Thursday, August 27, 2009

Not good news

How can this cute little face be so much trouble?



Notice all the goodies on the teacher's desk right behind her
First of all, thank you for all the positive comments, emails and phone calls today. It means more to me than you'll ever know. And your comments helped remind me of something I've known all along but somehow forgot along the way. . . I need to follow my heart and do what makes Morgan the happiest. That said, she seemed pretty dang happy when I went to pick her up from school today but her teacher was another story.

The school psychologist, resource teacher and 1st grade teacher wanted to talk to me after school about the things that worked and the things that didn't. Her teacher (Mrs. D) started crying and said she felt like she had failed. Failed Morgan and failed all of her other students too. She is an amazing teacher and everyone at the school requests her for their child's teacher. She is everything you could ever dream for a teacher. But she wasn't able to shine today. I think it was her first time in her career that she wasn't productive and it was her students first impression of her. She was left alone with Morgan. No help from the resource teacher, her two aides or the psychologist. They did come down to help her with bathroom needs but that was all. Mrs. D kept saying she just felt so overwhelmed and was having such a hard time because she is usually a good teacher but didn't feel that today. She was a mess. She didn't get to eat lunch because she was with Morgan. She didn't get to do the 'get to know me bags' with the kids because of Morgan. She felt like she wasn't able to accomplish anything with her students today. "I don't think the kids even got to do one fun thing today."

She then started to describe Morgan. Things that her other teachers knew to expect because they are special ed teachers. . . she has a hard time with personal space, she kept touching the other kids and their papers, she hit someone on the back as she walked by him, she kicked a few kids, she likes to wash her hands and would have done it for 30 minutes if I would have let her, she turned off the lights (for some reason that one makes me laugh because I can totally see her doing it), she wouldn't come in from recess and I had to leave the other kids to go get her, etc.

The resource teacher just sat there and didn't say a word. Didn't offer any options to help. I finally said, "What about your 2 aides? You don't have any students until after Labor Day. Could one of them come in here and help out? This current situation is not an option. If there is no assistance then this is never going to work." It was an awful situation. I know exactly what the teacher is feeling. It is how I feel almost every day . . . overwhelmed with not knowing how best to help Morgan. She is not supposed to feel that way.

The psychologist was optimistic that with some positive reinforcement with stickers and candy rewards that Morgan should be independent on the playground and coming back into class on her own in one week. Seriously? Because I am sure that cute paper necklace you made to put stickers on will be ripped apart before morning recess. We are still talking about a first grader with Down syndrome, right? Independence is a wonderful goal but she is going to need an aide to help her on the playground and in the lunchroom all year, not one week.

They finally came to a decision that one of the resource aides will spend the first week in the classroom to help out. Apparently we have to try everything we can before we can go to the district and request more help. Basically it's a great system -- let everyone feel overwhelmed and fail before we do something to make it a positive experience. I understand her teacher's concerns. All the kids are young and adjusting to full day school and the new routines. If they don't get it these first few days, weeks even, then she is looking at a year of chaos and trouble. How does she explain to the kids that it is ok for Morgan to not be following all the rules but not ok for them? I even suggested I keep Morgan home for the first few weeks and try it again when all the other kids have adjusted to the new routine. Apparently it's against the law for me to not bring her to school when it is in session. Who knew? :)

I feel good about the cluster classroom choice, too. I have a friend with a daughter in that class and there are only 7 kids in the class with a teacher, aides, and speech therapist. It doesn't sound so bad now. I know Morgan would gain more academically at the cluster but that her social skills would not progress as quickly. She would be in a room of kids with delayed speech and behavioral issues. I don't feel like we've (Morgan, Mrs. D, and I) failed if this is where Morgan ends up. Mrs. D. said she would feel like she failed Morgan if I left the school. I told her it doesn't mean we failed if this is not the best option for Morgan. There is not only one right way. And the cluster room may be the best option for Morgan and her needs.

One more thing . . . on the way home, Morgan was speaking in longer sentences and more than she has in a long time, if ever. And that was just after one day.

22 comments:

Kristin said...

Oh man. I get a little bit nauseous thinking about this part of Max's future. I seriously think open heart surgery next week is going to be a breeze compared to school. Good luck! I love that I can read all these wonderful blogs and least be a little more prepared in my thinking as we approach life. And see what is working for some, maybe not for others. Thank you for sharing this experience {and for all the great comments on your post yesterday}.

Scarehaircare said...

One of the best things we did was to make a book with photos of The Love Magnet and her classmates demonstrating proper behavior at school: sitting on their carpet squares, raising hands, not touching other's work, lining up quietly, coming in after recess, etc. Whenever TLM had a problem, she would review the book, particularly the pic that dealt with the behavior we wanted to emphasize. She also had a long laminated strip of paper (2+ ft long) that said "I need to..." and she would fill in the blank (i.e. "touch softly") which she filled out when she needed to refocus. Of course, all this was done with help of an aide. Have you gone to the district level yet? At least send an email to document your frustrations.

Thanks for sharing your feelings. I wish things were better in your district. Much love and hugs.

Tracy said...

It sounds like you and I are going through some similar times. My little one, Rachel, is five and just started kindergarten. I first agreed to put her in a self contained classroom, which sounds similar to what you are calling a cluster classroom. Over the summer I changed my mind, held a meeting with school district and decided to place her in a regular classroom. I was stressed about how she would gt through a day, but excited that she would be around regular peers. That all feel through at the last minute and she is in the self contained classroom. I am releieved on many levels becasue she requires assistance with so much, but I so wanted her in a regular classroom for the social and speech. My daughter has severe speech delays and I was hoping being around her peers would help. This school thing has really been difficult, and I feel constantly like they are giving me the run around and telling me that things cannot be done the way I want. I hope that you guys can find what works for Morgan, and I hope that she can stay in her origianl classroom. I do agree with you that I don't consider going into the "special" classroom a failure, I want to do what is best for my child. I just wish that it was easier to know what is best. Rachel is now getting more intensive instruction and assistance with lunch and the potty, but her classmates are mostly nonverbal......frustrating.

Wendy P said...

Thank you so much for posting about this. We're several years behind, but the school thing is so on my mind. I hope that the rest of the week goes better for Morgan. She looked super cute for the first day of school!

COOLWHIP said...

I know what you're saying aobut 'this is what I do all day with her' I would hate for someone else to do what I do, with Eva. (one of the reasons we don't do babysitters) It seems you are in a no win situation, you can't keep her home until the teacher gets back up, and they can't get back up for 2 weeks. And if your classes are anything like ours, you're looking at 29-32 kids per classs. I couldn't do that with a room of 'typical' 5-6 yr olds.
What ever you do will be the right thing for Morgan. Whatever the outcome of this, will be okay for her, and benifit her.

kellyclay said...

Heather,
It sounds like she would do wonderfully if she only had an aide to assist her throughout the day. Dale was in cluster classrooms until the middle of last year (sophmore year) and I wonder now if he had been in with his peers earlier if he would enjoy school more now. like I said yesterday on the phone he is mad because he no longer gets to go and do all the fun things that he got to do with his cluster class. it is so hard making decisions for our kids with unique needs, because we want so much for them to have as normal of a life as possible they are so precious and unique.

Remember what an amazing Mother you are. I hope and pray that it all get worked out so that Morgan has the greatest school experience.

YAY for her coming home so happy and speaking in full sentences.

Emily said...

It seems to me that our state is particularly bad at offering educational services to children with special needs. Starting with EI. I keep reading on blogs from parents of other states how their child gets way more therapy than our 1-2 times a month of "telling" me what to do. Macy's EI program is just not helpful! The schools are particularly frightening. The EI people keep telling me they hope for Macy to be in an inclusive setting but it sounds like all they do is set them (and their teachers) up to fail and then put them back in the functional skills class. SO frustrating when I read about kids all over the country in inclusive educational setting that work with proper supports in place to ensure success.

Yes, we as parents want to do what's best for our children's educations but how can we do that when it is either all or nothing! I hope things get better soon!

Cheri said...

Heather, I didn't know how to comment yesterday so I just prayed for you and hoped for the best. I get emotional reading your blog sometimes because I know the Lord has chosen you to take good care of this special soul. I can't imagine what your life is like day to day. I will continue to pray for you and your sweet child. Maybe I should pray for the teacher too? :)

Brittany said...

Oh heather! Oh am so sorry, such hard decisions to make! It sounds like she has a really good caring and loving teacher though. Hopefully with an aide there to help things will go smoother. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers, love you guys!

Emily said...

I know like some others on here I am years behind, but this is such a big fear of mine. These decisions are HUGE and very difficult. I know I don't know you, but I know you will do what's best for your cutie! Best of luck to you guys!

kecia said...

first of all-I am so glad you share all this because it helps us who will one day be facing these situations...you are a wonderful mom and morgan is lucky to be in your family! i am sure things will work out but my impression by your last comment about her speaking in sentences more after one day is that maybe that is your answer that she will benefit from being in that class and honestly I would think that as everyone gets adjusted (hopefully with some more aid help for you) the class will probably benefit from having Morgan there! Good luck! she looks adorable!

Adam and Cami said...

All I can say is "Wow".

Adam

Kristinn&Thelma said...

Hi Heather, Im always thinking about school too even tough kristofer is only 6 months. I want him in regular school with just normal kids, I think that is very good for them and they have the right to get all the help they need so they can stay in regular schools! I don’t know how this works in the States but here in Iceland when a special need kid starts school we have meetings about the child so everyone that will ever teach that child will know there needs and know everything about that child, and also they build a team around the child and the child gets a special aides that is with it all the time in the classroom even tough they are not working on the same projects as the other children but the child will follow them socially. I don’t get why Morgan dosen´t have a special aides the hole time she is in school! You should intent that Morgan will get all the help she needs cause she has the right to. Hope everything will turn out better next week, I would not give up on the regular school just yet.

My name is Sarah said...

Oh Heather this is Joyce. My heart is truly breaking for all of you right now as I read through this. Yesterday before the day even began I was so concerned that failure was surely going to come out of a set up for a no win situation. But then I read your last sentence and for me that says it all. That is what inclusion is all about. Her speech, WOW that is huge. Would that be the end result in a segregated cluster room? Please don't give up on this just yet. And do not keep her home. She has as much right to be in that classroom as any other child. One day. I can't even believe a school psychologist would make any suggestions based on one day. For first graders??!! Maybe I could come out and meet with everyone? Oh this has to be so frustrating for you and the teacher. If I am reading correctly they have decided to let an aide be in the room for the next week? I am going to go pull some photos and materials and do a few posts about this. I think the ideas the school implemented for The Love Magnet above sound super. Is this the first child your school has had with Down syndrome? Hugs, hugs and more hugs coming your way.

ds.mama said...

Big hugs to you. I am years away from this but it would seem to me that the school is falling down here. I can't believe the teacher said all those discouraging things to you and blamed Morgan for so much. Maybe the school/teacher should have done a little prep for the situation. Morgan deserves an inclusion situation where the adults take responsibility for their roles and make adjustments as needed.

Longer sentences... what a payoff. Don't give up!

AZ Chapman said...

I think u sould post a link to this post to the Incudeing Sam form. M needs an aid to help. I am glad the teacher is so willing and speech hang in there a while longer hugs hugs and more hugs from CA

Sasha said...

Well sorry to hear that. But hey you know what..you tried and are trying. I say let the teacher try again. It is still new and adjustments need to be made. All you can do is try your best and see what works for your family and Morgan. Maybe the teacher will regroup and have some new ideas and imputs in the next couple of days that will help. Don't give up yet. Ps. Thanks for sharing your story. My peanut is only 8 months old but it gives me a view into the future.:)

mum2brady said...

Heather - I'm so glad day two went better - but know that I can totally relate to all that you are feeling and that Brady has had days like Morgan's first day. I think we as parents know that our kids with T21 are being watched and judged more closely than typical kids and that we probably expect more of them than even typical kids their age. Morgan's 1st day pictures are too adorable for words! There is no way her teacher and aides will not totally fall for her and I'm glad that you have solutions in place already to help reinforce good behavior. I might even borrow some of the ideas for Brady - although not the necklace thing - it would be exactly as you described for him ;) Glad Morgan thought it was cool though :)

Hope she has an amazing rest of the year - can't wait to read more about it and hear about her adventures in 1st grade :)

Hugs!

Lisa said...

I wish I knew what to say, Heather. But since I haven't been there yet, I don't know what to say. (((hugs)))

That Morgan, what a doll!

Sharon said...

I just wanted to thank you for sharing your experience with all of us out here in blog-land. My son is only 17 months old, but I feel that I benefit greatly from hearing stories from other parents. It gives me some idea of what to expect, what to request, and what has and hasn't worked for others. So, thank you!

I am thinking of you and Morgan and hoping that each day gets better.

Kate said...

It's wonderful that Morgan can be included in the classroom. In our district, as best I can tell, the rate is abysmal, despite the district paying lip service to the concept. My daughter Julianna is 2 1/2 and we are beginning to focus our sights forward. I'm tickled to find a blog where people are talking about the process. Maybe I'll actually be prepared when the time comes!

Cheri said...

Okay Heather..coming in late to the game on this post.....so what happened? What was the outcome of that school year for her...did she stay or did you decide on the cluster class??? ;)

I like what you said about there not being only one right way... but wondering what way ended up being right for Morgan that school year?