I Would Just Like to State for the Record That the System is Stupid

It is not a secret that Jack has been struggling in school this year. His inclusion classroom isn’t the right place for him anymore. His teacher is fantastic, she really is, but it is just not working. I can’t even begin to tell you how many IEP meetings I’ve sat through this year.

Our most recent meeting for Jack was last Thursday, but I should go back to last fall to give you the whole background.

Jack started struggling early this year. Third grade is a big transition for anyone and it was a huge transition for Jack. I started to see early on that things weren’t going well and called a meeting to get the ball rolling to have the school district take a look at him to see where they thought the appropriate placement was. Then I hired an advocate and went through the same process privately.

Both sets of people pretty much came up with the same conclusion: Jack’s next step in school placement is the Asperger’s program, which is a self-contained classroom with mainstreaming opportunities in a public school located somewhere between Quinn’s school and Sam’s.

I mean, actually it’s called the High Functioning Autism program, but I think referring to people as high or low functioning is kind of an asshole thing to do and bullshit to boot, so I’ll be calling it what most people in the county call it, which is the Asperger’s program.

No one mention to anyone that Jack doesn’t have Asperger’s, okay? It’s our little secret.

Anyway, at one of the IEP meetings, it was mentioned that Jack had long (like, for years) been considered a “poster child” for this program, but as he was doing well in his inclusion classroom, he was not eligible for the Asperger’s program.

Interesting, huh? See, there’s this thing called the “least restrictive environment,” or LRE. Unless you have a special education kid, you probably don’t know about it. If you do have a special education kid, you’ve probably heard that phrase a million times. What it means is that kids are supposed to be put in the most mainstream placement that they can hack.

It makes sense. You want kids to learn to live in the mainstream and you don’t want to isolate or stigmatize special needs kids just because they have a diagnosis. That makes sense. I’m a fan of inclusion. I think it is great for both typical and special education kids. I think everybody can learn from each other. I understand LRE and I think, applied with broad strokes, it’s absolutely what we should strive for.

Except that it’s kinda bullshit. See, Jack had to pretty much fail at his current placement to be put in a more restrictive environment—that is, a classroom made up entirely of kids with autism.

Then there is Sam. You might remember that he is in what is known as the Highly Gifted Center (another asshole name for a program, if you ask me) in a classroom made up entirely of kids with giftedness—and the quirks that come along with it. That is for damn sure not the least restrictive environment for him. And he damn sure didn’t have to fail at his original placement to end up there.

But because being called gifted is something to strive for, being put in a self-contained classroom in a school 20 minutes away from his home school is something to be coveted, sought after, and congratulated. Because being a special education student has an entirely different value judgement attached to it, kids are supposed to strive to move out of their self-contained classrooms in schools 20 minutes away from their home schools back into the mainstream.

There are two exactly opposite standards for these two groups of kids.

What I see when I look at my kids is that they have found classrooms that work for them. They have/will have teachers who know how to teach to their particular brains. They will have peers. They will build on their strengths and work on improving their weaknesses. This is how it should be. It shouldn’t matter if it is more or less restrictive. Semantics shouldn’t get in the way of teaching children.

If someone is the poster child for a particular program, HE SHOULD BE IN THAT PROGRAM.

I don’t know that the Asperger’s program will be the best thing for Jack. I hope it is. If it isn’t, then we move on to the next step. What I hope happens is that Jack will be able to get a couple of really solid years of specialized instruction under his belt so that he will be able to either move on to a middle school Asperger’s program or return to his home school for those grades.

Mostly I hope that his dread and negativity about school will be alleviated at least a little.

Also I hope that I can figure out how to deliver three different kids to three different schools every morning and then manage to reclaim them again every afternoon.

So remember that meeting where I was told Jack was a poster child for this program? That was two months ago. At that meeting, it was decided that the Asperger’s program was the place for Jack and that we thought it was the right environment for him and yay for the correct placement! Except they couldn’t finalize the placement until we had new goals written and blah, blah, blah, we’ll meet again in May and we can do this then.

Unless, of course, somehow Jack pulls his shit together and has a great couple of months, in which case he would no longer be eligible for the program for which he is a poster child. Therefore, Stimey, because you believe that the Asperger’s program is the right place for Jack, you are going to spend the next couple of months being torn between wanting your child to be successful so he feels good about himself and wanting your child to fail so he can have the right placement.

Yeah. Exactly. That sucked.

Also? I shouldn’t have worried.

Things got, like, exponentially worse, to the point that Jack was not getting a whole lot done at school at all. Both his teachers at school and us at home worked really hard to try to help him. To no avail. His teacher told me a story about how once Jack stalled and refused to do any work until lunchtime and then looked at her and said, “I won.”

Ballsy, that Jack.

So. Long story short, the special education system eventually led us to what I hope is a good place for Jack for next year. In many ways I am sad for Jack to leave the school he has been at for four years because he has had wonderful teachers and his team really, truly cares about him. They have tried their hardest to get him what he needs and I am so grateful for that. I’m a little nervous to step into the gaping unknown of a whole other school and program.

Regardless, I’m hopeful. I really do think this is the best available option for us. My fingers are crossed. And my heart is finally fully set on the hope for absolute success in the right classroom for my precious child.

Sucess!!

Well, spring break sure is cutting into my ability to write anything this week. My kids are all, “We’re home! We need food and attention!” Seriously, it’s way cutting into my usual slovenly lifestyle.

Anyway, I am happy to report that the surprise party we threw for Sam this weekend to celebrate his going to his new school in the fall went swimmingly.

Alex took Sam out of the house with some sort of excuse and I got Quinn and Jack to work making their cheery signs of congratulations. We also practiced jumping out and shouting “Congratulations! Way to go, Sam!”

Alex called shortly before he and Sam arrived home and I dispatched the children to their hiding spots. Quinn was so excited he could hardly stand it.

Jack positioned himself so he could trip Sam when he walked in the door. I think he doesn’t quite get that a surprise party is a good thing.

I was kind of on the edge of my seat as to how it was going to go. As we waited for Sam to walk in, I imagined that his reaction would go one of two ways:

(a) His joy over wrapped presents and cake would overrule all his other feelings, or

(b) His other feelings would overrule the cake and presents and he would run screaming from the room.

Cake and presents FTW!

Sam was delighted. I explained that we were throwing him a party because we were so proud that he is going to go to the new school. He had no adverse reaction (his adverse reactions before this were SEVERE) and we happily celebrated.

It went so well, in fact, that I started to wonder if the meaning had been lost on him. I let it go for the rest of the party and a little later in the afternoon, I mentioned again that we were proud of him for agreeing to go to the new school. Again, he was fine.

I’m sure we’ll still have to lead him gently to his first day of school, but hooray for happy first steps.

He’s blurry, but he’s happy. Ergo, so am I.

Nobody Mention This to Sam

So, a couple of you have mentioned that it is Friday, which of course is the day that we had to tell the highly gifted center if Sam would or would not be attending this fall.

I have a secret: We sent the form in last Wednesday, the day after I posted about our dilemma and you all were like, “Dude, suck it up and send him.” I mean, we were going to do that anyway, but it was really nice that all of you came to pretty much the same conclusion we did.

Now—and this is the tricky part—nobody can tell Sam about this. I’m hoping that he won’t notice on the first day of school that he’s on a different bus and by the time he gets to school he will either swallow his feelings and soldier on or he will freak out and have to be sedated. Either way, I figure that by that point it will be the new school’s problem.

What? Fine. *kicks at the dirt* We’ll tell him this weekend. *makes sour face*

We have toured the school and liked it. Sam has toured the school and didn’t seem horrified. One of Sam’s friends will be attending the school with him. Sam will be able to return to his old school for all those evening events I love so much. We told Sam that if he gives the school a solid try and hates it that he can return to his old school. (What constitutes “a solid try” is currently being negotiated.)

But Sam still doesn’t want to go to the new school. He is afraid that he will love it so much that he won’t want to go back to his old school, which he also loves.

It is REALLY difficult to argue against that kind of statement.

We have told Sam that we were going to say yes to the program and this Sunday we are going to throw him a surprise party complete with gifts and cake to celebrate his acceptance. The always so smart Joeymom emailed me to say that she would love to celebrate his success and get him a gift to congratulate him on getting into the school (which…so not necessary, but awwww, so nice) and in my head I was all, “I should just hand my kids over to her now, because…DUH.”

Alex and I have been tiptoeing so carefully that it never occurred to us to do the complete opposite thing. Now, I AM aware that this could completely backfire, but the tiptoeing thing didn’t work, so maybe this will. And if it does backfire? At least we’ll have cake.

Sunday afternoon: It is either going to be SPECTACULAR or SPECTACULARLY BAD. I’m hoping for the first. Cross your fingers for us.