Just a Parent Now…

Now that I am “just a parent” as opposed to a teacher/parent, I thought I would re-post a post I wrote in the spring during teacher appreciation week.  Especially because we are starting at a new school, and a new level of school, I have questions.  LOTS of questions.  And I have this impatient need to get answers quickly.  I have decided to reign myself in, because I remember the first week of school, and The Boy’s teachers could use one less email from me this week if I don’t really need the answer today.

 

Gearing up for Middle School

A new Landaff teacher in the 1940s watches as ...I met with The Boy’s special education teacher yesterday, who had just been handed his “file” a few hours previous to the meeting, and the county autism specialist who has 16 schools-worth of students on her caseload.  There are two special ed teachers at his school, and I had been told that The Boy would probably be assigned to the other, and he indeed had until a few hours before the meeting.  I can’t say exactly why, but after looking at their info on the school website, I was secretly pleased about the last minute switch.  Needless to say she hadn’t had any time to review his file, and come to find out, it didn’t have the copy of the IEP and testing that I had sent to the county autism specialist in it anyway…

So we talked about The Boy, about his strengths and areas of struggle, about what motivates him and what sets him off.  We talked about the similarities between the programs in our new state and our previous state, and the types of accommodations that could be made for him within his school day.  We talked about for which subjects inclusion was going to work, and for which he would need to be pulled out to the resource room.  We talked about computers, band, and lunch…

The autism consultant seemed overconfident, and the special ed teacher seemed overwhelmed (she was missing a portion of her own teachers’ meeting to meet with me), but both seemed receptive and open.

And I am, too.

I know that our new state’s education system ranks perilously near the bottom.  I knew that walking in. And when I pulled out the work samples I had brought with me, they asked, “Are there rubrics on all of these?  We don’t use those here.  Do they help him?”  I almost stumbled over my bottom lip, and I hope my incredulity didn’t show on my face as much as I felt it inside.  You see, I was taught from about day one in ED101 how to develop rubrics for every assignment, a way to clearly communicate your expectations for students.  And that was 20 years ago.  This county (and I’m assuming state) doesn’t even use them, probably hasn’t ever been trained in them, and it was a sucker-punch reminder that we are in one of those states, the ones with piss-poor funding and even crappier respect for its teachers, those teachers who haven’t gotten a raise in six years and are prit-near the bottom of the list when it comes to teacher pay, too…

But I also know that all the research says that the teacher has the most influence on how well a student does in school.  And in my son’s case, that will be his special ed teacher, making sure his accommodations are in place, remediating when necessary, building that long-term relationship and trust.  In this meeting, I witnessed how far behind this state is, but I also witnessed how willing his teacher is to be his everything while still pushing him as far as he can go.  I know that, between the two of us, he’s going to be OK, and that’s a relief.

Disability and Celebrity

I’m sure you have seen the videos that have been popping up, slightly more frequently in recent years: some student with a disability making an amazing shot in basketball, because the coach told him to suit up for the last game of the season, or the boy with autism who was voted Homecoming King, or the many others that are out there.  You can often hear the crowd chanting the person’s name, and screaming wildly when the shot is made, or the name is announced.

My kid is a bit of a celebrity at his school.  Everyone seems to know his name: students, parents, even kids who are older and in middle school who live  in the neighborhood.  We go somewhere in town, and someone says hi to him and calls him by name, and I have no idea who it is, and many times, neither does he.  He’s a celebrity, partly because they have such good programs to “initiate” the general ed kids into what their ASD classmates are experiencing, and I think partly because he’s a “6th year” student at his school, having attended the same school all the way through elementary.  The longer you stay in one place, the more people with whom you come in contact.  That’s my theory, anyway.

But, I watch these videos, and I wonder.  I wonder if this “celebrity” is an entirely good thing.  I wonder if it would be even better if there was no news story, because it would be a matter of course for someone with a disability to win Homecoming King.  It would be a matter of course for kids with disabilities to compete in sports, perform in music programs, do whatever it is that typical kids do, and do it well.  And it would be a matter of course for our kids to have friends, rather than fans.

Until that day, I will continue to share these videos and spread the hope that they bring, because they do leave me hopeful, if not entirely satisfied.  I am always proud of the person in question, but I am so hopeful for those kids who are “fans” of the person in question.  I am hopeful that someday (if they haven’t already), they will realize that this person is real, and not a character.  A potential friend, rather than a celebrity.

I Got (Some) Skills

Every once in a while, I will flip through the Groupon offerings and find one that seems like a great deal, and I will jump on it.  I have rarely been disappointed.  One of the ones I have been enjoying recently is an online photography class.

After I got divorced, one of the things I treated myself to was a decent camera.  It’s not quite a DSLR, but it takes a really nice photo.  And since I have had that camera, I have taken a few really great shots.  I know I’ll never be a professional, but I have picked up a little hobby, and I enjoy taking pictures a lot.

When this groupon came around, it was advertised as a way to get to know the ins and outs of your camera a little more, to shoot more than just on the automatic settings.  And it sounded like a small time commitment to learn some more skills.  Lifelong learner that I am, I knew it would be fun.

And it is.  It’s only a four week class.  The past two Mondays, I have come home and taken the weekly “class” which consists of videos and worksheets and a little quiz.  Then at some point during the week, I take what I have learned and take some shots, one of which I will choose to upload for my “homework assignment” for the week. The instructor gets back to us with feedback by the following Wednesday through the comment sections on the photo, and we can see others’ photos, as well, learning about which settings they are using to take their fantastic shots.

It’s a little scary to go off automatic, and see what comes out, but it’s so much more rewarding, because the composition of the shot is all you, all of your skills on display.  There’s a metaphor for life if I’ve ever heard one…

Here are my two homework assignments, so far:

flame

shutter speed

white balance

white balance

Teacher, Parapro, SLP, OT, Daycare, and Ex’s GF gifts

It’s that time of year to give gifts to the many, many people who help your child through his or her day, as well as to the other side of the family (you know, the one you don’t want to spend too much money on, because really it’s the ex’s job to buy for them, but it’ll never happen, and you don’t want your kid to feel bad for not bringing presents?…).

But buying gifts for all of those people would be outrageous.  So what is a budget-minded, single mom of a special needs kid to do?  Get crafty…

  1. As mentioned in a previous post, you can make your own sugar body scrub from fairly common ingredients like sugar, honey, tea, and vanilla.
  2. You can get yourself a metal stamping set (like this one from Harbor Freight), some washers (but probably better to get actual jewelry making metal from the craft store: zinc-coated washers are too hard), and some carabiners from your local big box store (they run about a dollar apiece) to make personalized key chains.
  3. Last year, when I asked everyone I knew for ideas, Dr. Leah from Singlemommyhood suggested paperwhite bulbs in a pretty bowl as a great gift for teachers.
  4. You could always do a donation to a great cause like Heifer International for teachers, as well.
  5. For daycare helpers, we have made fudge, cookies, chocolate-dipped large pretzel sticks (with sprinkles), and all sorts of goodies in previous years.  Just make sure to note any allergies!

I can’t tell you what we’re doing this year (because some of these wonderful people who help The Boy sooooo much read my blog!), but maybe you can share with us some of your ideas in the comments!

body scrub