Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Several of you have asked questions in comments or emails, so I’ll elaborate a bit more about the school situation…
As far as why she was put in the afternoon class and if we had a say… There was no request process or any kind of communication from the school until we received the call to tell us where she had been assigned. We were told if we had any issues with it to call someone, and that’s what I did. The person apparently in control of these things is who told me that there wouldn’t be any “shuffling” happening. Obviously, had I been given the chance to put my 2 cents in, I’d have been very clear with this info about her needs at that time. It never dawned on me they would choose to put her in an afternoon class. It seems so very obvious to me that a child who has been noted as having focus issues in the classroom anyway would be assigned to start school at the least fresh time of the day. I’m glad they wanted to put us in Miss N’s class, and if that was a special concession that I didn’t know about, I do appreciate the thought. But Braska’s ability to perform and benefit from school is still primary.
(I’ll add in here that Jack is in the same boat as Braska. They were assigned to the same class, which we like, with the teacher we like, but not at a time that will work for either of them. Julie may talk more about that on her blog at some point. She is also quite unhappy with the situation, but she’s on vacation right now in the Sunshine State, so not sure when she’ll be blogging.)
We were told that “not all kids can go in the morning,” that they must have afternoon classes, so some kids have to go then. I get that. But I have now talked to three other families who have kids at our school, kids with DS, and these kids are older than Jack and Braska by at least 6 months, and they are all in morning classes. I was told by the school rep that they put us in with the teacher we liked, and I’m guessing that this is why they did the afternoon class. (Her morning class is a “young 3’s” class…the kids who have just turned 3 over the summer. And that’s where the kids who turn 3 during the year go when they start. There are many of these “young 3’s” classes. We would have been FINE with them being in that class.) I’ll state again…we DO like that teacher, and I had hoped Braska would have her again, but I can’t do the afternoon class even for that.
Because there was no communication or even a chance for us to preemptively let them know that afternoon was NOT ok, it would seem that there would be a back-up plan if the assignments simply don’t work for the child. But it does not appear to be so currently.
I’ll also state again that part of me feels I need to go ahead and take steps to get her moved to the morning, if only to make sure that this process is corrected, that it’s not left as ok as is. But for Braska, NOT being there, from the health standpoint, may well be better, so right now I’ll leave the battle to Julie. She’s better for the job anyway!
It’s also been mentioned that Braska could nap before or after school… After wouldn’t be an option, because she’d still be totally useless while AT school because she would be tired. And napping after 4:30pm, when we’d get home, would be just too close to bedtime. And before, taking feeding time into consideration for her required schedule, would mean that she’d be needing to go down for her nap before 11 am. And that’s just not going to work. She’s still in her “go mode” at that point. She hits her wall between 12:30 and 1pm, so she’s generally snoozing solid by 1:15pm on most days.
Regarding the question of if we have other schools to choose from… Nope. That’s the easy answer. Our school district contracts with this specialized private school for Early Childhood Special Ed (ECSE). Some call it a developmental preschool. The classes are generally close to 50/50 kids with IEPs and kids without. So everyone in our district who qualifies for ECSE goes to this school. Another neighboring district has the same situation with the same school. The third district in our area has their own ECSE building/program.
Clearly, this is not the way I’d have preferred it. But we’re going to move forward feeling comfortable that this is the right choice for what we know and have access to right now. All this with the knowledge that things can change quickly, as we’ve learned once again. But for now, we have a plan and we’re ok with it.
Well, well, well… it’s been a very interesting couple of days.
Thanks to all of you who have given input on the afternoon school versus nap situation. I’ve really appreciated all the different perspectives and it’s been good to think through a variety of things.
Before I give you the latest, I’ll answer a couple of questions…
Bedtimes: The girls go to bed between 8 and 8:30p usually closer to the 8:30p mark. It’s rarely much later than 8:30p unless we’ve been away from home for the evening for some reason.
One thing to consider regarding bedtimes with Braska is that she is tube fed for the majority of her nutrition, and her intake is limited to the volume she can hold at any one feeding. We don’t use a pump, so she just gets bolus gravity feeds 4 times a day in addition to whatever she might eat orally. But she ALWAYS needs a feeding right before bed to get her calories and fluids in for the day. She simply cannot tolerate all her required amounts in volumes that would allow us to cut the bedtime feeding yet. And because we have to allow at least 4 hours between feedings in order that she can keep it down, this affects when she can go to bed. We try to work it out so that her last feeding is at 8pm, but if the schedule gets off at any point in the day due to errands or just life in general, then it can sometimes be a little later. There’s just not hardly any way to make her last feed before 8pm. The 8am 12n 4pm and 8pm schedule is the one that fits her best. So we can’t really put her to bed at 7pm, for instance.
I hope that makes sense. We just have some additional restraints on our routine than most.
School options: I had hoped I could talk with the school, explain our situation with naps, illness, and focus issues in the afternoon, and they would be willing to make some adjustments, but that wasn’t the case.
So here is where we are right now… according to a representative from her school, she may attend the afternoon class or no class. I was told that they are not willing to move her to a morning class and that they ARE offering an appropriate option for her. Clearly, I disagreed and told them so. Politely but firmly.
I’ve decided that the afternoon class is not an option at all. After much deliberation and prayer and consulting others in like situations, I’ve decided, and M agrees, that she would gain no benefit from the afternoon class and would only be in a position for negative effects of the change—in reduced sleep, inability to perform well at all during that time period, and increased concern for illness, which has already been excessive since she started in November.
Beyond that decision, I’m still in limbo. The representative from the school couldn’t offer me any info about where to go next. I tried to contact the district (our district contracts with this specialized school for Early Childhood Special Education) but I’ve not received a call back. They aren’t in every day at this point, apparently. I’m guessing I’ll need to reconvene the IEP team for a meeting and set up new placement for itinerant services. This will mean that we will receive the therapies but no class time. I’m hopeful that they will not make that difficult to achieve.
My feeling right now is of disappointment. It’s not anger, though I’ve been close. I’m just so disappointed in this school. We chose to live where we do, precisely where we do, in order to be in the area that utilizes that school for ECSE. We heard many good things, and we have experienced many good things since we began back when she was 2 and going 1 morning a week. Almost everyone we’ve dealt with has been wonderful, so helpful, very nice, and I count many of them as friends. I’m disappointed because we have now had an impasse at a point that doesn’t seem that difficult to resolve. At least to me. But I’m just the mom. I really believed they would be more willing to be INDIVIDUALIZED in their approach.
I kept being told that they can’t “shuffle kids around” (to which I responded that I’m not interested in “kids” I’m interested in my kid—one kid—and at 24 lbs and 3 years old she is not that hard to “shuffle around”) and that the schedules are set and that they have to have SOME classes in the afternoon, and kids will adjust. Well, of course they will adjust. But I don’t think I want or need Braska to adjust to this at this moment. It’s not necessary. She is 3. If she wants to nap and she needs to nap, then a nap she’ll get!
Braska’s teacher (last year and assigned for the coming year) is great. I’ve talked with her, and she is very understanding, but she’s not in a position to bring about changes in this situation. I had offered the option to the representative at the school to have Braska be in her teacher’s morning class, the “early 3’s” which is the age that she was with this last year. She would still be “behind” them, so the peer modeling element would be present. But nope. No dice.
I could probably raise a real mess at the school and with the district, get letters from everywhere, go right up the chain of command to get her in a morning class. I’m quite sure I could do it if I wanted to. But in the last couple of days, I’ve learned I don’t want to. (Though I have considered taking it to the top just to pave a way for some other family who will come after us…but I don’t know if I have that energy right now.) Braska missed SO much school this past year, and we would most likely be looking at the same thing again, because her habit of having her hands in her mouth so much is still continuing, no matter what intervention we try, and as long as she is doing that, she will continue to get everything that comes into the room. Why go through all the hassle for this and then just have her miss every other week again? Why deal with all the illness as it trickles down through all four of us and even causes M to miss work? It’s not worth that.
I say this alot—She is 3. There is time for school. She will go to school, I have no doubt about that at all. But all signs show me that it’s not the best choice right now.
So it looks like, at this point, Braska will not be in school this fall. I hope we can work out the itinerant services for therapies, but I won’t send her to school JUST for that if it means compromising on all the rest of my issues. I’ve talked with the pediatrician about taking a break, and maybe that’s what we’ll do. Of course, we’ll continue to work on the things we always work on.
Maybe we’ll only take off the first semester and then revisit the situation. But for now, that’s where we are. I am a little nervous, but I’m glad for some clear direction. She will miss going to school…she really does love it. But this is for the best, and the BEST learning option, in good health, is what I’m interested in right now.
Wow. What a difference a few days can make…
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Today I received an email from a blog friend (who I didn’t recognize immediately…sorry!) asking a question that prompted what I have been meaning to post about for a while. So I asked permission to share the email and response, removing identifiers, for a couple reasons.
1. I don’t like to rewrite things when I don’t need to. Who has the time?
2. I know there are SEVERAL of you other blog buddies out there who can relate to this situation, and I’d really love to share your input with her as well.
So read along, and please share your thoughts…if you want to do a post of your own, or you already have one that’s relevant, leave a link in the comments. Thanks. Online support is VITAL, I think. I’d be lost without all the things I’ve learned from the other “DS moms.” (I know…not PC.)
I have a 2 1/2 year old who has down syndrome, and an 11 month old who is 'typical'.
My question for you is: how do you not compare them? At 11 months, V is doing more things than R did at 18 months.
It scares me how fast V is learning and reaching milestones. I am ashamed that I even compare them at all. It's so hard to watch R at her therapies, struggling to climb stairs, or say a word, or stack a block, yet V can do those things and we haven't even showed her!
I'm sorry. I don't mean to vent. I just thought you might have some advice for a mom with an older child with special needs and a younger child who will soon surpass the older.
I’ve been debating a post about this, formulating it in my head very recently. Funny that you happened to write today. I don’t know that I have any great advice, but I’ll share how it looks for me.
As you might know, my girls are 27 months apart, Braska will be 4 in November and Kinlee is a few days away from 17 months. The simple answer is that I DO compare them, sometimes just because they’re my kids and I think every parent marvels at how different and how similar their kids are, no matter what their chromosome count is. Sometimes I enjoy looking at how Kinlee at 17 months is the same size Braska was at almost 3 years old. It’s fun to me, not to Braska’s insult, but just because I enjoy their differences. I love to take pictures of Kinlee in things that Braska wore, though now, they are wearing many of the same things!
That said… there are times when it’s not as “cute” to compare, and I’ve found that recently I’ve been faced with the hardest issue. It surprised me, but I’ve had to deal with it a little more than I expected. You see, Kinlee and Braska basically started walking at the same time…Kinlee was 13 months, Braska was 40 months. Braska has progressed well, is getting stronger, and has gained better balance, but she is still very wobbly and very much a “new walker.” Kinlee sped right past her, handling steps more skillfully, climbing more, balancing better, almost running at this point. Braska is significantly delayed in her gross motor—it is one of her toughest areas, as she has severely low tone. We know this, we knew this would happen, and it was ok. I’m not too bothered by the walking issue. BUT in the past couple months, Kinlee has taken off in her speech and language. This is Braska’s STRENGTH! Braska’s done extremely well with speech and enunciation, especially in the realm of kids with DS, and we’ve been very proud of her. We work with her, but it is clearly a natural strength of hers. With Kinlee fast approaching Braska in the speech “race,” I realized the other day that soon, ALL of Kinlee’s skills will be beyond Braska’s. And that was hard for me. I could deal with Kinlee passing her up in the weak areas, but once she overtakes her in the area of strength…what else is there? She already uses “yes” and “no” more appropriately than Braska, who only this past week has started using “no” when she has a preference that would make it the right choice. She can make her requests, follow directions, and understand a more complicated situation much more easily than Braska can. It’s all a little hard for me to accept, but yet I am excited Kinlee is doing so well. How to live in both of those worlds?!?
I never expected this to be a concern for me. We don’t really struggle much with what Braska “can’t” do. I’m fine with her pace of learning, I expect her to do her best, but I don’t care too much about where she falls on a chart or in comparison to other 3-year-olds. And yet, I’m hit by this situation of Kinlee preparing to fly right by her in the milestone sprint she’s on. What to do about it? I don’t know. I must refocus back on the fact that Braska is a phenomenal kid, just like she is. She is by far the sweeter, more compliant, consistently happier, easier to deal with, and more loving child. And I love that about her. Kinlee is pretty great in her own right, but she’s a challenge in many of these areas, which I think is probably to be expected, and yet we don’t really KNOW what to expect.
I do SO get what you mean about how the younger can just GET things, like without being taught specifically for hours and hours before producing a result. It’s been amazing to watch Kinlee surprise us over and over. Last night I took her to the store with me, and she looked over at the side while I was choosing a loaf of bread and said “Buns!” And she was right. They were hamburger buns. Something we NEVER have in the house. I think we’ve used them once at her grandparents a couple weeks ago… how in the heck did she know that?!? And animal sounds… we basically were reviewing with Braska, as we often do, just playing the “what does it say” game, and Kinlee knew them all right on after the first time through! I can’t get over how one day she doesn’t know (fill in the blank) and the next day she knows it completely! Braska has serious feeding issues, is on a g-tube, and isn’t anywhere near feeding herself, because she doesn’t really want food in the first place. Kinlee was given a spoon, shown how to use it once, and she has a decent grasp of it. Not that it’s perfect, but she gets it. Amazing! We often refer to Kinlee as the “superhero” of the family. But then Braska is the one who has endured open-heart surgery and thrived with beauty and grace throughout the whole struggle!
Would I want to change Braska to make her “keep up” better? Nope, not at all. I’d love it if she were to be able to learn more easily or grasp concepts more fully, but I don’t know what other things we might lose in that adjustment that I’m not willing to let go of. I have come to believe, once again, that she is precisely who she was designed to be, and I can only adore her for being so purely that. There is no pretense to her, she doesn’t try to be what she’s not. She’s 3, she’s a girly girl, and that’s all that’s there. And I like it that way.
I don’t know if this helps any, but I can only encourage you that there are a lot of us out here who are in the same boat. I have a few blogger friends who have a kiddo with DS as the oldest and then another one within the next couple years. It’s amazing how similar our stories are, and yet how we each handle it with our own style. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to post your question (names removed, so you wouldn’t be identified at all, if you like) so that some of the other moms in this position could offer their insight as well. Would that be ok with you?
The day that Kinlee uses her first full sentence in a more concise and language-appropriate way than her sister, I’m going to have trouble with it, even while I celebrate her accomplishment. I hate to see Braska be truly “behind” her little sister, but I know that Kinlee is going to be a great leader for her to follow after. Braska will benefit greatly from Kinlee’s being “ahead” of her!
Many blessings… love them like crazy, and celebrate them, no matter how quickly or slowly they got to the sweet spot. :o)
How would YOU answer the question??