Our eighteen year old daughter, Elisabeth, is still studying over in India. For the past three weeks, she and a group of exchange students have been travelling in northern India, visiting crowded Dehli, the impressive Taj Mahal and amazing sites in Jaipur. She texted us that she was 30km from the Pakistani border a few days ago, which is a fact we’d rather hear about after she’s back safely this summer. She continues to have a tremendous experience and has three months left over there (one advantage of time passing really quickly as we parents get older is that E’s seven months in India have flown by quickly).
Our sixteen year old daughter, Catherine, and I are getting ready to head over to India to visit Elisabeth in ten days. We can’t wait, and I’ve never been so excited to start taking malaria pills.
Timothy gets a kick out of playing hide and seek, and he has two versions. The freestyle, ‘stand alone and cover up your eyes’ version is one that he’s still working on. For now, he doesn’t yet cover his eyes, and instead just stands there and puts his hands on the side of his face, looking like Macaulay Culkin in ‘Home Alone’.
He’s better with something to hide behind, and it’s really cute to see him peeking around a wall or a piece of furniture, although when T’s really wound up and wild eyed, his peek around the corner can look a little like Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’.
As we have mentioned before, Timothy is quite skilled at pulling the books off the bookshelf in his room but is less enthusiastic about putting those books back on the shelf. We solved that problem a few months ago by moving half of the books from his book shelf to an undisclosed location, but T has worked hard to maintain his mess by pulling the books off the shelf twice as fast as we can put them back. Smart kid.
(Timothy after getting his first Ash Wednesday ashes — he was a moving target)
We were busy getting ready for church last Sunday, aiming for an on time arrival for a change, when Timothy added a little speed bump by sneezing on me when his mouth was full of breakfast. Fortunately, that meant a simple clean-up of Wheat Chex and milk. Thank goodness he didn’t order the Eggs Benedict.
Full disclosure: You are about to enter a special ed parent rant.
Call it Special Ed Parent 101, but two years into our foray to TRBL Town, Laura and I are getting our first real view into fitting Timothy into the school system, as we recently went through the process of deciding where T should go to pre school next year. For a lad like Timothy who is thriving but is also a very active boy and is not yet communicating verbally, should he be in a class with all kids with special needs, or could he gets his needs met if mainstreamed into a class with all typical kids?
While it’s the first time that we’ve really faced this question, it won’t be anywhere near the last time, and so we’d better learn to get good at knowing his needs, really understanding our options at school, and knowing when to press for more answers and possibilities at school.
As a sidenote, shortly after Timothy was born, I was at a barbeque and overheard a guy talking about how his son’s class was being slowed down by ‘a bunch of kids with Aspergers’. As offended as I was by his comments, I realized that, prior to Timothy’s birth, I might have held a similar opinion as this guy, and worse – I might still feel a bit like that if a bunch of kids with special needs were put into Catherine’s high school classes (which is either ironic or hypocritical and I’m not sure I want to know which).
Most of us want other people to have their basic needs met, but it gets a little tricky when their peanut butter gets mixed up with our chocolate.
Back to Timothy, he had several different choices. Being in the class with strictly special needs kids would be the safest bet to get his basic needs met, but he might not be stretched as much developmentally. On the other hand, being mainstreamed with typical kids might be a good way to stretch him, but might be too big of a jump for him and might find him left out.
We continue to be lucky to work with great people at our school district. And they were very helpful explaining the different options, but they have a difficult balance and limited resources, and we understand that. Ultimately, the choice of where to go to school is up to us.
And it should be, because it’s hard when hearing someone from a school make a suggestion about a class that might be best for your child — do they really understand your kid’s needs well enough, or are simply explaining what is ‘normally’ done? Again, I understand their delicate balance, and at the same time, this little red headed boy is counting on us not getting intimidated by a new system and figuring out how to put him in the right environment.
And so we’ve decided that we’d like to split it down the middle and are likely to put him in a class with half typical kids and half kids with special needs. We hope that in a class like that he would be both challenged and supported.
But that process was painful to go through, partly because it’s a reality check for all concerned.
Again, the people at the school are great to work with, but they have limited resources. It’s a puzzle of understanding Timothy’s real needs and ‘where he is’ (relative to his peers), and the possibilities and limits of the school.
If Laura and I understood each of those three elements really well, it’d be much better, but we still have a lot to learn, and so it’s hard not to wonder if we’re stretching him too much in some places and not asking the school enough tough questions in other places.
Despite the challenges of playing match.com for Timothy, we know that we’re lucky to have access to such outstanding staff and resources in our school district.
And after all, it’s not easy to find the right school to fit both Macaulay Culkin and Jack Nicholson.
Still grateful, if not always graceful,