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.

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And again with the A word

I really don’t want to be sitting at my computer right now.

I want to be curled up watching Downton Abbey (slowly making my way through the series on Amazon. Very slowly, but I’m not in any rush.) and knitting. And eating chocolate cake. (The cake will be done in about 15 minutes.)

I don’t want to be doing CHADD stuff–replying to e-mails, being in contact with potential volunteers. There is suddenly a surge of stuff happening. Good stuff. But I can’t deal with it right now.

I feel like everything I knew about ADHD was wrong. I had thought we were dealing with ADHD with Picasso. I really thought he was going to be OK in a “typical” world.

And then … I saw him at the birthday party. He went to a classmate’s party over the weekend. It was clear he didn’t know what to do. The other kids were talking and playing together–and leaving him out. He got some weird looks. And he spent pretty much the whole time hanging on me. It was clear–he is the “weird kid.”

After that, plus some research I did this week, I was pretty much hoping for what happened today. That doesn’t make it any easier to hear, though.

Today was the school’s evaluation meeting. Picasso was given a diagnosis of autism. That label will stick with him, probably for the next twelve years of schooling. It will be teachers’ first impressions of him, even before they meet him in person.

I am angry–angry that this wasn’t caught before he was six; angry that we didn’t pursue more rigorous therapy before now.

I am lost. I know where to turn to get ADHD help. I don’t know where to get him help for autism, or even what help he needs. I want to do something for him, to help him learn to cope, but I am overwhelmed by the information about autism and the different therapies.

At the same time, I am relieved. I think that with this diagnosis, he will start getting more intensive therapy, and hopefully start having friends. His “weird kid” status will be explained. Yes, with a disability label, but I would rather people see his behavior as a disability rather than a choice.

Doughnut Magic

Just in time for New Year’s, I stumbled along this post about making doughnut magic for your kids.

I was so excited! I even happened upon it while Hubby was at the grocery store, so I texted him and we decided to do it.

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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).

A bit about me and this blog

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Hello!  Many of you visiting today are new here, so I’d like to formally introduce myself and my blog.  Relax, grab a cup of coffee, and try to catch your breath if you have children hanging off of you.

I live in St. Louis, Missouri.  South county, to be more specific.  I live with my husband Tom, and with Picasso, who is 5 and in Kindergarten, and Cassatt, who is 3 and started preschool this year.  That means I have two child-free mornings each week!  Mornings that go by all too fast with cleaning, errands, laundry, meetings, Bible study, and I try to fit some writing in there too.

I am active in a local MOPS group.  My time there is a chance to breathe.  Picasso is upset this year that he doesn’t get to go, and I am still adjusting to picking up only one child from childcare!  I am the fundraising chair for our MOPS group, which keeps me busy at the beginning of each semester (and during fundraising time, which is now.)

I am also heavily involved in CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD); I am the coordinator of our local chapter.  So I am working hard to spread the word, and somewhat overwhelmed by how big and separated our city really is.  It’s amazing how much work goes into marketing!  Hats off to those who do it well on a small budget.

Once upon a time, I went to law school. I had my own law practice, where I practiced family law and advocated for families working through the IEP process at school.  My license is currently inactive, as my life is too busy to practice right now.  I do keep active with my advocacy work through CHADD, however.  For a while, I had a series on the Advocating for your Child on this blog.

For now, I write.  Most of my writing right now is short fiction, which you can read over at my other blog, Fiction as Life.  I have been published in MOPS’s Hello Darling blog, and have a poem that will be published in When Women Waken in early November.

IMG_20140715_084342This blog is a haphazard mix of posts.  If you stick around, you will find I am not very consistent with posts.  I have made a commitment recently to post more regularly, please help keep me on track with that!  I post everything from kitchen how-tos to posts about my family and my garden to advocacy posts.  I have posted a few times about Ferguson, which is very close to me and appeals to my yearnings for justice.  For the most part, however, I stay away from political posts.

Now you know about me, I would love to hear about you!  What are your hobbies?  What would you like to see more of on this blog?

Siblings at Birth? Prepare Them.

Mothering.com recently posted an article titled The Beauty of Siblings at Birth, basically talking about how wonderful it was to have her children in the room when the new baby came.  It sounds so cozy, such a great family moment, right?

Here’s my experience:

I went into labor at midnight.  I was 33 weeks along, no way were we going to call a sitter at that hour.  (I was determined to wait until a “respectable hour.”  Like 5:00.)  And we don’t have family in town, so Picasso went to the hospital with us.  He was 2 1/2 years old (and was, at the time, recovering from having his tonsils out).

Of course I wanted labor stopped.  But my body doesn’t work that way.  So I labored in the hospital.  For two hours (because it was 3 or so by the time we got there.)  Picasso was in the room with us, and I didn’t care.  I was in labor, someone else got to think about him.

I didn’t care until he said the words I’ll never forget, the moment that will forever be locked in my memory with the birth of my child.

“Mommy made a funny noise.” (followed by laughter.)

Yup, he got kicked out, right then and there.  I learned how wonderful nurses are at babysitting during an emergency.

All of the “good” sibling experiences people have described involved prepared siblings, mothers who thought about having their older children at the labor and what that would entail.  Mine? A child who didn’t understand the pain I was in and thought it was funny.

Next time, I would call the sitter at 2AM.

Cassatt’s Tentacles

First of all, it’s been a while since I’ve written in here.  I’m going to try to be better, really.

We’ve had some medical wolf-crying with Cassatt the past few weeks.  At least I think so.  A few weeks ago he went to the nurse at school because he was acting funny in the Rainbow Room.  It turns out he’s afraid of that room (which is a problem because that’s where they have indoor recess in the winter).  But we didn’t know that at the time, so he went to the nurse.  While in there, he put his head down for a few seconds, was playing with his lip and wouldn’t respond for a few seconds (less than 10).  They wanted me to take him to the doctor, who wanted me to see a neurologist and get an EEG.

Cassatt with his tentacles

The neurologist said it might have been a partial seizure.  I’m still not convinced.  Of course, I didn’t see it so I couldn’t describe it to her, but I think he was probably just scared and didn’t want to respond to people he didn’t know.

We had the EEG yesterday.   They attached electrodes to his head and measured his brain activity.  He really didn’t like the setup process, and was squirming and unhappy.  They wanted him to sleep, and they wanted to see him have a seizure.  Even though he was sleep deprived (we kept him up as late as possible the night before and woke him early that morning), he didn’t sleep during the EEG (although he fell asleep in the car on the short drive home).  And he didn’t have a seizure either.  I think it was much ado about nothing.

The other medical non-emergency is that he went to the nurse (again) on Monday.  He had a sore on his lip because he had fallen over the weekend; I didn’t even think about telling his teacher about it.  So they sent home a note to the class about hand-foot-mouth disease.  This poor kid has been to the nurse so many times that I’m starting to wonder whether  this is the right school for him.  We’ll see if he can have a week without going to the nurse again.

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!

 

Hi Ho, to the ER we go

Cassatt made his second trip to the ER yesterday.

We have VBS going on this week, and he was so tired afterwards (my interpretation) that he fell down the steps on the way to the car.  He hit his head.  There was a nurse there who tended to his scrapes and looked at the bump on his head. She told me if he threw up or acted extremely tired, to take him to the ER.

Well, he was so worn out that he fell asleep in his chair after lunch.  He’s done that at dinner before, but never in the middle of the day. He slept. Hard.

While I put him in bed.

While I worried and decided to take him to the ER, just to be safe.

While I put him in the car.

While I put him in the stroller and walked him into the hospital.

And then he woke up when the nurse took his temperature.  After a period of grogginess, he was flirting with the nurses and back to his normal self.

Sigh.  Well, that was unnecessary.

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?

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