Nov 9, 2014: A This-and-That Week

Happy almost Veterans Day! Theo is very excited to get a day off school this week (even though he’s Star of the Week in class). The start of the week is not his favorite thing. He was grumbling away this morning about, “Tomorrow is miserable poop day!” In case you’re wondering, that translates to Monday, which he doesn’t like because it means the start of another school week.

But more than that, he’s happy to have Tuesday off school because he has decided that he absolutely detests P.E., which he has on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He informed me the other day that P.E. stands for poop-ical education and that he’s not doing it anymore. Apparently he got in a “really big argument” with his friend because Theo decided he wasn’t going to report to his P.E. number, as he didn’t want to participate, and his friend got upset and told him he had to go to his number. I said, “What did your P.E. teacher have to say about this?” and he said, “Nothing. I just told her I wasn’t doing it.” I said, “You told her you weren’t doing it, and she didn’t say anything? Not a word?” At that point, he admitted that he had told her “in his head” but that he was going to tell her out loud during the next P.E. class.

Honestly, he comes by this naturally—I hated P.E. in school. I even earned a D in it at one point. But that was when I got older—I think in first grade, I still thought it was fine. So I asked him what he doesn’t like about it. He’s a pretty active kid in general—he walks a mile to school every morning, and he walks a mile home most afternoons. On weekends, we spend much of Saturday and Sunday out and about, so he’s playing at a park or exploring a zoo or a kids’ museum or something. It’s not like he’s a couch potato, so I wondered what he disliked to vehemently about it.

“Well, Mom,” he said, “I don’t like the jogging. They make us jog around the blacktop for like five minutes! I don’t like it, Mom.” Hmm. I’m still baffled, because he always wants to go jogging with me. And during his after-school care, they play running games outside on the blacktop, which he loves. So I’m not sure why exactly he doesn’t like it during P.E., but he doesn’t. He just staunchly refuses to like it. And I have to admit, I’m kind of amused. He’s polite about his rebellion, but he’s just darn well not going to do it if he doesn’t want to. Sounds quite a bit like me when I was younger…though I was more of a people-pleaser at age six than Theo is. I didn’t start my quiet rebellions until later. But that’s Theo for you—always wanting to do things ahead of schedule. 🙂

School in general is having its ups and downs for him. This week he got bullied a bit, and he had to go to the office to talk to “the officers” (who I assume are the office staff) about what happened. But he’s familiar with the office—he’s had to talk to the vice principal a few times over behavior issues. Evidently the kids aren’t supposed to talk excessively about poop at lunchtime. Nor are they to attempt to climb the cafeteria walls. Lesson learned. 😉

The bullying…argh. It was a “friend” of his. Tough to sort out whether this was boys-will-be-boys playing that got out of hand or whether it was truly bullying. Probably somewhere in the middle, from what I can tell. I do know that it was enough that his teacher pulled me aside when I dropped him off, apologized, and said she had called the parents of the two boys involved, and they’d been punished at school as well. One of the mothers has already apologized to me, and honestly, she and her husband seem like very nice people. The kid is in after-care as well as Theo’s class, and Theo has talked a lot about playing with him. My gut says it’s a matter of Theo and the two other boys being a trio, and Theo being the odd one out this particular week. But I feel really bad that he’s already having to deal with this crap. I just wish kids could be kinder to each other than they are sometimes. And honestly, I hate exposing Theo to this kind of thing. He’s such a kind-hearted kid that I hate to have him see that type of behavior and possibly emulate it. I guess that’s a downside of schooling outside the home.…

On a better note, I hosted our first Odyssey of the Mind meeting on Friday, and it went great!! Our team has two kindergartners, two first-graders, and two second-graders. One of the second-graders (a girl) arrived half an hour early, and her mom had to drop off her grandma before coming back to join the meeting. I told her mom the girl was welcome to stay and play with Theo until the meeting started, so I sent the two of them out back to play while I finished setting up. I had the screen open and could hear them, and honestly, the cuteness almost killed me! Theo and this little girl, Kelsey, had never met before, but they totally hit it off. In short order, Kelsey had fixed our gate, Theo had sent her up our big backyard hill in search of a “water main,” she had told him all about how the backyard plumbing works (in the confident way kids have when they really know nothing about it!), Theo had regaled her with tales of the tarantulas that come down from Mt. Diablo and the raccoons that come up out of the sewer, she had in turn told him about snakes and how to tie his shoes…and on and on. I could’ve sat and listened to them for hours!

When the other four kids arrived, they all swarmed up our hill, which apparently is super-fun for kids, while I talked to the parents about my plans for the meetings and such. The mothers were all really nice and friendly—couldn’t have asked for a friendlier bunch! I was glad to meet a friendly bunch, since I haven’t found Theo’s new school to be nearly as friendly as his old one was. But this group of moms seems to be, which is great. And the kids got along fantastic!

After I talked to the other mothers, we brought the kids in, let them watch a short video explaining what OotM is, and then set them to work on a project I had designed. These first few meetings are really just to get the team gelling and working together; we won’t launch into our big weather project until around Christmas. So I had just made up a silly little project designed to have them think about everyday objects in different ways and work together to build something. Each child got a different object in a paper bag (a plastic spoon, a length of yarn, a piece of foil, a ball, a small cup, and a small tub of playdoh), and they had to tell what it was and one other thing it could be. For example, the girl who got the plastic spoon said it was a spoon but that it could be an axle to hold wheels on a car. The kids got really into making suggestions about what else the objects could be. And then when we finished that, I gave them 10 minutes to build a vehicle—the only rule being that they had to use each of the objects they had been given. I gave them tape, scissors, and a few other odds and ends they asked for, and they set to work. I thought they might get stuck, but they only asked twice at the very beginning for help, and both times I said, “No, that’s the beauty of Odyssey of the Mind—you guys get to come up with it and build it all on your own!” And boy, did they ever run with it! They kept asking for more time (which we happily obliged), and they masterminded a pickup truck with an engine. We finally cut them off around 40 minutes because it was getting to be dinnertime, and they were so annoyed—they didn’t want to stop! You’ll see a picture of their partially done creation in this week’s gallery.

Anyway, I feel really excited and optimistic about our team—the kids seemed to really enjoy themselves, and the moms seem great! Now I just have to come up with another fun project for next time….

In other kid news, I got to volunteer in Sam’s class this week! They asked me to come in and do an art project with the kids. What fun! The art project was a simple one where the kids were given an apple half and an orange half, which they dipped in paint and then stamped on paper to make a design. I got to work one on one with each kid, and I was so glad to get to know them better! Those kids in there melt my heart. I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog, and most of these kids have some sort of challenge. There are three (including Sam) with Down syndrome, one with some other global delay that I’m not sure of, and a few that struggle with speech. I see them every day, but I haven’t had the chance to really get to meet them until now. It was so much fun! Sam was a wee bit jealous, though. He kept toddling over to the table where I was doing art and nosing his way in. 🙂

I was also there for part of their outdoor play, and it was amazing to watch Sam. They have some playground equipment but then also a lot of blacktop with push cars and ride-on vehicles and such. Sam particularly likes the ones you can sit on and push with your feet, and I found out firsthand recently how fast he is on those now, when he sat on one in our garage and promptly pushed himself so he’d go flying down the driveway. (Yes, I almost wet my pants!) Anyway, what I didn’t know is that he’s taken to racing with two other kids there. The three of them get on their ride-on vehicles and will go flying down the blacktop in a race! Then they’ll get to the other end, turn around, and do it again. It was very clear watching them that they were absolutely playing together and setting up races, even though two of the three (one of them being Sam) can’t really talk! The teachers tell me he and his friends play this race game almost every day. Wow!

I’m also constantly amazed by how well he navigates around obstacles. His depth perception and his sense of his body in space are really impressive!

Before I forget, Sam has learned a new word that I’m trying desperately to capture on video: no! But the cutest thing about it is, he says “no” and waggles his index finger while he does it, to signify no, no, no! Apparently he’s a canned green-bean fiend at Early Intervention, so I got some for him to eat at home. I offered him some, and he shook his finger at me and said, “No!” Okay, point taken….

By the way, after eight months, he is finally eating at Early Intervention. He now eats small pieces of turkey and cheese sandwiches, as well as green beans, quesadillas, bagels, and dried mango. However, he refuses all of these things if we offer them to him. He’ll eat them at school, but not for us. Ah well, one step at a time. (And I have seen video of this, so I know they’re not pulling my leg. The little stinker does eat at school, even though he won’t for us!)

And as long as we’re talking about Sam and school, I’ll share that I’m feeling much better about preschool for him. I talked to an attorney this week, and she gave me so much good information! Very, very long story short, we will ask the district to pay for a private preschool (because they have no general-education preschool of their own), and when they refuse (which they will), the attorney will file Due Process for us, in which she asks the district to pay for the preschool, as well as any necessary related services (OT, speech therapy, an aide if needed, etc.). I knew that attorneys could do this, but I figured paying attorney fees would kill us. I was delighted to find out that this will cost us nothing! If she wins, the school district pays her fees. If she loses…she’s out of luck. She said she takes the risk on these cases because she knows she is likely to win them and thus get paid—she’s successfully argued many. Among other things, she said the only thing that should keep Sam out of general-education preschool would be behavior issues. He doesn’t have behavior issues, so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be placed in general education. It’s his right in our state, and it will set him up to be placed in general ed when he starts kindergarten, too, which has been shown to be the best placement for many kids with special needs. (I won’t say “all,” because every child’s needs are different. But for many kids who would be shuttled into special ed, a general-ed placement is actually more effective.)

So all we have to do is find a preschool we want and one that is willing to testify to his progress in court, and enroll him. Then we cover the preschool costs out of pocket until she wins the Due Process case, and we will get reimbursed by the district.

By the way, I’ve always been very sensitive to people who take advantage of “the system,” and so normally asking the taxpayers, essentially, to fund my son’s preschool education would bother me. However, there’s one big issue here: The district does not offer general preschool classes. If they did, I would certainly have Sam go to one. But they simply don’t have it. So if they don’t have it, I have no choice but to put him in private preschool if I want him to be around typically developing children, which anyone who knows him agrees is the best possible placement for him. And while yes, I suppose we could say that it’s up to us to fund our son’s education, the truth is that trying to pay for it would be a real financial hardship for us. Plus, I have worked and paid taxes for 26 years now, and Chris for 22 years. And we’ve never asked for any sort of special treatment, so I feel like, “Okay, this is what’s best for Sam, so I’m going to take it. I’ve not asked for anything else above and beyond what our taxes normally cover, but I’m going to ask for this.” Besides, it’s only two to three years, and in theory this will set him up to succeed in mainstream education, which means the taxpayers won’t later be spending as much for him in special ed. And our hope is that by doing everything we can to help him succeed in school, he’ll eventually be able to work and help provide for himself—again minimizing the “burden” on the taxpayers.

I suppose I’m perhaps a bit defensive about this, because it’s been hard for me to reconcile having to ask for “help” to educate my son. But it’s fair. I’m not asking the district to pay for some ridiculously expensive top-tier preschool. I’m simply asking for them to cover a good general-education preschool where he will thrive among typically developing peers so he can make the most of his two or three years in preschool.

And so the search begins… I’m visiting a Montessori school on Monday that already has a child with Down syndrome in their program. I visited another one a while back, and I’ll be looking into other ones in the close local area. But I feel as if a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders, knowing that we have some legal help. And by the way, those of you who donated to Down Syndrome Connection for Sam’s walk in October, here’s another thank you—they are the people who referred me to this attorney. Your money went to a place doing good things for Sam and his chromosomally similar pals. 🙂

Let’s see…what else can I share? Oh, I got a second interview for that part-time freelance job I mentioned that I took a test for. I’m nervous because it sounds like I didn’t nail the test. I did well enough to warrant a second interview, but I didn’t nail it. I’m not surprised, because it was a really tough test! But it makes me nervous, going into the second interview. Ah well, all I can do is my best….

Also, we had a fun adventure at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park on Sunday. I wrote about it in a separate post; click here to read it. There are also many more pictures in that one! (It’s in a separate post because I want to refer my students to it, and I didn’t figure they needed to slog through the rest of my weekly events. This will make more sense when you read the post….) And in case you missed it, there was another blog post this week, about Sam and schooling and assessments. Click here to read it. And on a very related note, if you’re interested in reading about a possible problem with performing assessments on nonverbal children, this is an interesting post. I’ve definitely seen these sorts of things happen with Sam during evaluation!

Also, ice cream. I share this for my Aunt Sally, who will appreciate it. We’ve been hunting down good ice cream lately, and this weekend we tried two excellent things. One was Thai iced tea flavored ice cream—tasted just like a creamy scoop of Thai iced tea in a cup! Delicious! Also, homemade hot fudge. Enough said. 🙂

Anyway! Enjoy your week, all!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *