Peeling the Onion

Louie has been in school for about a month and he has learned so much. He’s learning how to use instruments in music class, he’s learning to walk from one place to another without throwing a big fit, he’s playing with puzzles, and sliding on slides. He is happy and that is probably the best part for me–picking up a little boy who is emotionally intact and at peace.

We had to have a conference for Mr. Louis as well, though. While I know and see that he is happy, he is still throwing a lot–LOT–of tantrums and he scares his teacher almost daily. Twice I’ve had to sign a paper stating that he hit his head on the pavement outside while doing this. He’s fine–no bumps or bruises–but definitely scaring his sweet teacher.

He’s also got some of what I would call “Lost Boy” behavior–stealing food, wandering around during meals, crying when he has to wash his hands, etc. These are, sadly, my fault. My kids share food freely and I’ve made almost no attempt to correct that behavior. My kids are all strapped in during meals to prevent wandering–when you have four, and one with food allergies, you don’t risk things.

We’ve agreed to send in the Psychologist that Early Steps has provided. She works on these very things and was recommended when it became clear that the boys were developing around each other rather than developing along the typical track. Say what you want, twins are never boring. Well, mine aren’t, anyway.

So, we thought we had most things figured out when BAM! another piece of news fell in my lap today. A while back we did a sensory profile for both boys and the daycare teachers filled out out as well. Guess who came back with the most sensory issues? That would be Louie.

Sooooooooo. . . that might be part of the problem at school. And when I think about it, it might explain some of his behavior at home as well. He LOVES to slam things. And bang things. And honestly? That’s just Louie, but maybe it’s also some sensory-seeking behavior.

The OT is going to go to school armed with this new information and hopefully she’ll have some suggestions for them as well.

These kids, man. They are something else.




Another Shooting. The Same Answers.

Seven years ago I walked through a classroom and spotted a student I knew needed help. I was an inclusion teacher at the time. I worked in other people’s classrooms with students who needed special education services. I might read passage aloud to kids with reading disabilities. I might pull kids out for further instruction. I might shorten assignments to make them more manageable. I wasn’t certified to do the job, but I think I did a pretty good job at it.

One day I spotted a new student I knew that he should be mine. He had that look–he didn’t know what was going on and you tell just by the look on his face. I looked in on him a few more times–sometimes he looked spacey, other times he seemed  a little hyper, but one thing was clear: he wasn’t engaging with the material. He was a transfer student, so I took the time to go downstairs and pull his file to see if he’d been identified as needing special education. Usually we were pretty up-to-date on this, but sometimes a child’s status could get lost in the transfer process.

When I found his folder I discovered the dreaded yellow paper. The yellow paper meant that someone else had seen what I saw–a student falling behind–but the child had no qualified for special education services. There are many different way a person can qualify for special education–some children qualify because of learning disabilities, which is a proven gap between I.Q. and performance. Other children qualify because their I.Q. is too low. On average, an I.Q. of 90-110 is considered average. Most children with an 80 or above will do fine in school. Not great, but should be able to pass. Kids 69 and below qualify for special education. In between 69 and 80 are ten points. Kids in that range have almost no chance of success in school. Their I.Q.’s show you that they don’t have the foundation that they need to be successful in the upper. they’re not allowed extra help or shortened assignments, though. Instead, they are left to languish in the school system until they either flunk out or drop out.

So when I saw that yellow piece of paper my heart sunk because i knew that there were very few option for this child. Someone with a low IQ may achieve a great many things–but this is with a fantastic support system. I have seen it, so I know it can happen, but I was working in a low-income school and most of my students did not have a fantastic support systems. In fact, they were in need more than the average kid–may of my students didn’t have enough supervision, food, heat, or beds.

The child I spotted that day failed for the year and was held back. If you don’t know, getting held back almost guarantees that a person will never finish high school–it’s the death sentence of a person’s education. Still, we lock them into the same track as everyone else and hpe that things will be different. That somehow this child will beat the odds when they are already up against so much.

I saw him in the hall one day during his second go at the eighth grade and the light had gone out from behind his eyes. I don’t know if he was using drugs, but he was blank when you looked at him. He stood in the hall blatantly breaking a basic school rule and I was forced to intervene. I have worked with criminals and gang members and very little phases me, but this child made me nervous. He just didn’t care.

akein scott

I don’t know why Akien Scott shot into a crowd of people on Mother’s Day. I do the expression on his face reminded me of a boy a knew six years ago who had given up.

We fail children almost every day.

We fail to meet their need for an education that is appropriate for their abilities.

We fail to give them took to help them be successful and productive adults.

We fail to provide them with a support system that could guide them to meaningful adulthood.

We shove them into a one-size-fits-all education model that is a bad fit for many.

We place them in desks and tell them to be quiet.

We let them know that if they ant to be something like a mechanic or a welder that first they must fail many times in the traditional system. They must be demoralized for years before they can become something.

We ignore their innate gifts.

Before this, parents will fail. After this, the criminal justice system will fail, but there are things we can do. We can support the trades and the arts as much as we support traditional academics. We can stop supporting the idea that a cookie cutter education serves anyone. We can volunteer with after school art and music programs. We can tutor. We can be a big brother or big sister. We can support Boy’s and Girl’s club. There are things that can be done–perhaps we keep the door from shutting on these young lives. Perhaps we can turn some of these stories around.

Right now in New Orleans and in other parts of the state, we are busy creating a secondary school system–one that will effectively shut the door on these students much earlier. If you only see your mom three times a week, what are the chances she’s going to go and fill out an application to get you into a Charter School? If you have trouble reading and writing, no voucher in the world is going to make a private school keep you. If you’re disabled, they won’t let you in in the first place. If we reward teachers for high test scores, where’s the incentive to work with the students who need the most help? People want to know WHY and there are many reasons, but this is one of them. We chip away at a person’s self-esteem until they are convinced there’s nothing left to lose. This is something that we can address. Instead, we want to blame everyone else. It may be someone else’s fault, but they’re not changing any time soon. We can. We want to think that casting a vote will change what is, in essence, a problem of an entire community–of an entire nation. We create these children together and together we suffer the consequences.

I don’t know all the answers, but I know this–children that need help should be helped. Before we get another reminder of how badly they need us.

Shrink A Dink Dink

So yesterday? I think it was yesterday. I started losing my mind a while back (sometime between babies 3 and 4 to be exact), and I’m not sure it’s ever coming back.

So yesterday. Yesterday a child psychologist came to the house to evaluate the twins.

After my own shrinking experience, I was ready to just cancel the whole thing, but I pretended to be a grownup, cleaned up a little, and braced myself to try things out at least once. I did not, however, bother to put on real pants. I mean, if she’s going to see how things really are, she’s going to need to meet my pajama pants. I only put on real pants if I’m leaving the house.

Where was I? Oh yes, the shrink.

So she came over and immediately started asking me questions and I was a prepared to hate her, but then. . . I didn’t.

She had actual, concrete suggestions for dealing with the issues I’m facing as the mom of four children, three of whom seem to have some kind of special need. Also: she didn’t appear to be waiting for me to cry. She watched the kids, we talked about each of them. She played with them some. She didn’t bat an eye when I put on an Elmo video so she and I could talk without screaming/running/crying/whining/begging. It was good.

She called the state and was harsh with some people about why we don’t receive any respite care for Charlie. They’re going to call us. It’s bound to be a debacle, but it was nice of her to call.

She recommended some management techniques for dealing with Louis’s problem areas–baths and diaper changes–and then talked at length about how he doesn’t really seem to be progressing these days.

louis lake

We talked about August who was his flirty best–smiling at her, playing games–just generally being his little impish self. She also got to see him flap with excitement over Elmo and spend every available minute trying to sit in my lap. She agreed that he has very uneven skills and that his social skills seem quite good. There’s something definitely going on there, but exactly what is still a bit of a mystery–he’s not classic autism, but some kind of developmental delay? Who knows.

She recommended I put the twins in daycare for one or two days a week. She explained that at their age, the boys are starting to “mirror.” With no good models for play or language (their older brother isn’t a great role model either–eep!), they’re mimicking each other. This might work if they were both chugging along normally, but instead we’ve got August over in a field of dandelions next to the path that is normal development. He’s spinning, he’s happy, he may even be making some progress, but he’s distracting Louie and that’s no good. It’s even possible that if they continue this field frolicking long enough, they could derail Rex as well. You can just guess how excited I am about the prospect of MORE therapy.

rexie lake


Louie definitely needs daycare so he can see normal development. August would probably benefit as well, but even just getting Louie in there should start moving things along. I’m going to have to call some places and see if anywhere has a summer opening–I’ve never heard of this, but apparently some daycare centers have spots open up in the summers when teachers take their kids out for the ten weeks that is summer break. I’m hoping to slide Louie and maybe even August into one of those slots.

She also taught me an ABA routine for getting kids really good at responding to their names. If you aren’t familiar with ABA, it’s the considered the most-effective treatment for kids with autism. From what I can tell, it is a LOT like training a dog. My dog wanders into the street every other day and sleeps on my husband’s pillow when we’re not looking, so I’m sure we’re going to be GREEEAAAT at this. Still, it would be nice if the kids were better at coming when they’re called. Right now they only do it when I call them inside and that’s because I pretend to lock them out if they don’t hustle. They tell me my Mother of the Year Award is in the mail in case you were wondering.

After the proper paperwork is filed and red tape is applied in the appropriate places, the psychologist should be coming out every two weeks or so to see how things are going and help me with tips, pointers, and possibly dog treats. I might have made that last one up.

stroller lake

I’m feeling oddly optimistic about the whole thing. We’ll see how long that lasts.

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