before 10 p.m.? I find it really hard to commit to anything that's on when my kids are awake (8 to 9 p.m.) or getting ready for bed (9 to 10 p.m.) By 10 p.m., I'm usually ready and able to watch, but by that time I'm half asleep. Still, I'm thrilled that Lost is moving to the 10 p.m. hour, so my husband and I won't have to keep shagging my son out of the room while we watch it, and I surely wish Grey's Anatomy would move later, too, because I have to keep running out of my room during the commercials to do prayers and teeth-brushes and tuck-ins. Of course, the commercial breaks in Grey's seem to last about five minutes each, so it's not like I'm missing anything. But it kinda ruins the mood, y'know?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Makeover day at the high school

Here is what they did yesterday in my daughter's high school art class: They painted. On her. Girls at the high school seem to be obsessed with getting my girl to wear makeup, and although I've offered many times to help her pick out some natural-looking and non-dramatic cosmetics, she wants no part of it. Not her style. She just wants to go un-made-up in her baggy sweatshirts and sweatpants and get people to stop telling her to paint her face and wear tight clothes. But yesterday she must have had a weak moment, or a bored one, and she let a girl put foundation on her and some lip gloss. The teacher was absent, so the class was in the auditorium with minimal supervision and I guess it was makeover day. My daughter didn't seem too upset about it, but she also didn't seem eager to hit the mall for some more face goop. Shouldn't kids be able to set their own individual style and be respected for that? Oops, I'm sorry. We're talking about teenagers here. Silly of me, I know.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Your vocabulary word for the day is "Mongoloid"

Alright, folks, tell me if I'm being oversensitive here. My daughter's reading a book in her high school resource-room class about children with disabilities who go to a mainstream camp and have some struggles fitting in there. So yesterday, she brings home her first list of vocabulary words for the book, and one of the words is "Mongoloid." This is a word she's being asked to memorize the definition of, and use in a sentence. Now, that word hits me as offensive, and I look it up in the dictionary, and the dictionary says it's offensive when used to describe a person with Down syndrome, which is the definition she's been given. I wrote a note to the teacher, questioning whether this was an appropriate word to put on a vocab list -- I have no problem with discussing it in class, and explaining its meaning in the context of the story and its time, but to ask kids to put it in a sentence? To test them on it, and expect them to add it to their vocabularies? No! Right?

The teacher just called me back and explained that it's a word that people use, and it's part of the English curriculum, and that when she quizzed the class none of them knew what it meant and so it's on the vocab list. Isn't it a good thing they don't know what it means? It just floors me that this is thought to be a good word to encourage them to use. The teacher kept mentioning that it's the word her grandmother used ... but gads, aren't there lots of words our grandmother used that we would never never never want to make part of the English curriculum today? This is a special-ed teacher! Am I nuts here? I hugely do not want to pick a fight with this teacher; she's just come back from a maternity leave, replacing a substitute who was neither a special-ed teacher nor a language-arts teacher and basically wasted a semester of my daughter's time. This teacher seems to be doing a lot of things that are right, and other teachers I respect have spoken well of her. But she clearly doesn't "get" my concern here, and so I'm wondering: Am I overreacting? What would you do if your child came home with "Mongoloid" as a vocab word to learn?

Of course, it doesn't help that my daughter put her brother's name down as her "cue" for remembering "Mongoloid," and put as her sentence "My brother is a Mongoloid," leaving me to explain that a) you must never, ever write or say a sentence like that and, b) your brother does not actually have Down syndrome. The fact that this word is being systematically taught to kids who don't have the filters on their thinking to use it correctly is pretty disturbing, too.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The book that kept me reading all weekend

I did something this past weekend that I really love to do but rarely manage: I read a book all the way through. Okay, I actually finished it up on Monday, but it's an almost-500 page book and I had less than 100 to go after Sunday. The page-turner in question was Tiny Titan, the non-fiction story of a family that survived through so many special-needs challenges that you cannot but put the book down at the end and say, "I am never going to whine about my simple, simple life again." (And, yet, I did whine about my simple, simple life yesterday, didn't I? Um, maybe I hadn't quite finished the book yet. I'm done with whining now, honest.) The titan of the title is a little girl born with Noonan Syndrome whose mother nursed and tended and advocated for her through innumerable medical crises. And then, when the medical crises were under control and the family budget was just starting to recover, what did this family of six do? Adopt another family of five from foster care, with suitcases full of emotional and mental-health baggage, including FASD, bipolar disorder, and RAD. Yet still they persevered, up and down, all along the roller coaster, in a book that's hard to put down. If you've got a free weekend, pick it up. It will make you feel better about the complications you face, and maybe a little worse because you don't face them with as much pluck and determination as the fightin' mom who wrote this book.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A remote and a pair of glasses slip into the great beyond

We're losing things around the house, and it's driving me crazy, crazy beyond all reason. None of these things are irreplaceable. They're not worth the tantrums I've been throwing, or the zealous straightening-up and grumbling. They're just things, much less precious than the people I've been yelling at about them. And yet something about not being able to find them, when I've looked everywhere they could possibly, possibly be, makes me feel out of control in a bad way. I have to be in control of so much -- the kids' educational situation, learning and medical and emotional issues, paperwork and referrals and reports -- losing control of something as stupid and simple as where the blasted DVD remote is is just maddening. Stressed much? Me? Nahhh.