Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lemonade...part deaux

(Prelude) Thanks to those who made comments. I appreciated all of them, but I must say Brenda's "That Bitch" really made me smile...

We met with the new potential pre-school Tuesday as planned. It all went well. The owners and the teachers were nice. The schedule is similar to the current school except they allot TWO HOURS for naptime versus 1.5 hours. She did say if they were quiet, they were not expected to sleep.

Curt, quiet? Give the child a book and pray.

One unexpected item did take me aback. They have an opening NOW. As in now. I told her I would have to talk to my husband and get back with her. I did say if he started, I would start him the week after Christmas. Short week, etc.

PROS for new:
1. Close to home (Cowboy can easily pick up as needed).
2. Smaller classroom.
3. Seems to be more laid-back; not so militarily -oriented.
4. Curt will go to pre-school with the kids he will go to kindergarten with.
5. $20 less a WEEK.
6. No more Dr. B (different town; can't do it with work).

PROS for old:
1. More structured (I am crazy).
2. Sterile environment.
3. Supposedly best.
4. Dr. B.
5. Had him on waiting list for two years to get in!
6. No transition heartaches.


Should this be a no-brainer? Perhaps. I will tell the owner/director ALL Curt's idiosyncrasies before I sign the line. There is no going back.

Plus, I am no at good at change. Curt is no help. Do you like this school? "Yes." Do you want to change schools? "Yes." Do you like your old school? "Yes."

Did I mention he's a "yes" man?


*Ange* Life in the PS said...

Is the new school willing to speak with Dr. Camarata?

Suzanne said...

This is a tough one.

*Ange* Life in the PS said...

Sorry I had to cut it short last night.
I've had a lot on my mind these days concerning Jack's diagnosis, because a family member recently told everyone else that mixed receptive/expressive language disorder is the same as Autism.
This is how she defends things she's said in the past about Jack, and her opinion that Tom and I have fallen into a cult of negligent parents and doctors who like to keep ourselves in convenient denial.

Yeah. We didn't do Thanksgiving with her this year.

She's offended that I told her that I did not trust the system.

Most of my family is on board with the diagnosis of processing disorder, but that's either in the form of being supportive for supportive sake, or having little time to get deep into all the research, so taking my word for it.
If someone else comes along and redefines Autism for them, they get confused, and we're back to square one.

So, even as fantastic as everything is going, it's STILL tough getting people to the right level of understanding that would be most helpful to all concerned.

Choosing schools is so hard. You're in that hard phase, so take comfort that this decision is (unfairly) normal. I hope in the very near future, perhaps even by sharing our stories, this struggle to find the right educational environment will get a 1000x's easier. It's not going to happen until mixed receptive/expressive language disorder is understood.
Right now it means very little to most, including educators.

As you know, Kindergarten was hell for us, and it had everything to do with Jack's level of development (five is a crucial year) mismatched with his teacher. She was very structured and a stickler for rules. He would have met her halfway, but she didn't give him enough lag time between instruction and execution of that instruction.
New things were hard. The school had promised to use visuals, but didn't. We refused to sign the autism papers, so she started treating him exactly like any other kid--which meant he was in trouble every day.
There was no middle option.
There should be, and it should be funded.
It's just insane.

The K teacher felt no sense of obligation to adjust her teaching style in anyway to help him. He would just be taken into the hallway for reading things off the chalkboard, or for not following directions. The kids picked up on her tension, so they started talking to him the same way as she did. He was on his own, misunderstood and I have so many regrets for not being better informed...but anyway.

A bad fit never gets better, in other words. It gets worse.

We toured other schools and as soon as I started talking about Jack's history, the looks immediately transitioned from hoping we'd be paying tuition soon, to 'Oh crap. A difficult kid to deal with.' They didn't want him. Said they couldn't provide special services without the autism diagnosis.

Is it any wonder, then, that so many parents actually seek that diagnosis?

Kindergarten ended. We survived. Had the new diagnosis from Vanderbilt, but it seemed like nobody in the educational field gave a shit.

So we moved, because we heard his current school system is where a lot of parents with special needs children ended up.
We also heard it's an excellent school system. Well funded.
*Well funded is always a good start.

We're so lucky in that respect.
But I was still really on my guard when we had that first meeting, because even though we'd gotten the Vanderbilt diagnosis independently for Jack's Kindergarten, the school did nothing with it and had no intention of contacting Dr. Camarata.
So my test for the right school/right teacher is how well they respond to the opportunity to speak with Dr. Camarata about mixed receptive/expressive language disorder.
If they seem curious and eager to be brought up to speed, odds are fantastic (especially after speaking to Dr. Camarata) that the classroom environment will be a good fit.
If you get a territorial vibe and a resistance to the notion that a language processing disorder is the cause of the frustrated episodes (I know you know all this), then they probably subscribe to the notion that there are only two types of "difficult" children.
Spoiled brats with lousy parents, or children on the autism spectrum.

It's interesting to me how many spoiled brat adults quickly leap to the diagnosis of spoiled brat children.

Jack's current school had a meeting with us at the very beginning of first grade, and I was amazed that all of the educators at that table had a copy of the Vanderbilt report in their hands, and all of them were using the advice put in front of them, bullet for bullet.

And then we had a meeting with the school's guidance counselor, who had called Dr. Camarata on Jack's behalf, and she was so impressed by Camarata's expertise, she was just unbelievably helpful, positive, eager to learn more. Was tossing out all sorts of ideas for him. Just, that person who wasn't trying to convince us we were unlucky parents, but reinforced for us just how lucky we are by being so interested in his unique gifts.

We haven't had a negative call from Jack's school in well over a year.
He's in a regular classroom, was not held back, does not have an aid, and his first and second grade teachers have been angels on earth.
His current teacher raves about how respectful he is and kind towards the other children, so we are amazed by the reversal--and it has everything to do with the right diagnosis matched with a receptive school.

I say make sure the teacher is kind to your son. If she's not, it's going to be hell.
Positive reinforcement has been the key for Jack. He was always afraid to fail before, because he got yelled at so much, and the kids picked up on that, too, so he withdrew from trying to make friends.

It's a vicious cycle.
Negativity does not work with our kids. It compounds their struggles to catch up.
He needs a teacher who understands what's going on with him, who believes in him that maybe not in her class, but in future classes, he'll be caught up in speech and caught up in social interaction--he just needs more time and patiently redirected until it clicks.
He just needs a year of patience, and then it will get easier and easier, but it's so hard finding the teacher willing to put in that extra effort.

Go with the understanding one.
And especially with the one who says, "I spoke with Dr. Camarata and he was so helpful! I really feel like I got a lot of great ideas."


((Happy Thanksgiving!!))