Over Protected

I love Law and Order. When I was in college my roommate like to watch Wheel of Fortune every day at 6:00 p.m., so I went out and bought a TV to put in my room so I didn’t miss re-runs of L&O. Yes, I was that sad–I didn’t want to miss a single re-run.

So now that I don’t even have TV, I get my fix with DVDs from the library or streaming on Netflix. You would think I’ve seen every episode by now, but apparently the re-run people only show certain ones and every season has a few I’ve never seen before.

There’s this one episode–I’ve seen it before–but the was BC (Before Charlie) and I never really considered the issues involved the first time I watched it.

The gist of the story is that a woman with Down Syndrome gets pregnant, but since she knows nothing about reproduction, she can’t tell the police how she got pregnant. They, of course, catch the bad guy, and even tie the story up with a nice little bow, but there was some moralizing in there about the mom being over-protective and not giving her child a chance at a more normal life.

And that’s just another thing to add to the recipe that is parenting a special needs child:  Over protection. It’s not just a Britney Spears song.

boy looks at camera

It sounds simple in theory, but reality always seems to be a wee bit different than the theories. For example, I worked with kids with learning disabilities in regular classroom settings. I know that many of them made good gains and probably learned more than if they’d been in a resource setting. I know all that and I still have no idea how I feel about putting Charlie in a regular classroom–even with an aide. There’s a boy at Charlie’s school who is two years ahead of him and who has a very similar condition. He can speak and his wheelchair is green, but other than that, they are very similar. His mom fought HARD to have him placed in a regular Kindergarten class for most of the day. Would I have been that brave? I’m not sure. The idea of letting Charlie sit in a regular class with a regular kids–away from the warm cocoon of his special needs classroom? Yeah, that makes me feel squirmy inside.

It’s easy to spot it when other parent’s are doing it, but when it’s you? Not so much. That floating outside your body this is tough when you’re not in the movies.

I’m not keeping myself up at night or anything, but like I said, it’s just one more thing to think about: am I holding my child back? Is my need to keep him safe keeping him from doing everything he wants?

Ahhhh. . . because just being a parent isn’t hard enough.

boy looks away and smiles

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  1. I love these pictures! He is so happy!

  2. I actually have thoughts on this that you may find helpful having been “that kid” in school that may help you. But would you mind if I got my thoughts together on the subject a little first?

    By the way I’m the same way with NCIS, which I am watching right now.
    And that 2nd picture of Charlie just made my day. I will gladly babysit if you ever need me to, just saying.

  3. How is it you have the uncanny ability to write what I am thinking at a given moment? DH and I just had a gut wrenching discussion along these lines this evening. No one ever told us parenting was this hard.
    Our issue: It is unlikley Owen will benefit from private school. Is it fair to send his older sister knowing we can afford to send only one????? What if we make the worng choice for her?, for O?
    Why is it children do not come with instruction manuals?

    • Andrea–I don’t know the specifics of your situation (duh), but as someone who went to private school and worked in public, I feel strongly that in many cases, public school is a better option for special needs kids. I’m sure it’s not true in every case–I can name a few parents who’ve gone with private school for their special needs kiddos–but from my experience, there’s more money and more experience in the public schools with regards to special needs. So you may find your self in a situation where the “best” fit for each of your children isn’t the same place.

      I honestly feel, though, that no matter where a child goes to school, good home environment and supportive parents are some of the greatest determiners of success.

      Sorry, I’m going on and on here–you’re the mama! You know best!

  4. This is protection related but way different – so my husband’ and his young teenaged boys attended a memorial today for a 21 year old member of their church who just died from a self-inflicted gun wound. Everyone says it was accidental (and I’m sure they’d like to believe that, as would I) but from the dearth of media coverage of an accident, and a few cryptic comments on the young man’s facebook wall I have to wonder about it. Will my stepsons wonder about it? Think it is an option? A boy who is my stepsons’ friend had a comment on his facebook wall one day later – “Pssst” – then an hour later – “Got a full clip, theres no space in my semi nine. ” Now this kid I do know (we see him less since he jumped off my roof and broke his arm) and he is smarter than my boys, well mannered, has vastly better communication skills, etc., and I’ve always liked that he was close to my boys because I thought his smarts were a good influence. And now? Was he callous to make that comment? A joke unrelated to a friend’s death/possible suicide? Is it just an oblique reference to his video game persona? How do I overprotect my kids from this kind of stuff? it is too late for the boys – they don’t live in my house and I cannot quell the bloodlust for the games and my husband doesn’t care to try, but my wee little girls? What will social media show them in ten years time? How do I protect them! I NEED THE MANUAL!! School choice between gifted and special needs or the neighborhood public school where they can attend together and I will be able to save $ for college . . . ouch, yes, but keeping my kids away from guns and those who are cavalier about them? How?

  5. My 2 cents. I believe whether or not to pursue regular classes for special needs children depends upon the child. As you know, a person in a wheelchair does not equal incapable of learning – their brains can be perfectly “normal”, it’s just their bodies that don’t function well. Special needs people who have brain abnormalities are not incapable of learning – there are varying degrees. Parents have to be honest with themselves.

    Can my child really benefit by being in a regular class? If not, so what! Let them stay in the special needs classroom. If so, then the question beckons – What level is my child on? A 10 yr old special needs child may need to be in a 6 yr old “regular” classroom. Forcing a special needs child into regular classes could be a recipe for disappointment for the child. Kids at very young ages know who the “smart one” is, who the athletic one is and so on. If you put your child in a situation that’s too advanced for them, it’ll only make your child feel bad.

    Of course as a parent of a special needs child, you want to protect him from the mean kids who poke fun and/or bully those that are different, but if the teachers handle the situation correctly, mainstream kids can learn a lot, especially compassion for those that are “different’. In schools that provide special needs classes, it would nice if one period a week the older children in the school were required to help out in the special needs classes. Many life lessons could be learned.

  6. Katy, I worry about some of these things to and I know it is nothing like your worries. Hannah’s only special need is her life-threatening food allergies. But I am a kindergarten teacher with children from a self-contained special ed classroom included in my room, so I have experience on the non-parent end of it if you ever want to chat.

  7. I still remember L&O:SVU games on spring breaks…. I never could manage to ever explain it to anything else and make it mean sense.

  8. I don’t know. I was in a regular classroom my entire public school career, and sure there were rough moments in the early grades where I was overlooked by teachers because I had one to one help, or I couldn’t keep up with the physical pace of the other kids. Ultimately though, I credit my “integrated education” with giving my the ability to go to university, graduate, start a career etc., etc. and lead a blissfully typical life, when held up against my able-bodied contemporaries.

    I would say that I was similar to Charlie, but with fluent speech. I don’t know if it’s different where you are but in my public school, resource seemed in retrospect to be more about behaviour management, all the academics were way below grade level. Here at least, you don’t see kids who are primarily physically-disabled in those settings. But obviously, you know more about his options.

    I could go on for days about my public school experience (some good, some bad) but in the end, Charlie will live in the “typical person’s world” his whole life, and I think it’s good for his classroom environment to reflect the fact that he is different but he still has a place among his peers. Resource seems to me, to promote “segregation based on ability” and that lesson makes me very, very, squeamish.

    Also, my opinion does not matter at all, but thanks for reading it anyway. 😀 Sorry it’s so long.

    • Thanks Danielle! “Charlie will live in a typical persons world his whole life, and I think its good for his classroom environment to reflect the fact that he is different but he still has a place amoung his peers. Resource seems to me, to promote “segregation based on ability” and that lesson makes me very very squeamish” Im going through this with my son at the moment, hes globally delayed but has extensive physical delays that skew his cognitive / understanding ability. But his caseworker is trying to convince us he needs to be in the medically disabled preschool but Im so torn as I feel that segregates him from any typical peers all day every day. I want him to only go 3 days a week so he can continue his playgroups, swimming lessons, etc that he does with typical kids.Being around peers seems so importatnt to me but his team dont seem to be budging :(

  9. Oh man. Like we need something else to add to the list? I do want my bird to live a normal life, but I have to scale back the dream to what can be normal for her. I’m not there yet. On my way, though!

  10. Have you seen Including Samuel? It’s a great portrait of inclusion for different families, one of which has cp. I have taught in private schools all over the world and in my experience there was little to no support at most of them for kids with additional needs. I even worked on a committee to start a program at one of those schools. I have also worked in a resource room when in the the states. I am a strong believer of inclusion but it needs to be done properly and it has to be based on the individual. This is also demonstrated in Dan Habib’s doco mentioned above. Check it out if you haven’t already.

  11. There is a boy, Andrew, who was in Luke’s preschool class. Andrew is now in 4th grade. I don’t know his story other than he is in a power wheel chair, unable to talk, and has control of one hand/arm. He has this fancy computer/aug com device attached to the chair, and he is in the regular class ALL day. Accademically he is on target. Other than the computer/aug com device he has very limited services. 4th graders in our district learn how to play the recorder. His mom programed an instrament on his aug device :-) It didn’t start that way in kindergarten, but that is where it is now.

  12. Sigh I know this feeling too well!
    I am guilty of it and I will have it no other way!

    However, I will say that it is a crazy question to deal with BUT you need to go with your gut not your fears when it comes to what you think your child can do.
    The principal of my son’s pre-school made a point that I always refer to when I am feeling fear…. the only way that you would know what your son can accomplish is if you try him at the harder level. In my case it was putting him into a mainstream school with an aide (shadow) with out a special needs programme. I was looking for small school maybe homeschool.
    Once I let go of my anxieties for him I was able to see that he could do it.
    It is a challenge on us both but he is doing it…. and you will probably see the same for Charley
    Glad he is okay by the way>

    • By the way was a big fan of the entire Law and Order franchise… especially Law and Order Special Victims Units but I found that after awhile I started having nightmares or sleepless nights from SVU and my overprotectiveness catapulted so much that I had to stop. It was too traumatic for me and made me think of the what could happen if …
      Sigh yeah I know am clearly over sensitive and silly :s

  13. I just cried reading this. I know how you feel. I’ve been there, obviously. I feel the need to tell you a little secret. Before Jailen aged out of Early Steps I had EVERY intention of homeschooling him. We lived with my parents. I was unemployed. It just seemed like that’s what needed to be done for his safety. When the time came, Jailen’s NeuroSurgeon absolutely REFUSED to write me a “homebound” letter. He said that Jailen would be fine & that he needed to see the outside world. He needed to learn from experience. As I begged & pleaded & cried my eyes out to this man, he stood his ground & never gave me that letter. He swore that everything would be fine, that I was just being overprotective. He also promised me that I would cry way more than Jailen about the whole situation. Turns out he was right. Jailen wouldn’t be where he is now if he hadn’t been given the chance. Since then I’ve learned to let go a little & make Jailen do things that ‘normal’ kids do…such as Kindergarden. Turns out I am the one crying the most, & he’s having the time of his life. It’s rough stuff, but it’s what’s best for Jailen. P.S.: We never went back to that doctor! haha Just a “Mom” thing, I guess.