Helicopter Mom

Your child is playing with my child on the playground. They looked like they were having fun, but something isn’t right. I start toward them.

“Helicopter mom,” you think as you roll your eyes.

“They’re just playing,” you say without any concern, when our elementary school children both have their hands on the same toy.

You think they need to sort it out for themselves. That I will get in the way.

You think they are playing a game. I can tell by my child’s face it is not.

He is defending his territory. But the toy is not his. If a fight ensues, it will not be because he wants to fight. But if he hits, he will be seen as the instigator. And I will be seen as the bad mom.

Your child will learn to stay away from my child. Another friendship lost.

He does not see how being territorial can damage relationships. In the here and now, his territory is all that matters.

Right now I am protecting him from himself. As I walk toward them, my child flails his arms at your child. I hope with all my heart that you didn’t see that. I hope you won’t judge me because of it.

I want my child to learn to share. I want him to manage his own emotions. I want him to have empathy for others.

I know you want the same thing for your child, and you see this as a teaching moment. But my son gets so wrapped up in emotion that playground lessons don’t stick.

That is why we teach him differently, about sharing, about empathy, about emotions. Because he cannot learn on the playground.

Your child plays with him later. Their play together is play. And I leave them alone, thankful that my child has a friend.

Yes, on the playground, I am a helicopter mom.


If We Were Having Coffee in the Garden …

If we were having coffee …

Let’s have coffee in the garden today. In reality, it’s supposed to rain today and my garden isn’t really big enough to “have coffee” in. But let’s pretend we’re having the gorgeous weather we had earlier in the week, so beautiful you want to sit outside, even if just on concrete steps, and drink in the sun. And we can pretend we’re in a big backyard garden with flowers and vegetables growing all around.

I’ve been very excited about my garden this week and what I’ve been able to accomplish in it. Last weekend we rebuilt the retaining wall so it could be a little bit higher, added garden soil, planted some perennials and annuals, fertilized and mulched them. And most of them haven’t died yet. It’s a small garden patch–only about 7 square feet, right in front of the house, but I’m excited to have it done. Picasso and Cassatt are not as excited to lose their digging space though!

Yesterday my moms group talked about container gardening and Julie talked about how much she is able to plant on her postage stamp lawn. I am impressed! Now I am inspired to plant more around the house.

If we were having coffee …

I would tell you my other excitement this week has been canning. My dad is taking his breadmaking habit seriously and got a grain mill this past week. This inspired him to order me a canner for my birthday. It took several days to ship, so I got books about canning from the library and have been reading them and studying the recipes. Hubby’s first impression was that you can brew a whole lot of beer using that. I’m glad he’ll be able to get some use out of it too, since we don’t really need a pot that big. I hope to loan it to some friends this summer and keep it in good rotation so it doesn’t sit too much in storage.

I am going to an autism resource fair to volunteer for MPACT this morning. They provide advocacy resources for parents trying to get help for their kids in school. I’m really looking forward to it. Part of me thinks I should do some of this for CHADD, but without having more volunteers, it’s hard to do much publicity.

Snow Free January Coffee

Good morning! Welcome. Pull up a chair and grab a cup of coffee. I have good, solid coffee mugs, perfect for a strong cup of coffee. Today needs strong coffee. I apologize for all the clutter in the living room. Between school papers and IEP paperwork, there is paper everywhere that toys are not. And the toys are starting to have a hard time finding space.

If we were having coffee, I’m sure we would talk about the weather. For the past few days, forecasters have been giving dire warnings about the amount of snow predicted over the weekend. Between 4 and 6 inches. Paltry, I know, compared to Boston, but still a decent amount of snow. I was both excited, because we had not had significant snow this winter, and worried that school would be cancelled this morning. But there was no need to worry, apparently; now they are saying it will all be rain.

We would probably also talk some about policing issues in St. Louis. Have you heard about the crazy stuff happening here? On Wednesday there was a meeting, supposedly between adults, about establishing a citizen review board for the city’s police department. The papers call what happened a “melee” between protesters and police. No matter what happened, I’m sure that citizens will face charges while nothing will happen to the police officers who brought inflammatory messages to the meeting. And then on Thursday, I read that the city Prosecutor has demanded, by court order, any recordings of the meeting that news agencies have made. In a country that supposedly has free press, forcing news agencies to turn over their information to the government smells like an authoritarian regime. (And if that’s not enough, this is not the first time this week that the prosecutor has subpoenaed recordings from news agencies. Nor the first matter.) It smells very fishy, but I also wonder if this comes from a law student intern who is not being properly supervised.

I can see you’re getting bored, and eyeing my IEP paperwork. Please don’t look at that pile, it’s for a client. But this packet is for Picasso. We had a meeting to discuss his evaluation results–the school did an extensive evaluation to see if he qualifies for an IEP. The IEP will determine what special education services he will receive in the next year. He qulaifies–under the category Autism. When I told the pediatrician this at his annual appointment this week, she asked if I had told them that the developmental pediatrician (who evaluated him for autism when he was 2) told us to leave him alone. Despite his quirks, we had ruled out autism, so it was some surprise to hear this. But it fits. So suddenly I go from having a child with ADHD to a child with autism. I’m not given much time to think about this, either, because his IEP meeting is coming up Monday. (Hence my relief that snow will not cancel school on Monday.) My hunch tells me that he will receive more extensive services than he did last year.

Speaking of which, I have to cut our meeting short so I can prepare for the meeting on Monday. Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy the other Weekend Coffee Share posts.

This post was prompted by the “If We Were Having Coffee” meme started (or at least encouraged) by Part Time Monster. I enjoy having coffee with you! If you want to share coffee, link up!

Picasso Update

So I had posted several weeks ago that the school thinks Picasso has autism.  More than fear, I was upset that the school had hidden that from me.

It turns out, I should have questioned further.  I am so conditioned to expect the worst of the school, it didn’t occur to me that the counselor was making a mistake.  When she was talking to me (keep in mind this meeting was not supposed to be about my son, so I didn’t expect her to look at my son’s file beforehand), she had me confused with another mother.  That other mother had been advocating for an autism diagnosis from the school.

It is such a relief to know that the school wasn’t hiding information from me.  They have been so good about getting services for Picasso, I had been upset with this turn of events.  I am glad to know they are wrong.

Now we are in the middle of evaluations at school, and everyone is on board with keeping an IEP for him.  The ironic thing is, one of the categories they are looking at is autism.  Although I really don’t think a doctor would say he has autism, the criteria for a category at school is different.

We’ll see what happens with the evaluations.  I hope he does qualify to have an IEP after this year.

I keep meaning to watch it, but here is a video about the link between Autism and ADHD.  These videos are worth watching (if you have the time).

What do I Need to Know to get an IEP? Part 3: Elements of an IEP

So, your child is going to get an IEP.  You are preparing for an IEP meeting: you need to know what will be discussed!  In Missouri, these are the components of an IEP:  (They are similar in most states, because the IEP is written according to state interpretation of federal guidelines.)

  • Present level of academic achievement and functional performance
    • The “present levels” tells everyone reading the IEP what your child’s strengths and weaknesses are, and what areas need improvement.  It is a picture of your child right now.  Teachers reading the IEP should get a good picture of your child from this.  The child will be compared at next year’s IEP to this picture of him at this IEP, and goals should be based on this picture.
    • There is a place for parental input in here.  Think about your child’s strengths and weaknesses and be ready to present them at the IEP meeting.  It may help to put them in writing: you won’t forget anything when you read it at the meeting, and the teacher preparing the written IEP can put what you write verbatim into the IEP.
  • Federal and State Requirements
    • This is basically a checklist of why a child needs an IEP and what will be in the IEP.
  • IEP Goals
    • This is what the teachers will be working on in your child’s IEP.
    • They should be specific, measurable, reasonable, achievable, and timely (SMART) goals.
  • Services
    • This is where the IEP states how much time your child will spend in special education, and who will be teaching (for example, general special education teacher or speech therapist, reading specialist, etc.)
    • Listen closely during this part of the meeting and take detailed notes, even if you don’t have anything to input.
  • Transportation as a Related Service
    • In this section, the IEP team discusses whether your child needs special transportation (for example, special bus service) to be able to attend school.
  • Regular Education Participation
    • This section discusses how much the child will participate in the regular education program.
    • The child should be in the “least restrictive environment” — should be with his non-IEP peers as much as possible.
    • Even if a child is in a special education setting most of the time, they can still be in regular education for times such as recess, lunch, gym, music class.
  • Placement Considerations and Decision
    • This section is a summary of what was discussed before, to state how much a child will be in the regular education classroom.  It includes a continuum of placements.  The IEP team must consider less restrictive environments before deciding to put a child in a special education environment.
  • Transition
    • If a child is 16 or older, this section is required. It may be included for younger children as well. This section discusses post-graduation plans and how the school will help him get there.

An IEP is a complex document, and a meeting has to address all of these elements!  As a parent, you are a member of your child’s IEP team.  I hope this will help you participate in the meeting!


Bringing a Note-Taker to an IEP Meeting

Did you know that you can invite anyone you want to an IEP meeting?

This means that you can have with you:

  • an advocate
  • your child’s outside therapist
  • your child’s piano teacher/sports coach
  • your pastor
  • your own therapist

… well, you get the idea.  You can and should invite anyone who will provide valuable input about your child to the IEP meeting.  The only restriction is that if you take an attorney with you, the school can have its own attorney present too.  (This has more to do with legal ethics than the IEP law.  Your attorney, if you decide you need one, should make sure the school knows they are going to any meetings.)

It is a good idea for parents to bring someone neutral to an IEP meeting as well.  This serves two functions: It gives the parent some moral support (the sheer number of school personnel at the IEP meeting can be intimidating), and they can serve as a note-taker for the meeting.

Notes will serve to remind you what was said.  (Have you ever thought, “I will remember that later,” only to realize later that you have no idea what you were supposed to remember?)  When you review your copy of the IEP, you can compare it with your notes to make sure what was said at the meeting is actually in the IEP.

Good notes taken by a neutral party can also help later if there is a dispute about the IEP.  If, heaven forbid, you have to resolve a dispute through Due Process or a court case, the note-taker can be a witness to what was said at the meeting.  Their notes can be used as evidence.

This may seem unnecessary, especially if you currently have a good relationship with the school.  However, relationships can sour.  A dispute can arise by a single teacher not following the IEP (yes, this happens).  Schools have competing interests: yes, they serve your child, but they have to balance that with the needs of the other children in the school, with limited resources to do it.

Do you have experience bringing a note-taker to a meeting?

What do I Need to Know to Get an IEP? Part 2: Data Review

IEP School

Last week, I wrote about getting an evaluation for your child. Today I will write about what happens when the evaluation comes back.


What do I need to know to get an IEP? Part 1: Evaluations

IEP SchoolI’ve heard about an IEP and been told my child could benefit from one. But what is an IEP?  How do I get one for my child?

Your child is struggling in school, and as much as you try to help him, he keeps falling further behind.  Maybe the problem is grades.  Or maybe his grades are fine but his behavior is a problem.  Perhaps he is struggling socially.  At any rate, you sense that your child needs more help than he is getting at school. More

Preparing for a Resolution Meeting

I am writing a series on advocacy for parents.  These posts will appear on Thursdays.  With these posts, I hope to encourage all parents to advocate for their children, and to provide a little bit of guidance.

Things have not been going well for your child.  For whatever reason, the teachers have not been giving your child the accommodations she needs or been following the IEP the way you believe it is intended to be followed.  You are frustrated by this, and have set up a meeting with administrators to try to resolve this and get things back on track.

It is time to prepare for the meeting.  How do you prepare?

Write out your grievances

You feel like you could go on and on about everything the school has done wrong.  Write it down.  Brainstorm and think about all the ways the school hasn’t followed the plan, and all of the things that have frustrated you about this.

Set the list aside for a few days.  Come back to it with fresh eyes to revise the list.  Cross out any repeats.  Put things together that are similar. Add things that you forgot initially.  Revise it until it is a list you will be able to use.  You will take this to the meeting with you.

Know what you want

You have called this meeting to resolve a problem.  Talking will not, ultimately, resolve this problem.  You need to know what you want the next steps to be.  Do you want additional therapy time for your child, to make up for time lost?  Are you asking for the IEP to be revised?  Are you looking for the school to change its policy so no other children face what your child has faced?  Are you seeking monetary compensation? (If you are, you should be aware that this is extremely rare from a public school.)

You should have a proposed resolution for each problem that you plan to address with the school.  Do not expect the school to come up with a resolution.  Do not plan to address problems without having a proposed resolution.

Prepare your list for the meeting

It is time to clean up your list, and prepare something you will bring to the meeting.  This is a note for your eyes only, so don’t worry about making it look nice for others. It should be in a format that you can work from. List each grievance you plan to address and your proposed resolution for each grievance.

It will help you to be able to state how the resolution will resolve the grievance. This will help you be flexible and work with the school toward a resolution that everyone can be happy with.

It is time to head to the meeting.  Take a deep breath, give your child a hug, and know that you are now ready to address issues at the meeting.

Have you had a resolution meeting with the school?  How did you prepare for it?  Did your preparations help lead to a successful meeting?

Other articles in this series:

Knowing the Standards

I am writing a series on advocacy for parents.  These posts will appear on Thursdays.  With these posts, I hope to encourage all parents to advocate for their children, and to provide a little bit of guidance.

A big part of advocating for your child is being aware of what they are expected to learn. It is important to track their progress to make sure they are learning what they should learn, help them if they fall behind, and keep them interested if the learning standards are too easy for them.

Do you know how to find the education standards?

Most states follow the Common Core for math and English standards. The Common Core is a set of standards, and does not specify how a teacher should teach for the students to meet these standards. I know there are many who strongly oppose the use of Common Core standards, but that is a discussion for another day.  Whether or not you agree with your state’s use of the Common Core, it is important to learn what is expected of your child.

Your state may have a website about state standards, as well. Here are the standards for Missouri (where I live).  Besides the Common Core standards for Math and English, Missouri has standards for Science, Social Studies, World Languages, Fine Arts, Health/Physical Education, Guidance and Counseling, and Career & Technical Education.

Another site to follow is the Department of Education Blog.  You can follow it (by e-mail or rss), and it is fairly easy to navigate by subject.

How do you keep track of your state standards?

Other articles in this series:

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