Saturday, October 30, 2010

The post I don't want to write.

"It's the hurt I hide that fuels the fire inside me" ~Ray Lamontagne~

  I don't want to write this post. I don't.  I can think of a million things I would rather do than sit here tapping away on my keyboard.  In fact, I would prefer chewing on tinfoil than writing this post.  But I have to. I don't feel as if I have a choice.   It is finally quiet now..the kids are in bed...another week has ended-and I am thankful. It had started out as a promising week.  We had Zoe's IEP meeting on Monday.(if you are new here-two posts down will explain our difficulties) We wound up getting everything we wanted for my girl and then some. So I'm not complaining. In fact the week was pretty good until Wednesday, when everything came crashing down. 

  Oscar came home on Wednesday with three quizzes he had taken at school.  They were all marked with a 100%.  At first, I just glanced at them-and immediately praised my boy for his work.  Then, I sat down to look at them....and my heart dropped.  It wasn't his work. Not at all. 

   Oscar has a full time aid at school.  She helps him with math, spelling, and supports him in the classroom. He has difficulty with fine motor skills.  He can write-but it is very frustrating for him (he is a whiz on the keyboard though) so his aid acts as a scribe for written assignments. She is to copy down what Oscar says word for word.  She is not to correct or amend it.  It is his work in his words. Or at least it is supposed to be  This is how we have always done it.  Now, Oscar has difficulty with both pragmatic and expressive language-it makes his work very distinctive- sometimes downright unusual.  The point is-it is recognizable as Oscar's work.  The quizzes he brought home-were too well written-too well thought out to be his. Because- it appears that his aid took it upon herself to write what she thought were the appropriate answers. Not Oscars answers-HERS.  In her words. Now I'm sure her parents will be thrilled that their child, a graduate student, was able to ace a fourth grade quiz..but Oscar's parents aren't.   Did she think that I wouldn't notice?  Apparently not.

  The next morning, I called the school.  I spoke to everyone that I could think of.  I was could this happen? Why wasn't anyone saying anything!!  Little did I know that my world was going to be turned upside down.  You see, it was implied that perhaps this has been going on for a long time.  That Oscar in reality has not been doing any of his work.  That in essence, the school has been babysitting my son for the past...what? six weeks? months? years? My heart fell-dropped-imploded. I swear my blood literally ran cold. I felt like the wind was knocked right out of me. That someone could actually say this-to imply that Oscar was NOT capable..and furthermore allude to the fact that I had no idea after all these years-years!..I broke...crumbled..shattered.  Because..I let myself believe it.  Because I was afraid that maybe I did only want to hear the good things..that I allowed myself to be fooled..because it was about me..and not my boy.  Could this be true? Could I be that shallow..that needy?  I was sick with the thought of it-and damn near hysterical.  What kind of mother am I?

  I did the only thing I could think of. I called more people..I set up an emergency IEP meeting (this Wednesday) and I questioned those who had worked with my boy in the past.  The latter shames me.  There are some people at that school who have given their very best to my Oscar-who are passionate about what they do-who care and want him to work to the best of his abilities. HIS ABILITIES. People who have willingly given me their time in order to help my kids. I questioned them.  I can only say now that I wasn't thinking clearly or rationally. I was so hurt for my very hurt. How could anyone think that this incredible child-this boy-my son was living a lie.  Do they not understand how very difficult it is for him? Yet, he perseveres.  Every little change, every single sound..sight..smell..everything is a distraction..and yet he still tries...and tries. And he succeeds-in his own way-in his own time.  He does not need someone else's words-he has his own..and although they may seem odd from time to time-they are his and he earned them. 

  I am so sorry that I allowed myself to fall into that trap . The trap of doubting myself-and far worse-doubting my boy. He deserves better than that.  He also deserves people around him who are responsible. Had I not bothered to look at his quizzes...had I not bothered to call..I would not have known any of this.  It makes me wonder, would anyone have called me? I'm not sure. I do know this-the people who speculated about Oscars ability and my naivety are cowards.  They have no problem discussing it behind closed doors..I'm sure they even acted appalled and shocked...but did they say anything to me? When they saw me in the hallway at school..did they express concern?  Did they ask to speak to me..send smoke signals-no. That is unacceptable.

  I do not know what the outcome of this meeting will be.  I do know that excuses have already been made..floundering has commenced-and I am angry. My son deserves to be treated with both dignity and respect. I'll not have it any other way.

  I so did not want to write this post..I have three others almost ready to go-but this one...sigh...this one just needed to be let out.  I'll be back to my regular self next week. You can count on it. Just as you can count on all of these issues being dealt with at Wednesdays IEP meeting.  No doubt about it. None.      


@jencull (jen) said...

You were right to let it out, nothing else would have felt right or helped you get it out of your system. Big hugs to you, I know exactly what that feeling is like, having your world turned upside down and not knowing which way is up, what is real and what is not. Best of luck on Wednesday and I know you will rock it, I know you will. Jen xx

autismand said...

Please don't beat yourself up, you picked up what was happening and you acted swiftly to sort it out. We're not superwomen, just mothers doing our best. Good luck for the meeting.

Kim Wombles said...

You will move mountains and it will be made right. Perhaps it's time for a laptop instead of a person to copy his words.

You caught it, you cared, and you're making sure they deal with it, that they fix it.

You and I both know that there are many parents so desperate that they willingly fall into a facilitated communication trap and let their words and others stand in place of their child's.

That isn't ever going to be you, and I believe you probably caught it pretty quickly.

Daniel "Captain" Kirk said...

If this had been going on all along, there wouldn't have been anything different for you to notice. The point is that there is an obvious difference between Oscar's work and what he just brought home. It makes me sad, no, angry that when something like this comes up, the priority among school personnel is first to protect their own jobs, and then those of their colleagues, even if it means cheating a kid out of the right to a free, appropriate public education the law requires.

Is this a new aide? Maybe a refresher on what an aide is and is not supposed to do would correct the problem and offer an opportunity for everyone to save face. Of course, in that case, they may offer that as proof that he hasn't been doing the work all along. It's easy to blame someone who no longer works there, and can't be fired.

I don't remember what grade Oscar is in, and I don't know how many aides he has had. Could you provide samples of his work produced with several aides, showing consistency, and contrast them with what he's been bringing home recently?

Oh, and I know you'll be on your toes for a while. If she thinks faking it is OK, her next tactic may be, "Let's dial him back to a B student (or whatever grades he was getting before) and see if anyone notices."

Cheryl D. said...

Shouldn't the classroom teacher have noticed this? I can't believe she didn't talk to Oscar's aide about this herself as soon as it happened.

Laura said...

{{{hugs}}} You did everything absolutely right. Including questioning those who came before. The school is in such a CYA mode, that you'll need to make sure all the bases are covered before you go to do further battle.

And isn't that just the WORST?! Instead of being worried about the success of the student, they're worried about not being blamed. GRRRR. That's always made me mad about the school system.

Oh, and when Coleman can't use his computer to do the work, like say on a math test, I scribe for him. I know exactly what you're taking about when it comes to what is and is not the child's work.

Go get 'em Mama Bear!

Looking for Blue Sky said...

So sad for you all that this should happen..and as usual I don't understand why? Like who benefits? What was the point? I have also 'found things out' by chance that I wasn't told. Things of huge significance that turned my world upside down too, or just stuff I should have been told - eg it was a while before I found out that my son had an SNA. Hopefully you can gather yourself and think things through over the weekend and sort it all out next week x

Lynn said...

This is my biggest fear when the time comes for my daughter to be mainstreamed. The aides in our district are not paid well and generally clueless. And don't beat yourself up, because it is sooo hard to stay vigilant. In my district they make it hard to be vigilant with no access to the aides, etc. I hope for yours and Oscar's sake that this hasn't been going on too long...

Stephanie said...

You seem to be being awfully hard on yourself. It is one thing to have doubted that your son could do the work--if so, forgive yourself and move on. It is another to have doubted that your son did do the work for an unspecified period of time--under the circumstances, that is entirely justified.

The situation is an awful one to be in. But, the important thing is to focus on what needs to change, which is the behavior of the aide and the responsiveness of the other staff.

Perhaps your initial reaction was less than ideal. Perhaps, for a time, you allowed yourself to be manipulated. Neither dwelling on that nor chastising yourself will change that. Forgive yourself and move on. A forgiven you is better for your family than a you that will not forgive yourself.

(Though, I have to admit sometimes when I coached Willy through his work (assignments, not quizes) the end-product sounded more like me than him. Alas, my lack of patience must be quashed!)

kathleen said...

Hi Jen-Thanks for the vote of confidence and support..This was really hard and I did indeed need to vent.

Hi BB'smum-Thanks for your support and rational calm thinking..:) It helps to hear from other parents..very much so..

Hi Kim-as always you have my back-and give me confidence in myself and what I have done as a parent when I need it.

Hi Papa Bear-You made some excellent points-thank you. Yes, I will be on my toes over this. I do know what my boy is capable of and I kick myself because I let myself fall into that trap of doubt...sigh...

kathleen said...

Hi Cheryl-Absolutely! I do so plan on bringing this up at the meeting.

Hi Laura-thank you..I hope that this meeting will bring some changes to the system. That our experience can help turn things around..How this was allowed to go on -if even only for a week-it is beyond me.

Hi Looking for blue sky-Exactly, who benefits? Certainly not the people who need to...sigh..

Hi Lynn-this is one of the reasons that I blog. We as parents need to change the system..we need to be able to trust it. Right now we can't-and that is wrong...We have some excellent aids-wonderful and dedicated..but the powers that be make it difficult to meet with them-and they are the ones who work with our kids..crazy isn't it?

Hi know what it is..I trusted these people..and feel so totally betrayed..and that Oscar is the victim of this betrayal. I think that is what threw me the most. We need to be able to trust the educational system for our kids..and I did. And yeah..that's on me..writing this post-even though I really didn't want to-helped me sort it out. There is a bit more to it than what I wrote-mainly how Oscar was affected. How he describes what has been going on..his trust in me to just "know"-and I didn't. It has been eye opening. I take responsibility for that. Some of what he has conveyed to me-has hurt my heart. I believe that much good can come out of this. I hope the school is willing to listen-and ready to change things. (I struggle with patience too! :) )

Anonymous said...

I'm with Kim...a laptop sounds like a first step...and as someone once told me.."You only know what you know." you know what's up you can fix it...Oscar is the best and smart and funny and a gift to the world...sending you strength (which you don't need)...Oscar's Godmother or rather Oscar's Goddessmother...

Angela said...

I am so sorry all of this is happening. You don't need to be so hard on yourself. Did anyone talk to the aide, what did she say for herself?

Kathryn Bjornstad-Kelly said...

I'm sorry that all of this happened. It's good that you pointed it out and I don't think you could have done anything differently. You obviously care about your son a lot and you should stop beating yourself up about this. I hope everything turns out okay.

Stephanie said...

We should be able to trust the education system to provide the education our children require and deserve...just like we should be able to trust the police officers who keep our streets safe and our neighbors who live right next door.

But, vigilance is required, because as much as we should and want to trust, the world is not safe. And you were vigilant! You caught it. You looked, and you saw the difference.

I don't know that I would have caught it. I'm not sure I would even have checked. I don't always. (This is not said at all to imply that I think I'm the yardstick to measure by.)

I'm glad Oscar was able to convey to you enough to express himself, even if what he conveyed hurt your heart. It's a step forward. The situation is open and that is the first step to change.

And, I have full confidence that you will do your job well to keep it open and to change it!

jazzygal said...

Oh Kathleen, I feel for you I really do. How awful. But please don't be so hard on yourself. You can't possibly spot everything with your children.

We send our children, special needs or not, to school everyday and entrust them to the professional educators. Your trust has been betrayed. How on earth did they think that this would help or in the future?? Beggars belief.

I hope you get some answers AND assurances tomorrow at the IEP.I also hope you got some solace from writing this post. The power of blogging, eh?

Congrats on securing supports for Zoe :-)

xx Jazzy