Sunday, October 5, 2014
Entering the Public School Arena
One of my children, Jie Jie, will be attending public school in a couple weeks. She has always had a "Peter Pan" syndrome, seemingly unable to keep maturing unless I force her along. Well, she's got some serious learning issues. I've suspected for a long time, many said give her more time, but I finally had her tested and she definitely has an expressive and receptive language disorder. In her own words, "My ears hear the words, but my brain doesn't." She doesn't take ANY auditory cues from the environment. She functions completely visually and, therefore, misses a huge percent of life. It was astonishing to watch her in the library with the school class the other day. Her little head was bobbing all over the place like a dashboard doggie as she tried to figure out what was going on. The minute she lowered her eyes to the book she chose, she missed the bell, the teacher's announcement to line up, and the fact that all the kids left and she was still there reading.
She has had the idea that public school would be a lot like her experience last year in the private school she attended part time for music, but she got the shock of her life in the lunchroom. Suddenly, things felt overwhelming and a little hard and confusing. Then, she had forgotten to restock her medical supplies, her job, and the teacher told her exactly what I did and in the same voice, "You are a big girl now. That is your responsibility, not your mom's." She nearly cried and I was glad. I know that sounds cold-hearted, but it's been a constant issue and to have support and to see her realize I've been right all this time was priceless! Though by birthdate she'd be in 5th grade this year, she will be going into a third grade classroom and be pulled out for help in every subject since she's working way below 3rd grade level. Some is because she was 7 when I got her and she'd never so much as even held a crayon before, then there's the learning English, then there's getting her health stabilized, but she has not been progressing in her studies at home as I would have expected such a bright child to progress, so I'm turning her over to the professionals.
Fortunately, I really like the school and the teachers. Her teacher is even in a wheelchair, which is a great role model for her since she often feels like the only one with a special need. The student body lacks diversity, the population is probably 97% Hispanic, but the school has high standards and I was very impressed with the behavior of all the students, the kindness of all the staff and a particular little boy who helped Jie Jie, the cleanliness of the school and the bright colorful classrooms. The special ed services are extensive, too. She has no reason not to thrive in this school.
I wish I was having as much success placing Blossom. She, too, qualifies for special ed services, but she cannot be mainstreamed into a 7th or 8th grade classroom. The recommended class placement was a disaster, consisting of mostly kids with autism and ADHD, which Blossom doesn't have. They could not even take a folder out of their desk without the teacher having to countdown from 10 slowly, meanwhile, Blossom had accomplished two homeschool assignments and her PT, on her own that very morning. I showed the work to the teacher and she agreed with me that her class of kids wasn't a good match even if the academic level was. On top of this, the teacher emphasized that every child in her class had a terrible home environment. That was the definitive factor in nixing this school. Blossom should not be placed into any situation where kids are "a rough bunch" or all have terrible home environments. I've worked too hard with her to teach her what proper behavior and a loving family is all about to have it undone by spending 100 hours a month in a classroom with "a rough bunch of kids."
I don't know what options I have, but I'm enlisting the help of an advocate so that I can find out. Blossom does have a learning disability, but it's hard to know how mild or severe it is due to the damage done to her in her orphanage. I think she'd do best with experienced special ed teachers who can begin to pinpoint her specific learning strengths and weakness using all the tools they have to tailor teaching styles to the individual's learning style.
Sissy is continuing with homeschool. She is doing very well right now and is very self-motivated. Socially, she needs to do better, but it's so hard to be an English language learner in a highschool or 3200 students and be so new to the culture, too.