Friday, November 7, 2014

fish in a tree, how can that be?

 "...if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

Too often my fish is told to climb a tree. It is heartbreaking, and it is frustrating, and it is going to stop.  

photo by Sarah Bottarel Photography

My child does not fit in to the box, figuratively speaking of course. He refused to "perform" for the assessment the Parents as Teachers lady gave him this week, but he can do most of the activities he wouldn't do for her. (The ones he can't do I am very well aware of, and even said to her, "Move on. He can't jump/cut with scissors/draw that line. He has cerebral palsy.") If a child doesn't fit into a box, the system will do everything they can to make you want to get your child to fit in the box. And honestly, I do not care if my child - my children - fit into someone's box of preconceived box of what they should be able to do. Obviously I care about learning and growth and skills. We have sought out numerous therapies and work on things all of the time. I want Bugaboo to walk safely, be able to do stairs, be able to do fun things like jump and run and throw a ball. I want him to communicate effectively and be able to hold a spoon easily and write his name someday. I want him to have friends to play with. But if I hear the word socialization one more time I will probably scream.

One of the most eye-opening things in my life has been attending IEP meetings as a parent instead of a teacher. Oh my word. When we had IFSP meetings (birth-three) with FirstSteps those always went pretty smoothly. But at three we had to transition to the public school system, and it has not been a fun or pretty process. I'm an educated and opinionated parent, which means they can't push me around. Plus, I took school law and special education law for my administration program. In addition to knowing the system pretty well, I choose to only minimally use the system for a variety of reasons because at this time I educate my children at home. All of this to say that the process coordinator doesn't really like me much.

This was the process coordinator, who before knowing my background - tried telling me last year that an IEP was not a smorgasbord. To this I began throwing around educational jargon to inform her that yes, actually an IEP IS a smorgasbord since the "I" stands for "Individualized."  They made sure she was at our meeting today, even though her name was not on the notice of meeting form we received. But we were ready for her and her protests when we told them we wanted Bugaboo to go back to itinerant services instead of preschool.

It was not fun. They tried to have an answer for everything. The Hubs and I had an answer for each of their answers. I could write a book about today's meeting. They pushed for us to have four days of preschool instead of two. We pushed for zero, just services. They pushed for all sorts of alternatives that I knew would only confuse Bugaboo. I said we would do it how we did it last year, but he really doesn't need academic time. They told he would have sixty minutes of academics. I told them no, he will have thirty minutes of that. They brought in his teacher from last year to tell me sixty minutes. I told them to stop bullying me. (Apparently the No Bullying policy in schools only applies to students - not process coordinators) 

We reminded them that I am more than qualified to teach my child. They said my experience was regular education.  I let them know I had special education teaching experience (I spent my two last years in an at-risk/class-within-a-class concept co-teaching with a special education teacher to service five kids on IEPS, five or six kids who were at risk but did not qualify for services, and a dozen or so "typical kids.") That helped to shut them up a little bit.

The Hubs did an excellent job in the meeting, as he is less emotional than I am, and made our points clearly and kindly. Bugaboo hasn't made any significant progress with the things he works on at that school. The things he has made progress on are the things that we work on with private therapy or that The Hubs and I work on with him at home.  Mistake after mistake was made by the teacher this year, but I did not throw her under the bus at the meeting - though I think I should have. At parent-teacher conferences we learned that Bugaboo spends his center time every day at the truck center on the carpet.  I know what that activity is, and he does not need to be spending a significant amount of his preschool time doing that.  We have received three or four papers of Bug's this year (all year), and magically today his teacher appeared with two crafts they did last week. 

The team kept bringing up socialization. It doesn't matter to them that Bug has three other scheduled and structured other "socialization" activities each week with other preschoolers in a classroom-type setting. Impromptu play dates and library story times don't count for socialization either. Public school preschool is apparently the best (and really only way) a child can be socialized. How did humanity survive thousands of years without preschool to teach us how to socialize?

Would I like for Bug to be able to attend a stellar preschool program that would actually be an asset to him? Sure! But that does not exist in our current district, and I'm not going to waste his time or risk his safety. (Because when a teacher makes little mistake after little mistake that you can see via a folder or a pull-up that isn't your child's or a picture day mix-up you start to wonder what other bigger mistakes is she making that you don't see and that your three year old is unable to tell you about.)

So Bug is returning to just itinerant services. This means I lose the Tuesday/Thursday mornings where it was just Bubby with me. Essentially I lose my free (tax-payer funded) baby-sitting, which I think the only reason I hung on as I long as I did this school year. If I had the resources I would start a school tomorrow for both of my boys, and other children, too. I have dreams and ideas and a degree that says I can run a school building, just lacking on the time and money and manpower to start my own school. 

Monday we press on with the goals I have for both of my boys for the remainder of the school year. It was the right choice at this time. It wasn't the easy choice, but it was the right choice.

photo by Sarah Bottarel Photography

Time to teach my fish to swim. And if he happens to also learn to climb a tree along the way, then that's fine, too.


  1. Keeping your beautiful family in my prayers. Amanda, I believe God matches us with our children, and your children are so blessed to have the parents they do. I'm proud of you for being the advocates you are.

    1. Thank you, Brandee! Appreciate your friendship, your words, and your prayers so much!!!

  2. You are such great parents, knowing how to advocate for your child!

    1. Thank you! Love you! Now for lesson planning/tweaking for the week - school is about to look a little bit different around here. :)


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