More for the book
Blown Away... four years running

Going on the list of things to do when I'm rich

So I've been thinking a lot about this one lately... the way our school system is set up.  Chance is getting closer to kindergarten - he's a year away - and I know I need to look at our options.  I've been looking, here and there, talking with other parents at OT, scanning the ads for schools in our local parenting magazine for particular keywords.  I haven't done an in depth search yet but I know I need to start.

The plan originally was for Chance to go our local elementary, which is well-rated and, the part I love, would be full of kids from the neighborhood.  I like the idea of being neighborhood-centric.  It's one of the reasons we picked this neighborhood in the first place.  Literally growing up with the children near you, rather than having sets of friends at distant schools, and distant hobbies, and distant sports - which is the way world seems to have moved.

However, I am the first person to acknowledge that a public school might not be the best environment for Chance with his sensory issues.  He has come a LONG way since last summer (I mean, huge) but he still has a way to go - some of the sensory issues will continue to get better as he gets older, but other aspects will still be hard (especially, I suspect, his sensory-seeking behaviors).  His preschool class right now has 30 kids and that's probably way too many past ideal.  I just haven't wanted to pull him away from his friends (I'm so much less concerned with the "academics" of preschool in favor of socialization). 

Honestly, seeing how much of a difference the OT and speech therapy has made with Chance, what I'd LOVE, would be to pick up his entire therapy office and drop it into a school environment.  His therapy office is comprised of both Speech and Occupational Therapists.  And there are schools like that, who have therapists on site... but they are usually for autistic or more physically disabled kids.  There aren't any (or none I've found so far) for the children who have an issue or two that is getting in the way of development and learning.  And it's a shame because many of the methods used in play (occupational) therapy really increase focus and, utimately, help learning.  Not just for kids with special needs, but everyone.  If you make a roomful of children do ten jumps in a row before sitting down to learn a hard math problem, they generally will have more focus for learning.

Public schools in California have gotten increasingly larger as school funding has been cut.  I was talking with the spouse of a teacher recently (whose son is also in OT) and I asked what the perspective was on kids with ADHD, SPD, or other similar issues and he said that with the large class sizes and the pressure to score highly on tests the teachers just "don't want to deal with" the difficult children. They don't have the time.

One out of 20 kids has sensory issues; that's 5% of the general population.  Another 5%+ have ADHD/ADD.  There are also children with depression, bi-polar disorder, Aspergers, and behavioral issues.  There are kids with medical conditions, like cystic fibrosis and more.  There are kids who are more active or less active than those around them.  There are children who "just don't fit in".  These are regular kids... but they all have issues, sometimes really small issues, that get in the way of learning, interacting, and self-esteem.  These are kids who might not learn best by the "sitting still and shuting up" standard.  Looked at by itself not one of these seems to be a signficant percentage in the general population, but taken all together you start talking about quite a lot of children. 

So... if every classroom has 2-3 kids (and probably more) that are "difficult", that the teachers just "don't want to deal with", where are those children supposed to go?

Because I can tell you right now I haven't found a school for those kids yet; the kids who are mainstream but towards the edge.  The kids who have a special need, but aren't special needs. 

Chance is impulsive and physical and often inattentive and smart, and I don't want him to lose out on reaching his potential because he's one of the "difficult" children.  I don't want him to struggle unnecessarily or lose self-esteem.  I don't want to see any other child lose out on their potential either, because I have to wonder... are we, is our education system, failing these children? 

So that's basically what I would do... if I was rich I would found a school.  A school with smaller class sizes and rooms outfitted with OT gym equipment.  A school with OTs and speech therapists and regular therapists on site with the teachers.  A school where an emotional outburst is not a major breach of "how things are done".  A school that could accomodate a special diet, the need for a quiet room, or the need for a child to run a couple of laps before sitting down to learn.  A school where a kid who might feel a little different, can just relax, instead of feeling like they're getting in trouble all the time.  

If you know of a school like that, let me know.                 - the weirdgirl

Comments

Hannah

Well, this doesn't help you unless you want to move to Nova Scotia (it's really very nice here!) but our government will pay for private school tuition for kids with ADD, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder and learning disabilities if the public system doesn't offer the care they need. (http://tuitionsupport.ednet.ns.ca/index.shtml)

And there is a school here called Landmark East - http://www.landmarkeast.org/aboutus.asp - that sounds a lot like the dream school you describe.

So, in short, there is a schooling option, and local kids can have their tuition covered if they need to go there to have their needs met.

I know we have freakin' horrible winters here, but sometimes it really rocks living in a socialist paradise.

VegasDad

Good luck with your quest. I hope you find the right place for him.

Lori at Spinning Yellow

Would you win the lottery already and get this place started (except I'd need one all the way over here in PA, too)? Oh, how I wish! Scott is so far away from the kid he was at Chance's age, but, he still doesn't fit in right at school. He doesn't have enough of a problem to warrant a special environment (or even an IEP at this point). You are absolutely correct that so many of the multi-sensory approaches should be incorporated in the mainstream classroom. And there are many kids who aren't even identified as having any kind of issue who are struggling all the time.

Lately, Scott will say, "Why can't they make school better? Why does it have to go so long each day? Why can't it be more fun, with more time to get up and move around?"

Why, indeed.

Ami

I chose to homeschool both children for different reasons.

My son had some sensory issues, but they were NOTHING compared to my daughter's issues.

It's been the best thing we ever did.

Velma

Actually, I'd recommend getting a school district evaluation ASAP. We are in MA, and my son at 3 had just enough in the way of different delays and issues to qualify for an IEP and inclusion in a fabulous special integrated preschool classroom. They had 11 kids, 6 on IEPS, 5 peers (whose families PAID for them to go there)... and a teacher, 3 aides, and whatever therapists were indicated by the IEPs.

I'd recommend researching all your options while the evaluation process happens. If, after an evaluation, the school district can't offer what you think he needs, you can just decline to send him there. We have been surprised at how many interventions have been available to our son, despite his high-functioning spectrum status, all through the school district as required by law.

the weirdgirl

Hannah - Sounds perfect! I'm a socialist at heart (to my husband's shame), but I REALLY hate cold weather.

VegasDad - Thanks!

Lori - You will be the first person I call when I'm rich! Doesn't it kill you when your son says that? Poor kid, I really feel for him. I had a hard time in school (being a social nerd) and that was without anything else going on.

Ami - My son craves so much social interaction - all the time - that I don't think homeschooling is the right route for us either. I also don't think I could homeschool well. Mad props to you for being up for that challenge!

Velma - I've actually been in contact with the school district and I need to get the evaluation scheduled again. We'd put it on hold because of various complications (mainly trying to navigate between two different school districts and the different stories you get from both!). But it's great to hear that the process has worked well for your son! Thanks for sharing. I need to hear stories like yours.

CJ

I say draw up a proposal and find SOMEONE to pay for it! I would send my kid there!! Does your state have any alternative schools? Being a parent is hard, stuff like this makes it even harder...but mad props to you for taking the time to figure out the best course of action. Some parents would just drop him in public school and hope for the best.

Chag

Good luck. We've been talking a lot about kindergarten lately, even though we're more than a year away.

Class sizes are entirely too large. I've seen what happens to the kids with a special need or two in classes. They are often ignored for the good of the whole. And it's not right.

DadStuff

We have a son with Asperger's who had sensory issues in preschool. With OT he was able to slowly deal with certain touches.
As far as school goes, we have given each of his teachers a list of helpful hints in deal with him which his teachers have been very open in accepting them. A little extra communication before the school year has gone a long way to starting on the right foot.

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