Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Updates

I know ya'll are just dying to hear what happened with the Beast's schooling. Here are the updates.

Sept. 20
I've found another school that will take him and work with me on helping him hear. He went to it for a month 2 summers ago, and did great. They have quite a few special needs kids there, so I know they'll be good. He goes Monday to try it out while I sit and observe to see how things go. It's only $200/month for 5 days a week 8-2:15, and that includes breakfast and lunch. We'll still have to work with the nap thing, but I can deal with that. So, we'll see.

I ran into the teacher I originally wanted him to have yesterday and she asked why he wasn't with her. I said I wondered the same thing. She said the school told her that I had requested this other teacher!!!! WHAT??!?!? This was the one teacher I really really didn't want. I hadn't heard great things about her, and I wouldn't put him in with a teacher who wasn't going to be there the first 6 weeks. He needs consistancy too badly to be able to handle that. I'm totally ticked knowing that the teacher I wanted actually requested him and was told she wasn't who I wanted. The whole thing just makes me mad and then sad and crying and then just mad again.

I chatted with a fried in the know last night and there are some legal things we can do. Once something is in an IEP, they MUST do it. None of the few things I asked for are happening. And I asked for less than half of what IDEA says he's entitled to. Heaven forbid I'd asked for anything more.

Sept. 23
I took him to his old pre-school that he LOVED for a visit and to decide if it would be the right place for him. He cowared in the corner the whole time. Wouldn't look at or play with the other kids. Wouldn't speak one word. He literally covered his face and hid behind me if his teacher (who he LOVES) spoke to him. This is NOT the child I sent to school three weeks ago. It's like they broke him somehow. They have just taken the Beast out of Beast. He did circle time with them, and the teacher let him hold the magic wand to do the ABC's, and you'd think they were asking him to cut off his right arm. He was just terrified to go up there in front of his peers. Same thing on the playground. He just hid at the top of the slide the whole stupid time. He couldn't wait to go home.

Then we went to speech therapy, and he hid behind my leg and signed to the therapist!!!! He has never once done that. She's oral only. He kept his head down and looked away from her just about the whole time. After about 40 minutes and bringing out some M&M's, she finally got him to mumble a few words for her. It was painful to watch. He loves this woman, and for him to be afraid of even her is the biggest red flag I can imagine. She was beyond stunned. I hadn't told her what was going on with him because I wanted her to see what she thought and how she felt he was doing. As soon as she saw him, she knew something was wrong. By the time I filled her in and she'd worked with him, she was just about ready to bring on a lawsuit herself.

He hides in the backseat when you so much as drive past his school's campus. I just feel so awful that he's been through so much, and I kept sending him there over and over and over. It won't be happening again.

I've spoken to everyone and their dog at that school. The lady at the head of Head Start feels terrible that it's gotten this bad. The school principle and the Sped. people have left her completely out of the loop on everything. The poor woman is trying all she can to meet his needs, but it's hard because I'm the one filling her in on what they're doing. Hello??!?!?! They're in the same building. How can communicating be that hard. The Sped. lady called me and said she and the principle and the Deaf Ed. teacher could see us tomorrow morning at 8:30. I asked if Head Start could be there, too. She said, "Oh, well..I guess we can get someone there, too." Like it was an afterthought or something. What the heck??? If you're putting my child into their program, shouldn't they have a say in how things go???? I'm pretty sure this problem with communication is what has created this mess.

Then, the sped. lady tells me that there have been three subs. in that class already. THREE!!! In three weeks!!!!! AGGGGHHH!!! And she says I shouldn't really listen to the aid since the aids aren't really all that experienced. WHAT?!?! If I wanted lack of experience, I'd open the yellow pages and send my child to the first daycare I see.

I finally decided to take advantage of my connections, and called the head of Deaf and Hard of Hearing services for all of North Texas. She has a LOT of power. We have a 3:30 conferance call with her today. I want to know where to go next to push this to a point that it NEVER happens to another child like mine. I want them to know what's going on and do whatever it takes to make them understand. It sounds mean, but I want the school district to hurt like he's hurting. I know they won't except for the fact that they'll lose some dollars, but that's something.

Then, we have that meeting tomorrow in person with the local district. They keep telling me to just give time for his regular teacher to come back because she's the best they've got. Then they say to give time for her to settle into things. I gave them time. They let my kid down. They hurt him enough after three weeks that we're going to be doing months and months of damage control that is going to cost us hundreds of dollars. Thank goodness dh is an only child of parents who would give anything for their grandbabies. That's what will save us.

After talking to the speech therapist and looking at things ourselves, we've decided on a plan. The therapist feels like (and I agree) anything they offer won't be good enough. He needs to go to a familiar place with teachers he knows and some peers he knows and then be treated with kid gloves for a while until he can rebuild his confidence in himself. It broke my heart to see him hunker down when people he loves tried to hug him. So, we're going to put him back into the school he visited yesterday. They love him there, and they know his quirks. They'll work with him and with us. They even have some elderly people that volunteer there that will give him lots of extra one on one time with hugs and love.

Today
We're back. I'm so tired and emotionally drained, but so relieved that it's done.

The head of Head Start, his intended teacher, the head of Sp. Ed., and the principal of his school were all there. They were very nice, and I'm sure feeling just a little nervous about what I was going to have to say. It really helped having dh there with me. Usually I do this stuff on my own.

The teacher he is supposed to have is VERY nice. She genuinely seems like she wants to work with him. That said, the aid in there makes me so nervous. This poor kid has been through so much that just putting him back in the classroom makes me nervous.

Everyone at the table did a good job of hearing me out. They listened to the whole story before trying to butt in at all, which I so appreciated. I needed to feel heard. Then, they started going point by point over each issue and trying to address it.

First, I think they know they've screwed up when it comes to his ARD. Not honoring its content has led to a lot of problems, including that they didn't know how to communicate with him in such a way that he could understand. I explained that, although he can hear, processing things takes a lot more work for him. I put into terms that they could "get", and I think that helped.

Second, it sounds like the aid made things worse than better. She told us that more than half the class is only three. Out of 17 kids, only 4 are three years old. 7 of them are returning kids, and it is possible that they haven't done a good job of integrating all the kids together into the classroom. So, that's something that has to be worked on.

As far as curriculum, they're going to be bumping it up. Since school has started without a teacher there (due to maternity leave), they've just been sort of doing whatever. She showed us what is in the plans for the next month, and it's MUCH more appropriate for the Beast. So, that's a good thing to see.

Then there was the issue of calling him by the name he's used to. The teacher was a little alarmed that he's been required to go by his given name. She said the kids do need to be able to write their given names, but can be called by whatever they're used to. I'll be watching to see that this really does happen. The Beast is not the first child to be told he can't go by his nickname, so I'll be a real stickler on this. When he hears us call him by his given name, he knows it's because he's in trouble. I wonder if that's part of the trouble. Maybe he's been thinking he's in trouble every single time they addrerss him.

The other thing we were concerned about was naptime. To me, it's cruel to give a kid a stuffed animal or a book and then tell them they have to just sit there and be quiet for an hour. Then, when he's not quiet, to punish him like he's some criminal or something. Not okay. So, the plan is to have him do "jobs" for the teacher during naptime whenever possible. When she has conferance or something, he'll be given tons of books to read rather than just one.

The teacher is scheduled to go back to school on Monday. She has been to the classroom each Friday with her new baby so she could get to know the class. The Beast has mentioned to me that she'd been there, so I know it's impacted him. She wants to come to the house to see him and let him show off his room (something that did NOT happen at his first home visit. At the first visit, they didn't even acknowledge that he was there, and only talked to me). When she's here, she's going to invite him to "help her come back to school". She wants to approach it like they're both going back together.

I really like the teacher. I think she sincerely wants to work with him, and is going to make some BIG changes and bring a lot more structure to the classroom. I'm still deeply concerned about the aid, who seems to have already gotten a bad taste in her mouth about him. I don't really want her to have any disciplinary control over the Beast.

The teacher does agree that, rather than picking on him for all his behaviors, we can choose a couple behaviors a month to really work on. We'll work at home on whatever he's working on at school. We also insisted that communication needs to be a whole lot better than what we've been seeing. There will be a weekly phone call as well as notes as needed.

While we were at the meeting, he went to his old pre-school. They were having a chaotic day there because it was picture day, so I wondered what would happen. I called around lunch time to see how he was doing. He was doing great! I went to pick him up half way through naptime. He was sitting on his mat with a pile of books about a mile high happily reading. He showed me his art that he made, told me he'd invited his teacher to come over for dinner, talked about the whole day, and was just the little chatterbox I hadn't seen in weeks. I finally got my kid back!!!!!

So, we're torn. Do I send him to the school I know he'll be happy at, even though it'll mean he misses out on some opportunities at the school he's currently in? Do I take the risk one more time and trust this woman who wants to be his teacher not to let him down and hurt him? It's such a hard choice. The Sp. Ed. lady made a point that hit me really hard, and I strongly agree with. She said that pulling him out denies him the chance to go back to the school and face what he's so hurt by. By letting him go back with his teacher as his ally, he gets a chance to see that those kids he thought weren't his friends can be his friends. He can learn that he is okay, and doesn't have to run away from his school. That makes SO MUCH sense to me. But, he's my baby. And he's been hurt before. And it's so hard to trust that he won't be hurt again.

We talked to him about it. He was thrilled to hear that his teacher wants to come to our house and see his room and be his friend. We drove him past the school, and he was excited to see it. So, those are good signs. Tomorrow night is open house there, and we're taking him. I want to see for myself how he relates to the aid and his peers.

I spoke to the director at the private school he was at today. I really love and trust her opinion. She had the idea to go ahead and let him go back with the understanding that we are watching very closely. One false move, and he's out. She suggested giving them until Christmas to make improvements with him. If we feel that something is still off even after all this, just pull him. She's holding a spot for whenever we need it for him. I LOVE that woman.

So, that's the plan. He's going back Monday with his teacher. They're getting some equipment in the classroom to help him drown out the background noise. They'll be checking to be sure he understands what is happening around him, and communication will be opened up. So, I'm just crossing my fingers. Luckily, the Beast is one of the most loving, trusting, and forgiving people I've ever met. He's an amazing little person. His mama, however, is still feeling very concerned about his well-being. But, that's my issue, and not his. It wouldn't be fair to deny him the chance to conquer this just because I'm scared for what will happen.

Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers. I only teared up once or twice. Not so bad. I was able to clearly convey my concerns in a way that I think they understood me. Now I'm just praying that it's not all empty promises, but that things really will improve for him.

1 comment:

Amy said...

I hope it all well for him.