Friday, October 24, 2014

What Ifs

They really aren't helpful, are they?

We all have them.  

Mine range from the superficial "what if I were taller/thinner/better looking?" to questions about my path in life "what if I had moved to NYC instead of Los Angeles?" to "how would my life be different (better/worse) if I had never had kids?"

Yes, I have thought about that last one.  I'm not saying I wish I hadn't had my kids, because that is totally untrue.  Sure, there are moments when I look around my tiny, cluttered house and wish I was living in a loft in Paris...alone.  Who doesn't have these kind of daydreams?  (Angelina Jolie)  I'm saying that maybe I could have been thinner, traveled the world, made some more money, etc, etc, if I hadn't.  And maybe not.  Maybe I would be just as poor, chunky, travel deprived as I am now.  Who really knows?

It's a trade-off.  Okay, for some, it isn't (Hello, Angelina!), but for most, having kids means your life will be somewhat messier and you will be somewhat poorer.  For most parents it is a welcome trade-off.  Our kids enrich our lives in big and small ways every day.  My kids make me laugh, make me proud and make me yell in frustration, sometimes in the span of two minutes.  It's crazy and chaotic and I am happy and feel privileged to have such great kids.

I thought about these "what ifs" when I read an article about a mom with the headline "Mom of son with Down syndrome, 47, wishes she had had an abortion"...or something along those lines.  I refuse to post the article here, but a little Googling on your part will bring you to the story I am referring to.

I read it because a few of my friends had posted it, incredulous that this hateful piece was out there, complete with pictures of the family.  I repeat, pictures.

I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around putting your kid (he's an adult, but still her child) out there with the words "I wish he were never born" or actually, even worse, "I wish I had known what you would be so I could have aborted you" alongside a brand new family portrait.  I am no psychiatrist, but I think there is something deeply, fundamentally wrong with this person.

My first reaction was "how dare she?!"  Seriously, how dare she put her kid's name and picture out there with those words?!?  How dare she pose with him like they were a family?!?!  What purpose does this have?  We should feel sorry for her?  We should pity her?  What does she get out of this?  I have to wonder.  Maybe ( I think, definitely) she has some serious mental disorder.  Maybe she was duped into telling her sensationalized story by some unscrupulous editor (the source it comes from is known for it's outrageous stories and is no friend to the disability community).


I feel awful for her children.  She has another, older son who is missing from the latest family portrait; I would be very interested to hear what he has to say about all of this.  As for her younger son, I just feel so much sadness.  How awful to be the subject of so much loathing and misplaced anger and self-pity.  This woman has decided that her life would have been better without her younger son in it.  Meanwhile, she institutionalized him, so he really wasn't in it much, anyway, so I don't understand how he ruined her life.  She is blaming her crappy life on a child; a child that didn't ask for his issues, or choose his parents.  I have to believe that all any child really wants from their parents is to be loved and accepted.  Feeling like a disappointment is no way to go through life.

I feel sad for her, too, though it's a grudging feeling.  I really don't think she deserves my pity, but I do pity her.  I pity her crappy life.  I pity her inability to see the good and that it outweighs the bad.  I pity the small, sheltered space she must inhabit.  I pity the hatred she must feel for herself.

Yes, I am angry.  I am angry that she put this out there for expecting parents to see.  Will their fears be confirmed with this story?  I hope not.  I hope that they know that there are many, many more parents of kids with Down syndrome who feel pretty much the exact opposite of this one, myself included.

I am angry that people say she is a product of her generation.  That statement is a slap in the face to any parent that chose the hard road of keeping their kid home and fighting for inclusion in those earlier days.  She could have been a pioneer and she chose to be a coward.

Parenting is not for the timid.  At least, parenting well isn't.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

IEP Hell: The Neverending Headache

If you have been following along with the saga of my middle son's IEP's, you will know that we have had our ups and downs.  Mostly, luckily, thankfully, our experience with these meetings has been positive.  Until last year, with the start of his transition to high school, we never really had any kind of problem that we could not solve.

I am feeling that those days are behind us.  Even after a somewhat positive resolution to our last meeting before this school year started link here , we find ourselves baffled by school officials' lack of understanding of what inclusion looks like.

For instance, it does not look like a modified gym class for kids who are recovering from injuries.  Seriously, it does not.  

Charles is not injured.  Down syndrome is NOT a reason to be left out of a typical gym class.  In fact, Charles has ALWAYS been included in a typical gym class...until this year.  They decided (unbeknownst to me) that it would be better (their word was safer) to put Charles in a class where three or four other kids were getting therapy for injuries, rather than with the "general population". I am using that term with no irony whatsoever.

The gym teacher, who, all in all, seems like a very nice person who is trying to get a handle on how to include and teach Charles, is completely overwhelmed by this task.  I am not exactly sure why, but lack of understanding about what Down syndrome is and isn't seems to be a big piece of it.

I really didn't know what to say in the moment, because to me, it seems like a no-brainer that you would just assume he can do stuff until you see that he can't and then modify from there.  In the case of gym, the only modifications Charles needs are the ones that address his AAI What? and those are minor.  He can run, shoot hoops, play games, do bench press...pretty much everything that gym entails.  Can we just for a second assume that he can do stuff before we decide (with no evidence other than ***whispering*** psst, he has Down syndrome ) that he can't?

The problem "they" say is that Charles once left the gym without permission and they are worried that it would be hard to watch him in a large group setting, such as a regular gym class.  I get the need for safety, but let's break it down a bit.  He left this gym class/therapy and went to the next class on his schedule; most likely because he was TOTALLY BORED!  Who wants to sit around watching other people get therapy?  Further, they decided this BEFORE he started school! They had it in their heads that he could not handle the larger class and put him in this poor excuse for a gym class instead, without consulting me (I would have laughed at them) or even trying out the regular class first.  


So, I told them that we needed to get him into a regular class, like YESTERDAY and they brought out the standard, tired argument of who was going to "watch" him, since, you know, they are so understaffed and the district won't give them another aide and yada, yada, yada...

I'm sorry, what?  

I pay taxes and ridiculous school fees for this "free" education and my kid will get what he needs; and if you put him in a class that actually has activities to keep him engaged, I am pretty sure that he won't feel the need to wander off to the math lab for some excitement.  Besides, my kid is LEGALLY entitled to receive a free, public education in the least restrictive environment; in this case, the high school that his brothers also attend, five blocks from our house.  This is not special treatment.  It is legally protected and socially just inclusion.

His case manager actually started complaining that there were so many kids "like mine" coming down the pike that they didn't know how they were going to handle it. And I said (trying to restrain myself from rolling my eyeballs out of my head) "Yes, you had better believe they are all coming!"  The insinuation was that "we" were the problem.  We.  Us pesky parents and our stupid kids.  

Are you freaking kidding me?!?!  These creative, bright individuals can't think of a way to revamp the system to accommodate children AT THEIR HOME SCHOOLS IN REGULAR CLASSES?!?!?  How about take 75% of the teachers and aides in the segregated classes and put them in the others?  Co-teaching?  Extra hands?  Spending less money busing kids to other schools also means more money for extra teachers.  For the other 25%, we can have some smaller classes for those kids that really, really need it and even those could go away in time, in my opinion.  We are finding out that our kids learn better together.  ALL our kids learn better together; no matter where they are on the continuum. Read Thisthis, and this.  

I am SO TIRED of having to educate the educators.  I am tired of getting beaten down to the point where I feel like my only choices are to pull him out altogether or leave him to rot in "life skills".

I have more to say, but right now, I am just so freaking tired.