Sunday, September 19, 2010

The more things change . . .

You know the saying about the more things change the more they stay, well, you know, the same. Somehow it sounds wiser in the French: Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose.

But whether it's my English cliche or the sweet girl's father's French cliche, it's still a cliche: true enough most of the time for neurotypicals that it was elevated to cliche status, but not quite so true for the sweet girl.

For her, the more things change, the more they changed.

And one assumption holds:

Change is bad.

September arrived and she went back to school.

Same school, different grade.

Same principal, different teachers.

Same gym teacher, but different gym location.

The changes were hard enough — especially having gym inside instead of at the beautiful outdoor park by the river.

And then there was the same old problem: everyone, everywhere, always always talking talking talking.

And so the September back-to-school was filled with tears. A lot of tears. Not quite so many as last year, but still plenty. Tears at home. Tears at school.

And the question that she asked last year — "Why can't kids just stay at home and learn?" — was asked again, with new and more accurate language: "Why can't I be home-schooled?"

When I told the sweet girl that home schooling isn't the answer, she asked if I would talk to her teachers to ask them to not talk so much.

And so I did. I met with the team. In the second week of school. And most of them were wonderful, but one was not so much wonderful, and she wanted to know, "Well if the language demands are too much now, how is she going to get along next year, and the year after, and in high school where the language just gets harder and harder?"

This was a deep breathing moment for me.

"Great question," I said, "And I'd be happy to make a meeting with you to talk about that when we have an hour or more to think about it, but right now we only have 45 minutes together to come up with strategies for a girl who is weeping because the language demands and the transition back to school are hard for her. I'd like to focus this meeting on strategies for this week and next week."

So it's back to school time. And here we go again: back to defending our girl's right to reasonable accommodations and a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive setting.

Back to pre-teaching and post-teaching every night and every morning to coach her on new language.

Back to trying to figure out how to get over the social hurdles that continue to trip her up.

Back to the same routine of trying to conform.

It always strikes me as ironic that autistic people are labeled as inflexible when they are expected to adapt in an inflexible, even rigid, educational system. Who/what is inflexible here?

Sometimes I feel I need a change, a real change, not something that is just the same old same old.

I want a good school for my girl. Maybe I even want to start a good school for my girl, and other kids like her.

That would be a change. A real change.


Anonymous said...

It's so funny you mention the inflexibility of school, because I was thinking something similar. Having just pulled my son out from large, traditional public school and put him in small, quirky, charter school, I realized how inflexible the regular school is. We went there because of all the options I saw - the great SPED team, the opportunities, the library, the gym, etc. What I found at the new school is that the flexibility far make up for the things it's missing. I find myself wondering why we waited so long.

Not so relevant to you, but thank you for putting so eloquently into words what I couldn't.

Good luck - I hope the tears slow and the words flow. The first few weeks are rough for sure.

MothersVox said...

Thanks asdmommy! I think things are starting to settle down for her. It's hard to have to give up a good gym, a good library, a science lab, a computer lab, and other facilities in order to get flexibility. I'm so glad you've found a good place for your little guy, but I wonder why we have to trade off having good facilities for flexibility. We could give her lots of flexibility if we home schooled her, but we do not have a lot of space, or other kids for her to hang out with. But I think the flexibility would be great.

Brenda Rothman (Mama Be Good) said...

I love, Love, LOVE your response!! It would have taken me a lot more deep breaths, and a lot more minutes, to come up with that.

And, yeah ... flexibility by the school system, a different way of responding, a better way to educate. You go start that school, mama.

Brenda Rothman (Mama Be Good) said...

i LOVE your response. I don't think I would have been able to come up with that so quickly. Yay for getting them back on track.

And ((hugs)) that it's so hard.

MothersVox said...

Hi Brenda, Welcome and thank you for your comments -- I think one set was in my comments box for a long while as I was dealing with various school and work matters. Things are settling down a little bit for our girl, we are doing lots of homework, and hopefully she'll have another good year. Fingers crossed!

Niksmom said...

I'm kind of late to the party but wanted to tell you I admire your grace and ability to not let that one teacher pull you off track and off-focus. I'm definitely going to borrow those words, I know!

Yes, the inflexibility of the school system is mind boggling, even from a neurotypical standpoint. Kind of makes me wonder why we now seem ot have an entire generation of people who seem unable to find new or creative solutions to some of their life challenges. No critical thinking and creative problem solving seems to be taught.

But I digress, sorry. :-o

I can appreciate the challenges your daughter is facing; my nonverbal kindergartner is going through some major skill regressions and intense increases in sensory seeking behaviors in response to the pressures of school. I hope your daughter's team has all gotten on board and the tears are fewer and farther between.

Wishing you both success.

MothersVox said...

Hi Niksmom! Thanks for stopping over and commenting. Things have settled down quite a bit -- as today's post shows -- and I had other posts to do about the sweet girl's progress. I'm sorry your guy is having a tough time at school. It really is the hardest thing most any of us ever do -- surviving mandatory schooling. Hang in there!