Friday, July 3, 2009

The Boy Starts School

This is the third post in the story of The Boy. Each of the past two Fridays, I have been telling his story. I plan to continue that pattern until you are caught up. After that, maybe I will tell another story of my life! Guess you will have to stay tuned for those!

The Boy started Kindergarten with no services needed. Great! It was decided by his father and myself that the best place for him to attend school would be a small private Catholic school. A little background here: I am not Catholic. His father and his family are. We were married in the Catholic church. My son was to have been baptized at delivery because of complications, but no paperwork was ever completed. Because I was not Catholic and there was no paperwork confirming the baptism of The Boy, he was not considered to be Catholic either. Because of this, we were both treated differently.

Kindergarten went pretty well. I went to parent/teacher conferences and talked a lot to his teacher about how he was dealing with school. She always told me that he was very polite and very helpful. She said that he didn't have a lot of friends, although he always was "for the underdog." The one friend he did make, just happened to be the biggest kid in the class who was also really shy and didn't have many friends either.

First grade came and problems began to surface. First off, in September, The Boy and I left his father. I woke up one day and decided that I was no longer 'me' and I needed time apart to see if I was still around or if I had been killed off by his father long ago. (May sound stupid, but that is how I felt.) I asked his father to please go stay at his parents' house (just a few blocks away) so that I could continue to raise The Boy in his home until I could figure things out. His father looked at me and said, "I will not leave my home. The two of you may go, but this is my house." Even after explaining that it would be easier on The Boy to stay in his own surroundings, his father told me that he didn't care.

So, I grabbed as much of The Boy's clothes and possessions as I could stuff in my vehicle and I left. I had only a few days worth of items for me, so a couple of family members returned to get my things. I never went back. I knew then that I was still 'in there' somewhere and I couldn't live like that anymore.

Now, back to The Boy! First grade was tough. They started to have 'sight words' that they had to know every week. The first time they did them, the words were written on cut out orange fish. The teacher said that she planned to put them on different shapes and colors every week for the kids to learn. We did fine with these. It was funny though, I could hold the words up to the mirror and he would be able to read them by looking in the mirror! I sometimes had to actually look at the fish in my hand to make sure he was correct!

The second week, she changed the shape and color his words were written on. He couldn't figure them out. We tried everything, but he just couldn't figure them out. Finally, I decided to write them on the back of the previous weeks orange fish. Guess what? He could read and recognize them! Crazy, but true. The teacher couldn't believe it either, but from then on, The Boy's words for the week came home on orange fish!

We also started to notice that his handwriting was not progressing the way the other kids' were. The teacher was having difficulty reading anything he wrote. He continued to only have the one friend, despite all efforts of the teacher to get him to interact with the others. She said that even with the one friend, he still mostly kept to himself.

He didn't like to be touched. He didn't like loud noises. He didn't like people touching his things. Teasing was terrible. The rules were the rules and they were made to be followed, not tested, let alone broken. Everyone should be treated exactly the same and when they weren't, he was not happy. When he became frustrated, he would hit himself in the head and bite himself. He would push on his eyes when frustrated.

Second grade was more of the same. Difficulty with writing. Spelling was extremely difficult for him. Taking tests was an ordeal. He would start to cry when he became frustrated. He wanted nobody to touch anything of his. He wanted nobody to touch him. If you placed a time limit on something, he nearly shut down. He had a hard time if there was a substitute and he didn't know the sub was coming. He had difficulty when his routine was disturbed.

I went to the teacher close to the end of the year and asked if there was not some type of testing that could be done to see if there was a learning disability. She said she would bring it up with the principal. I waited, but nothing was done.

Third grade started. Things were becoming increasingly more difficult. I went to his new teacher and asked about testing. She said that she would talk to the principal. I waited. When nothing was done, I asked his second grade teacher. She told me that she had discussed it with the principal, but was not given an answer. the same thing was told to me by his third grade teacher. By this time, more than half of the school year was complete. The third grade teacher (God Bless her!) had been making dozens of accommodations for him through out the year.

I ended up contacting the woman who was his teacher when he attended ECSE. She asked what was happening and what I had done about it. When I told her, she said that she would take care of it. Within weeks, tests were set up with the closest public school district. I had gotten a new job at this point, and I would take him and drop him off for testing, go to my job, pick him up at lunchtime and return him to regular school. This went on for weeks, until the testing was complete.

By the last week of school, we met to discuss the tests. The verdict was in. He was classified as having a Written Expression delay. They also said that he was very smart, but had social delays also. He had a speech problem on top of it. I was told all the things that I knew, but because I was just a mom, my knowledge didn't count.

They said that there were several things that could be done, but that because he attended a private school, that school did not have to provide the accommodations required. I was told that I could take him to the local public school, and they would help him. Or, I could leave him in the private school (which they thought would be better for him because of the small classroom sizes) and see what happened. They felt that he would continue to fall behind if this option was chosen though.

The tears flowed. I was devastated. It is hard enough to know that there is something not quite right with your child. It is a totally different thing to be told by 'professionals' that you are right. I knew that now that the schools acknowledged the difficulties, they could do things to help. And yet, the best school for him would do nothing.

What to do? His father was of no help. He had decided that I was just being stupid. I decided that the best thing I could do for my son would be to put him into a public school so that he could get the educational help that he so obviously needed.

But which one? I lived in the district in which he had been tested. But that school was quite large and was set just off the interstate. I didn't feel comfortable with either of those things. The new job that I had started just a few months prior was as a nurse for two different public school districts. One of them was K-8th grade and only had about 115 kids altogether. The problem would be then finding a high school for him to attend afterward. The other school was the one in which I had attended during my entire K-12 career. There were about 330 kids total. Both of these schools said that since I worked for them, I could bring The Boy tuition free.

Both schools had their good points and their bad points. I was going to have to really weigh my options. Which should I choose to give my son the best opportunities? What if I chose the wrong one? I had already made so many mistakes.

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