The second round of assessments with the school district people took place this morning. Michael had to be in court, so I was on my own this time.
After last week’s meeting and first round of assessments, it was difficult (impossible?) to go in there again today and not feel defensive. I arrived in the classroom, and there were four people waiting: the special ed teacher from last week, the SLP from last week, and two occupational therapists. I sat down at the table, determined to just observe and not get myself in a tizzy.
I would like to be able to be objective and find something positive to say, but the truth is, the whole thing was extremely stressful. For the first ten minutes or so, all four people swarmed on Finn, each of them trying to get him to follow simple directions, but simultaneously. It was utterly ridiculous. He was given no time to warm up to anyone, just stuck in a little chair at a little table with four complete strangers hovering and breathing down his neck, giving directions in sing-songy voices. He was game to sit and bask in the attention for about two minutes; then it was clear that he was overwhelmed. He kept whining and whimpering and trying to climb out of the chair, and each of them kept putting him back in the chair and trying to get him to “perform” (yes, the term “performance” was used more than a time or two). I really cannot fathom how they could expect to get anything meaningful out of him under such stressful circumstances.
After a while, one of the OTs came over to the table where I was sitting and started asking me rapid-fire questions about Finn. Then she put a written questionnaire in front of me and asked me to complete it to the best of my ability. Meanwhile, there are still three people with Finn, trying to get him to do things. I start filling out the questionnaire (questions pertaining to fine motor skills and sensory stuff), and then the SLP comes over to the table and starts asking me questions and marking down my answers on paper. So now I’ve got two people on me and two people on Finn, and we’re both overwhelmed. I guess I could have called a stop to the whole thing, but I honestly just wanted to finish and be done with it.
Finally, towards the end of the allotted hour, the special ed teacher came to the table and started asking me questions about Finn. Then she asked, “What is your goal here?” I said, “For school? You mean ultimately?” “Yes,” she said. “Ultimately, we want him fully included in a regular classroom,” I told her. She said that may be possible at some point down the line, but probably not to start. I already figure that a “mainstream” preschool is not even going to be on the table, that they are going to recommend/offer some type of developmental (special ed) preschool program for him, and that if we want something alternative, we will have to seek it out ourselves and it will not be supported by the school district or his IEP. Which is fine; we are completely willing to seek out whatever we feel will work best for Finn, be that what the special ed people through the school district recommend or not. I told her that if she was asking me what our goal for preschool is, I can’t answer that right now, that we need to see what they offer/recommend for Finn, explore that, explore other options, and then make a decision. She indicated that they are having some trouble coming up with an appropriate recommendation since we have declined so many of the assessments they wanted to do. I didn’t appreciate this kind of pressure and just smiled at her and didn’t say anything.
I am feeling very frustrated. My heart is bruised and my emotions are frayed. This is my son, my baby boy we’re talking about. He’s not some case or some file number. He’s a real live human being who has a whole life ahead of him, and unknown potential. I’m not kidding myself; I know he’s got challenges and will need specialized help, I know that. It’s just really, really difficult to be in this position, of wanting to protect him and shelter him, wanting him to succeed, not wanting to see him just get warehoused in the Special Ed system, and wanting these people – everyone – to see him as a person, a unique, wonderful, stubborn, affectionate, curious, willful, mischievous little boy.
This is a reality check. So many things are going to end up being battles we have to fight on Finn’s behalf. And I get the sense that the battles the school district people are accustomed to fighting with parents have more to do with parents wanting more services than the school district is willing/able to provide. They seem to not know what to do with us, the parents who are declining things, not asking for more, but asking that he not be seen through some cookie-cutter lens.
It’s not going to be a simple thing, just enroll him in school, bada bing, bada bang. It’s going to be an uphill battle, it feels like always. I suppose we could make things super easy and just sign on the dotted lines they put in front of us, initial the pre-checked boxes, let them stick him on a short bus going to some special ed program where nothing terribly meaningful will ever be actually expected of him. Let them do all their prescribed one-size fits all therapies on him, one more retarded kid moved through the system, don’t put up a fight, just cooperate and go along with it all. But I can’t, we can’t. I don’t know what Finn is going to be capable of, I don’t know what he will be able to be someday, I don’t know. But I want a meaningful life for him. I want to see him, one day, get on a charter bus with his classmates, headed for Washington DC for their eighth grade trip.
So now they will take whatever information they’ve gleaned from last week and today and put together an IEP for Finn. Our IEP meeting is scheduled for June 28. Stay tuned.