Friday, March 7, 2008

Still Standing

At 12:15, I took half of the "no crying, no screaming" pill. I literally let it dissolve in my mouth, afraid it wouldn't "take" soon enough. We met with Dr. Brown at 1:00 p.m. He gave me instructions to tell his teachers. Immediate and consistent time-out. We've been there before. I finally asked what I really wanted to know. "Are they going to kick him out?" He smiled and said no.

Here's the kicker. He said they could not legally kick him out. His language delay qualifies him under the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said, and that would be like them kicking out a child who needed a wheelchair.

What a weight that lifted from me. If I were to find a better place for Curt, I would definitely consider moving him, but in this small town, this pre-school is the best -- with a two-year waiting list. Curt has been there for 1.5 years. So, the fact I would not be scrambling for another place (perhaps much worse) in the near future gave me peace of mind for some reason.

I returned to the Center with Curt, ready for the meeting. No tears had been shed at this point! I was ready. However, Director met me at the door to unlock it and let us inside. "Did you know the campus in under lock-down?", I was not aware. A local bank had been robbed and the getaway car was found, abandoned, on campus. The man was armed, so all buildings were locked, no in, no out. She asked if I minded rescheduling, considering the circumstances.

(Could I make this shit up? I think not.)

Although the meeting was not officially held, I talked to both the Director and Teacher about Curt and our issues during the lock-down. It's not like they could get rid of me! Their comments were kind and straight-forward. I left feeling they are not on a witch-hunt where Curt is concerned and this relieves me greatly.

At this point, it was 2:30 and starting to snow, so I called the office and called it a day. My excitement/stress quota had been met.

I received many notes of encouragement the last two days, by both comments and email. I truly thank you. I learned that many people believe, like I do, that children don't fall into cookie cutter molds. That, unlike the practices of most preschools and public schools, all children do not relate to the same form of treatment.

I know it is my responsibility to help Curt learn how to adapt to his social surroundings and to be able to follow rules. I've known that all along. However, I still believe this can be done without breaking his spirit. The compromise between calming his spirit without breaking it will be an ongoing journey.

But today, more than yesterday, I feel I can somehow meet this challenge. I have to.


Ange (formerly Writer Mom) said...

New idea. We should all get tattoos of check marks on our (put suggestions here) for every time we had to take a hit with language like, "Can't kick you out legally."

Don't you feel like a woman prize fighter? I'll be that old guy who hands you your spit bucket after the bell rings.
'Get back in there. Watch the RIGHT next time!!'
*This is why Luladoo and I started running, by the way. It's very strange. You get so intense over this, your body just wants to take it out on itself after awhile.
For me, I was just short of hanging a side of beef in the garage to have something to punch whenever it got too much...It has helped a lot.
I hope you're getting some stress relief, all I'm saying.

There are a few hard years with this diagnosis. I didn't want to hear that from Dr. Camarata, but he was very right. Not so hard at home (they refuse to believe this) because we adapt to each other and learn how to communicate. We become their interpretor (and someone usually tells us to STOP talking for them and they'll be forced to speak)...Then they go to school, which would be like dropping me off in the middle of Paris. Imagine me wandering about asking for cheese "Queso? From..fromage? Por favor?"

'Stupid American.' It must be just like that. I'd surely sit and cry from time to time. Or if someone approached to grab my arm, I'd swat.

I think of it like that.

Jack used to be afraid to get his haircut. He'd start screaming as soon as we'd pull up.
Then one day I told him ahead of time that we were going. I wasn't very good at this, letting him know. I thought surprise was wiser, and we'd take our chances. When he got so that he could understand me much better, telling him what to expect made everything so much better. I started prepping him for everything and he started saying, "What do I say?" for each scenario. It was beautiful AND heartbreaking.
Anyway, this was the first time I trusted him to understand, and he did get nervous in the car, but I could tell he'd matured. He was only slightly whimpering, so I reassured him it would be fun, then we'd go get ice cream.
When I walked him in, holding his hand, the lady was sooo nice (thank God), and she put in a movie for him, which made him half smile.
Finally, she put the cape on him and he said, clear as day, "Please don't cut me."
"What honey?"
"Please don't cut me with the scissors."
"I promise I won't hurt you," she said.
And then it all made sense. He'd gotten nicked some time before, but just couldn't tell us that's what he was afraid of.
That was one thing that got put down on his Autism diagnosis as 'irrational fear.'

I think a timeout for meltdowns is a good plan, but I'd still like to teach a class on how adults can be more sensitive to what causes the meltdowns in the first place. Cut him some slack in that respect. If he's off playing and they insist that he join the group, it's highly possible the constant talking is stressing him out. These kids know they don't have all the right words. And other kids aren't so sensitive at that age. One of Jack's preschool teachers used to tell me, "He'd sit over in the corner all day with that car garage if we let him," like he was so odd, but he did NOT do that at home. He was uncomfortable and being off by himself provided some security.
He would do anything for the patient adult helpers. That's another thing a teacher said.
"I can't get him to sit and do his worksheet, but he'll do anything for Ms. So-n-so." ding ding ding!

I think Mary Camarata teaches a class on how to help late talkers. I've gotten so I believe there is always a reason for the meltdown, even if it's a small one. The over reaction to compensate for not being able to say what they want or understand what's expected. It's too easy for other adults on a tight time schedule to neglect the cause and just punish the effect, and I wish there was a way to shed light on this for others...but...

I really wish you had other preschool options. However, I know it's a painstaking ordeal. We toured so many Montessori schools last year, and not one of them was what we'd hoped for. One school did everything to discourage us from sending Jack there after hearing his story. For me, it's all come down to shaking the hand, looking the educator in the eyes, and then I just know if they're going to workout. One thing I'd do differently is request Jack get another teacher for Kindergarten. I knew one minute meeting her that she was going to be impatient with Jack and misinterpret everything he was doing, but I ignored my instincts and we ended up going through a really tough year.
I wish there was a database for teachers--just a positive one--'Late Talking Approved.' That would be so helpful.

*I'll stop writing my novel, now.

Pretend I bought you a beer while I said all that.
Way to go, champ. You survived another round.

(Lock down? Geesh.)

Jeanna said...

Ange, how do you know my life? Oh that's right, because you've lived it!

Haircut fear?


Would rather be alone at school?


Meltdowns b/c of switching from an activity he likes for "circle time?"


Relates much better to some teachers than other (usually s student reacher perhaps with more patience?)


Isn't it sad that that fact he cannot legally get kicked out actually gave me relief? Yes, it is.

I believe that check mark has to be on my ass. It relates on so many levels.

Suzanne said...

I'm glad things are a bit better, Jeanna.