When It Comes to Your Children

Children are unique beings. You can even look at your children and pick out some of their differences from their siblings. You may even find that your children are complete opposites of one another. This is the exact place that my boys are in. For instance, my oldest is this sweet and patient child. He was always curious, but very timid. He was calm and rarely found himself in trouble. Even now, he is a child that is well-regarded by every adult who meets him. And how can they not? He is very polite around them and speaks articulately to them as if he is a little adult. In fact, he may very well be an adult stuck in a very small teenager’s body. (I still cannot believe that I have to refer to him as a teenager.)

My youngest, on the other hand, makes other people tired just watching him. He is the definition of “trouble”. He’s curious, adventurous, and very, very willful. He is definitely not calm and he is nowhere near patient. Still, much like his brother, every adult that meets him falls instantly in love with him. He’s not a bad kid. He just requires a little bit more love and attention than other kids. In his 4 years on this planet, I have gone through situations I had never been through before. He needed surgery at 9 months old to remedy a birth defect. He was the first child to require special services at home, with a speech pathologist and a developmental specialist. I have to deal with IEP meetings and teacher conferences. This is the important point to this post.

In 2 weeks, we will have a meeting for his IEP, transition to Kindergarten, and if he stays in the program. We will also talk about his recent evaluation which revealed George to have a sensory integration disorder, something that sounds a lot worse than it actually is, and how the schools need to adjust to his needs. We will find out if he still gets speech therapy in grade school. We will find out if he still has an IEP. These are important things to know because with things like the IDEA act in question right now (who knows what is going to happen especially with plans to get rid of the department that is responsible for enforcing this act). Will my child continue to get the help that he needs?

Without the help that he has received, which fortunately I never had to fight for, will he thrive as well as he has? He’s a bright 4 year old that may still be behind on his speech but he can read. He is exactly the type of kid that would have once been left behind by the school system because he’s different. Realistically, he is a child that would have just been tossed in a special needs classroom in the past and forgotten. Which is a shame because he is a very bright child that if they could just get him to focus and settle down, he could go on to do great things in the future.

What is the point of this whole statement? There are a lot of things that charter schools and private schools do well, but when it comes to children like mine they are not the best places for them. These are schools that are best for children that fit in a specific mold and are not different. There is a place for public schools and there are a lot of great public school districts (like mine, for instance) that are going to suffer if they start losing money. Some districts need help to change to become better schools but that should be something to focus on rather than punishing the school districts who are thriving. When you start to take money from the schools that offer services to children in need (such as IEP students), there is a strong chance that these kids will lose these services. These children will be forgotten again. This is what I’m afraid of. When it comes to our children, sometimes we are the only ones who are willing to fight so we need to be their biggest advocates and put on the gloves.

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How My Son Got Into Preschool: The Interesting Journey through Early Intervention to Preschool

This is a continuation of sorts to my previous post, to which I will summarize for those who didn’t catch it. I was anxiously awaiting the decision of my son’s fate being able to continue services through our local preschool’s special needs program. My son started into this journey because he barely spoke one or two words by the time he turned 1. After nearly a year of Early Intervention services, he has come so far though he is still much behind other kids his age or even a bit younger. I see kids younger than him that have an easier time expressing themselves and communicating, and I feel guilty that I have somehow failed my toddler. It isn’t true though; I didn’t fail him. He only missed 3  weekly sessions between both specialists in the past year, due to illness. I sat by diligently observing the sessions to see how I could help him, and listened to every piece of advice I was given to help. At age 3, he would be able to receive these services no longer and our only hope to continue these types of services was through the local preschool.

The meeting went pretty much as I had predicted, which I will get into. The evaluators were the school psychologist and the speech pathologist. The psychologist started speaking quite frankly to us. “I witnessed some worrisome behaviors”. “He has incredible attention and focus issues and is really unable to sit still for any amount of time”. “He is quite brilliant”. I was all over the place with what was going to happen. Not that I didn’t understand what she was saying; I understood everything she was saying. But it was all mixed signals. I felt I knew where this was going though. The speech pathologist also remarked how intelligent he was, but noted that she did not feel he had a speech delay. (This point was argued by my son’s actual speech pathologist, stating that not giving him specialize services could be detrimental to his progress, as she feels he may be diagnosed with apraxia, which can’t be diagnosed until 3.)When that happened, my heart dropped. This experience could have been good for him. It could have helped him.

Finally, after the evaluators stopped talking, the head of the special needs program spoke and mentioned it was decision time. She informed us that she had a checklist she needed to go through to see if he qualified. She asked the speech pathologist if there was a speech delay, she said “no, not significant enough”. I remembered thinking it was easy for her to say after only spending 20 minutes with him. The special needs lead said “cognition and social delay”. The psychologist said “absolutely yes, to a point of hindering his speech and possibly his future education”. After a the rest of the list was “no”, I had started to give up hope that this was going to happen. The lead circled another item or two on the list, and looked up saying “your son qualifies for services, so we’re going to draw up the IEP”. The moral of this story? As I had predicted, he would not get in on his speech. Also as I predicted, he got in based on his overly energetic, mischievous, curious and often troublemaker behaviors. (It was later joked by my husband that they took so much pity on me for having to spend so much time alone with him that they figured they would give me a break.) Their reasoning? He would learn structure and be able to learn how to control his often wild inhibitions and channel that energy into focusing on his learning, which they feel would help him be significantly more intelligent than he already is. If they can get him to settle down, focus, and start paying attention, it will improve his speech, and earn them a medal in my book if they can accomplish that enormous feat.

They started to write his IEP. “He is not to be left unsupervised at all; he will escape and do what he wants”. Fact: they are right. “May need breaks from the classroom to release some of his overabundance of energy”. Also fact, though it’s been my experience that he has a never-ending flow of energy. My kid will be the one having his hand held in the line because he won’t walk in it, and my mother and speech pathologist have correctly identified that it is better this way as he would probably lead a group of rogue toddlers away from the group and go to the playground by themselves. I will not complain. All that matters to me is that he got into preschool, with a guaranteed and free slot through the special needs program. He will get a positive start in his education that I would never have been able to afford. The speech pathologist said that they will quickly learn my son’s difficulties with speech and change his IEP to include services. There is no negative here. The system worked, and I couldn’t be happier.

 

Failing Our Children

As a parent, you’re supposed to love your children. Loving them isn’t special or noteworthy; it’s human. Not loving your child just makes you something else. Loving your child does not make you a good parent; all that other stuff does. The times that you really want to sleep but stay awake with your vomiting toddler and comforting them. The times when you think you’re dying of a cold but take as much medicine as you need to suck it up because your children don’t take a time out just because you need to. Parenting is really about every fight that you do to better your child’s life in even the slightest way. Those fights and struggles are what makes a good parent.

From the moment my youngest was born, I knew I was going to have to fight harder than ever. From the beginning, he had issues that we knew that would require some amount of strength, though thankfully nothing too serious. We knew he had a minor birth defect that would need repair. We visited the specialist every few months until his surgery and spent the longest day of our lives waiting to bring him home. We had hoped that we could just be after that.

As far as his motor skills were concerned, he was always advanced and impressed his doctors. From the beginning, it was clear that he was his own person and to hell with everyone else. It wasn’t until his first birthday that I had any concerns about him, aside from having surgery at 9 months old. The minute you find out your child has any sort of developmental delay, you wonder what you could have done to prevent it. You try everything in your power to fix it, because as a parent, you want to fix everything to help your child. We tried everything: we read more, we got programs for tablets and computers, I started to go about my day as if I were a sports announcing describing even the most mundane activity aloud to help him. Six months later, nothing had worked and we left the doctor’s office deflated. She referred us to Early Intervention. Soon after, we did the evaluations and we started with a developmental specialist. Nothing. He learned how to sign, which was great to at least help us communicate a little. After a few months, she decided to add-on a speech pathologist to his developmental team. After a few weeks, there seemed to be limited improvement. We had a neuropsych evaluation to see if he was autistic, nothing. Finally, he started picking up language little by little and I firmly believe that these interventions are the difference.

We did all our “homework”. I sit through 2 sessions a week, watching on as they help my son. At age 3, he will age out of this program that has helped him so immensely. The specialists agree he’s not where he needs to be, but at 3, there is nothing more they can do for us. So we started the steps to get into the “transitioning” program. This helps EI (Early Intervention) kids move into preschool to continue services. They will get an IEP, and get free preschool. This would be huge for George, as there is a fear from everyone that he could regress without continued services. Our Early Intervention team has no say in what happens now. We did the evaluations at the school, we did the meetings, and the day has come for their decision. Getting into this school system’s particular program is notoriously difficult, and everyone has been very upfront about that. All I can do is hope.

This leads to a bigger issue with the education system that I had written about in my last Education class in college. It was a class about special needs. Our final paper was about teaching special needs, and we had to pick a topic from a list of papers. I was the last one to get the list, and I had discovered that there was one particular group that no one was doing a paper on: the gifted and talented kids. This group of children are especially ignored, because people think that they are smart so they don’t need help. Realistically, these children need an IEP just as much as any other kid with special needs. Since they don’t, they are often set up for failure. That is the fault of our schools, not truly “leaving no child behind”. My son, who is too young to be labeled as such, as shown skills and thought processes far beyond his age and his specialists note that. I fear that this will hurt his chances of getting the help he needs. I fear that him not getting in this program will set him up for failure in the future. My biggest fear, is that he will regress back to what his language was before he received help, and he will be disregarded when he starts school because they don’t realize his true potential because of a lack of speech.

I will go into this meeting with my head high, and fight as  much as I can. I’m tired though. I’m tired of fighting. But he needs this, and I need to fight for him because I know no one else will. That is what makes a good parent: the fight.

The Importance of an Education

Ever since I started to attend college, I knew that I wanted to go all the way with it. I wanted to be that ass that made people I didn’t like refer to me as Dr. LaRochelle, just because. That would be a half joke, I probably would pull that card out but probably only in jest. I wanted to do it because it would be awesome to be so accomplished that you could add a Ph.D to my name. I don’t mind hard work, and surprisingly I loved college. Someday, I keep saying. Someday.

First, I would have to manage my masters. Every now and then I think about it, then I start paying bills and realize I still (after about 6 or so years) owe around $30,000 in student loans from my B.A. Maybe now, as a homeowner in a single income family, I can get financial aid! I started to get excited at the possibility of finally getting there. I had the school in mind, Southern New Hampshire University (online of course). They are one of the only schools that I cam across that offers a master’s degree in Creative Writing. I did a FASFA calculator to see how much aid I qualify for. To my surprise, things like mortgages and single income families do not matter in assistance. Either way, my husband makes too much to qualify for anything like any other assistance. I sighed, and put the idea on the shelf. Maybe when my loans get paid off in another 40 years I can go. It makes sense though, what will a degree in creative writing even do? I might be able to get a job at a college to teach a bunch of kids about writing. I could waste my degree being a freelancer, as I do now, while trying to sell novels.

When I was younger, I was pushed into college by a loving man who I eventually ended up marrying. He reinforced what a huge influence on my in high school said to me. He said “you’re way to smart not to do it”. He was right. It became more than that. I looked at my then infant son and decided I didn’t need to do it for me. I knew I was intelligent. I needed to do this for him. I needed to show him just because I gave up college out of the circumstance of having him while in high school, does not mean I had to be another statistic. I wanted to show my son that you should just go and follow your dreams and get an education. Just because I was a mom did not mean I had to just give up and settle. Being a mom meant I shouldn’t settle because that was a lesson my child or future children would learn. Settling means accepting defeat or sitting on the couch on welfare just because you can. Settling means flipping burgers at a fast food place because it’s easy that way. I don’t settle.

The look of pride in everyone’s face that showed up when I walked was everything I needed to know that all the emotional struggle was worth it. And if I ever get the chance to get my masters? I will be incredibly proud because it would be such an accomplishment. I don’t need it though, because I have accomplished so much. I’m young and own my first house. I’m successful at being a mom. I do have a quasi-successful freelancing career. Hell, I have even sold a few of my eBooks. I have already done more than I would have if I never stepped foot into college to begin with. I can die and be OK with that. I’m not jealous of people with their master’s, because if they are willing to rub it in people’s faces then they don’t have the sort of happiness I do with my life. If I ever get it, I will be happy that I managed to do it while managing my life as a mom, wife, and writer. If not, I will just enjoy what I have because there’s no point in being sad because I have so much.