Reflections on Special Needs

Adams Corner - Schulhaus 2
I went to another meeting at my kids’ school last night, this time a general information evening on programmes available through the school for kids with special needs of various sorts.

Sadly there weren’t many people there at all, but I wonder if the very fact of having special needs children also makes it harder to get out the door of an evening. In any case, being actually the only parent there (along with a couple of teacher aides) gave me the opportunity to ask a few questions informally. One of those was, what is ”normal”? My mother keeps asking me this, as everyone around us seems to ”have something”. Although it may be an unfair question in the context of our family, which is pretty much riddled with ADHD and Aspergers and other eccentricities. Maybe there’s just no “normal” in our family and circle of friends.

But my question is genuine and not loaded, though I think it was misunderstood that way, as the answer came back in reassuring words that included “no such thing as perfection”. No, I get that, but I am not asking if other kids also have ”imperfections”. I also get that people are all somewhere on a a theoretical bell curve of normality. But what is “normality” if you were to diagnose it? Does anyone have diagnosable normality?

I guess it’s the outliers on the bell curve, and specifically the ones who struggle with life, who are labeled with things like autism, ADHD, etc, because by nature, diagnoses measure dysfunction, and those who function well, or ok – or seem to – within the system are considered “normal”.

But what strikes me, and it’s heartbreaking, that it’s very, very hard for most of those outliers to be ok. Even with the knowledge and personal experience I have as a parent, and the support of a wonderful school, it’s still hard for my kids to be ok, so for those people who grow up without understanding parents and schools, the result can be disastrous. These are bright kids, with amazing, out-of-the-box minds, who are very vulnerable.

One hurdle to receiving what help is available is that vulnerable kids are not always obviously vulnerable. A child can be unobtrusive and obedient, and be quietly crumbling inside. Or they may be acting out and causing havoc, but this behaviour is in itself a communication that all is not right. And sometimes, ironically, the parents may be doing such a good job that it appears that strategies and accommodations are unnecessary.

However, the information coming out of the talk was reassuring. There is now, unlike when my generation was at school, an emphasis on inclusive education for special needs kids, and our school especially, as well as apparently the Ministry of Education itself finally, is stepping up to take care of individual needs. One concern would still be whether kids like mine, whose needs are not ‘severe’, will slip through the cracks. I think this is still an issue in the Ministry in general, but at this school, they are definitely learning to cater for higher functioning kids as well, and that is a relief, especially as we face high school in the near future.

 

IEP – Follow Up

Emily Shanks Newcomer at School

So the IEP the other day went super well. I was vaguely anxious beforehand and wondering if I had prepared enough, but on the whole I didn’t think I could do much more – the rest would be down to how the school would choose to work with it and us. Having said that, I was fairly confident, since last year’s meeting was very productive, and conducted with a brilliant attitude and heaps of understanding on their part.

New teacher and Senco this year, but once again, I felt very much in caring and competent hands. And they start their meetings with prayer – this is a school which does what it says on the side of the box when it comes to pastoral care and the spirit of Jesus’ teachings, and starting with prayer is committing the outcome to upholding those standards, and I really appreciate that.

And the Prof’s teacher actually had a great report on him – far better than I’d anticipated. According to her, over the course of the first term, he has become more relaxed and happy, he smiles more, and is coping relatively well with interactions with other students. (He even has some girls who consider him their ‘friend’ – oh, that is so awkward, cringe! I don’t think he reciprocates. He’s so anti-social even imaginary friends would be unwelcome.) His organisation and time management are also good (which is not much short of miraculous for a kid I had to dress for school until he was at least 6, just to get to there on time! Although it does concern me that his driver is anxiety.) His pace is another issue altogether. That is a big concern, but at least there are strategies in place around that to work with.

All in all, it was great to just sit down and communicate with the teacher. What I find most difficult generally is that although home and teacher are supposed to work together, I’m not there, so I don’t have a clear picture of what structures and expectations are in class, and of course they only have a superficial picture of him. But having the opportunity to turn all those issues over between us was such a relief.

 

 

We are NOT helicopter parents

treading very lightly

treading very lightly

 We are NOT helicopter parents: An article in the HuffPost by WP blogger Cate at The Clear Parent which I think sooo many of us could relate to.

This is exactly what I want to say to teachers, even when they’re not arguing or condescending, just being very polite while I try to walk the line between looking after my child’s needs and getting all up in their faces.

And I really do try. But there’s that first day at a new school where you know your child’s anxiety is through the roof, but no one else can see it, because they sit where they’re supposed to, and do what they’re told without a fuss, and keep still and quiet, and don’t cry, but you can see it because it’s in their eyes like shards of glass, so you stand outside the class where they can see you and tell them you’ll be on campus for a while, because you know that once they get over the initial shock, they’ll be fine, and no one will ever know there was a trainwreck on the cards, because you prevented it by reading your child’s eyes when no one else could.