Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Second Thoughts

Morgan starts 1st grade tomorrow and I am questioning if we made the right decision for her school placement. I guess I will know after the first few days but all I can do right now is worry and wonder. We decided at the end of the school year last year to mainstream Morgan this year. It was after a lot of careful consideration weighing all the pros and cons and I felt like it was the right decision for her. She did a 'cluster classroom' last year for Kindergarten and had an amazing teacher but was held back socially. All of the children in the classroom had an intellectual disability (ranging from blindness, severe CP, autism, Down syndrome, etc.) and behavioral problems. Morgan didn't have anyone to look to as a positive peer model of appropriate social behavior and seemed to be further ahead of all the kids academically too.

We were told last year that she would spend the first half of the day in resource and the second half of the day in the regular classroom without any aide assistance. I have been reading Lisa's blog posts on inclusion and disabilities these last few days and found myself agreeing with many of the topics of inclusion. Why does her school just assume Morgan cannot function in the regular classroom? Why not let her try being with her classmates and let her show them what is best for her? Well I guess I need to be careful what I wish for . . . we (Gavin, Morgan and I) met with her 1st grade teacher today. Her teacher is extremely positive about having Morgan in her classroom and is open to any ideas or suggestions we have. She hasn't ever had a child with special needs in her classroom so this new for both of us. She let us know that Morgan will be in the regular classroom all day for at least the first few weeks. She and the resource teacher feel like this will help her adjust easier to the new routine and structure. I love the idea of this but reality is something completely different. Realistically, she cannot sit in a classroom for 6 hours with 20 other students, one teacher and no aide support. I wish that was my child but it isn't. The teacher put Morgan's desk right next to her desk and of course the first thing I noticed were the sharpie markers, tape dispensers, staplers, cups of pencils all sitting right on the edge of the teacher's desk. I can only imagine Morgan's delight as she sits at her desk and is able to reach over and knock all of that stuff off the teacher's desk. She also had scissors in her desk. The teacher asked me if she knew how to use scissors and I told her she was great at cutting her hair all off with them and that it was probably best that Morgan didn't have independent access to them. I wish that was all I was worried about but there is so much more. She needs someone to take her to the bathroom every few hours and help her with getting her pants off and on. Of course the teacher can't leave her classroom so she is going to see if one of the resource aides could help with that. Then there is the worry of lunch. Carrying her lunch tray, opening her milk, helping her with her food, wiping off her dirty face when she is done eating. And she likes to wander. Will anyone be with her at recess and help her come back in when the bell rings? She is not going to willingly leave a good slide for sitting at a desk in a classroom. And I worry about her being a distraction. Who am I kidding? She is definitely going to be a distraction and that isn't fair to the other students.

I wish our district offered some sort of middle ground. Instead it is all or nothing. Either the student needs to be able to function independently, without any assist to mainstream, or be bussed to a school far away and attend a cluster classroom with lots of support (a teacher with 3-4 aides) but no typical peer models in the classroom. It just doesn't seem like a real win-win situation. I am trying to be positive but it is hard when I feel like we are setting her up to fail.


Lisa said...

(((Heather))) Well, it's easy for me to sit here and say everything is going to be okay, when Finn isn't school age so school for him is not yet part of my reality. When I think about sending Finn to school one day, I think about inclusion and how much I want that for him, but I also have this feeling of throwing him to the wolves. I feel that way with my other kids too, though. My twins are starting kindergarten next week and I am soooooo stressed out about it - Daisy with her phobias, Annabelle with her . . . stuff. Ugh. So, I sort of have an inkling of how you must be feeling with Morgan. But you know what? I really, really believe that Morgan just might surprise you. And really, she's FINE the way she is. It's everyone around her that needs to make adjustments in their perceptions and such. The fact that she has a willing, supportive teacher - that's such a great foundation for a positive school experience.

I'm going to stay tuned on this one. I think it's going to be okay, I really do.

((hugs)) mama.

mum2brady said...

Hugs Heather! You know that we are living similar lives ;) Well, except that Morgan is more verbal and functions on a higher level than Brady ;) Our district really struggles with the inclusion/mainstreaming thing for kids with cognitive disabilities, but my local elementary was willing and we put in for aide hours, although we didn't get any :( Our administration was really looking and working towards solutions and ways to fund an aide for Brady though, when a spot came open at a charter school and that is the route we took. Although Morgan's class size sounds awesome compared to the 30 kids that would have been in Brady's class.

I can see your concerns with your cute girl - Brady would be the same way - that stuff would be wayyyy to tempting for him :) I wonder if you just go in and say that you think Morgan needs a little more support and that she is legally entitled to that in the LRE, if it will make a difference :)

She is such a doll, and I know she will surprise you with all that she does this year :) She is an amazing girl :)

I feel your stress though, and have all week as I have gone with Brady as they are hiring an aide for him, but haven't yet. The first three days were pretty good - yesterday - not so much. But, I know Morgan is much more settled than he is and doesn't have some of the extra issues and delays that affect him :)

Hugs and lots of positive thoughts coming your way!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,
This part stinks doesn't it! Our district is no better than any other in the valley, with the exception of maybe Murray. I don't know why they think the system works - maybe they know its broke too!
Here's my two cents. I had Lily mainstreamed from K-to the beginning of 3rd. When the school basically asked us to leave. In the long run I am glad they had us leave! But...I think it is very important for a child to be mainstreamed, if at all possible, those first few years of school. It is very important for their social growth. In saying that remember that our kids mimick, so don't be to surprised when she comes home with things you don't approve of!
After Christmas break of 2nd grade the typical kids flew by Lily both academically and socially. They started leaving Lily out of everything! They're kids, they were acting normal but it hurt Lily and she started acting out. The teachers were great but the resource teacher was not and didn't want to take any time with Lily "she had to many other kids"
Lily is now in a high functioning cluster class, which we love!!!
They pull in typical kids to interact and do special activities with and they buddy up.
All that being said - I would never have given up those first few years of being mainstreamed. After what we went through I have come to realize that society should not tell us as parents what is best for our child, so as the disability world is yelling at us to mainstream, mainstream, mainstream, and the typical world is telling us the opposite I am saying as a parent do what is right for your child! Listen to your child, listen to your heart. Lily got to the point where she would tell me she wasn't feeling well and she didn't want to go to school. The day she walked into that cluster class those kids surrounded her with hugs and hellos and are you staying.
So, if it works out for Morgan to have her mainstreamed and she is happy by all means do it. The most important thing I think is her happiness and your peace of mind.

kecia said...

first of all that pic of her is adorable! THese are exactly the thoughts I will have in a few years..I don't know a whole lot about what our district really offers but I am already worrying about these details...I have heard our district is what of the better ones but I guess I will find out in a few years. Good luck! I am sure she will do great things!

Brittany said...

That is so hard, so they can't offer her an aide to be with her during class? That's too bad, it might be tough at first but hopefully the teacher can work out the problems as they go along and things will be good. I love that sweet little Morgan and hope that she has success, she deserves it!

Beverly said...

Heather, is there an Advocate in your area that can help you work up a better IEP? I will be praying for you and Moragan that things get worked out for her. It just doesnt make sense to me that there is no aide in the room or that was put in place for her at lunch and the play ground and bathroom time? Scary! All that should have been put in her IEP. They can get in big trouble if something happens to her or she gets lost. There are some spe advocate yahoo groups that give good help and advice.

I had three years of worrying and even though I would love to have some time for my self, I am glad those days of worry are over.

Good luck and I will keep you in our prayers.

Emily said...

I am a few years away (well, pre-school next year yikes!) But I totally feel your worries! Morgan seems like an awesome kid and I bet she will surprise you. I love the picture on this post and am proud of her swimming accomplishments!

I am finding it extremely difficult to find a balance between being optimistic and realistic about Macy's future (especially school). My husband always says "she will be fine" every time I express a fear or concern (and I certainly hope so!) but realistically I wonder How in the world am I going to do it (raise her)? What does "fine" mean anyway? Not what I wish it did that's for sure.

Thank goodness for people like you and your example of strength, courage and wisdom for me to learn from!

I truly hope that Morgan has a wonderful year!

Vennesa said...

Heather- I know I can't relate, but I was thinking that at least she is being mainstreamed in first grade instead of starting later. (Most) first graders are accepting and kind. There was a boy in our ward who had many learning/social disabilities and Jacob loved playing with him. It never crossed his mind that Matthew was different than he "should" be. He was just Matthew. I'm sure she'll make friends.
Don't know what to tell you about the scissors. :)
I love the picture in the cowboy hat!!

Emily said...

Oh my goodness... I have been talking to so many people about Justin and where he will be going to school. Of course, I am still thoroughly confused with it all, but nobody seemed to have an answer for me. I guess that's why. You do what's best for your child. There is no right or wrong school for your child.
Morgan is beautiful. I hope her time in school is fabulous and all you dreamed of. If not... it's okay. Do what you feel is best in your heart! I am really scared for school days, so I can only imagine how you feel.

Tausha said...

Oh man, I worry about it already and Sam just turned One. I am hoping that by the time he is ready to go to school that we have better things to report from Weber County. I have talked to several Mom's about their kids and it's the same as what Emily said, no real answers just do what you feel is best for your child. You and Morgan are in our prayers. She will be amazing no matter what ends up working for her.

My name is Sarah said...

This is Joyce. Morgan is such a doll. I sure hope she enjoys first grade.

Can I just say this is making me crazy. I do not understand how these districts are getting away with this. How can it be all or nothing? That is not how the law reads. Setting kiddos up for failure serves no purpose. Sorry enough of my rant-it just makes my skin crawl that this is happening in 2009.

AZ Chapman said...

good luck btw Inculdeing Samuel is a great resouce I will send u the link via facebook tonight

Sasha said...

I hear your worry and stress.. I can only offer my best wishes that everything works out for her. I know I would be anxious too. My little one is only 8 months so i am not there yet..but can imagine that I will go through many of the same feelings you are. We can only try..and then go from there right? Just see how it goes and then meet with the teacheer and go from there is my advice. At least you are trying:) Hugs to you

Tracy said...

Wow....sounds like all the thoughts in my head. We are walking the same path right now. I hope it works out for all of us.

Jenni and Chad Stewart said...

That IS hard! Just take comfort in the fact that you won't know if this will be the right place for Morgan to be unless you try it and that's exactly what you're doing. I wonder what kind of a rigamaroll you have to go through to get an aide? I volunteered in a classroom that had a little girl with Down's and she had an aide with her the WHOLE time. Maybe the teacher needs to know her options too - i.e. that she needs to call for help from resource if Morgan is having a hard time. In Cameron's preschool there were lots of special needs kids that needed extra help and the teacher's would just call in an aide if there was a need for some one on one time. They also had aides that helped to come up with behavioral programs for the kids that needed it. Hopefully the school will work with you and things will get better!

Ria said...

Hi Heather. I'm a little late in commenting. It's a tough situation. We're not in it yet as Matthew is only going to be 2 this October. But I already think about next year when he starts school and the years that follow. Inclusion is the ideal setting but when the rubber meets the road and faced with real challenges as you are facing right now, adjustments have to be made. Even if it seems like there is no middle ground as far as the school system is concerned, there must be a solution somewhere, somehow. I believe there are options that just need to be figured out. Hang in there! **Hugs** If there isn't a tried-and-true solution in the school yet, this might be an opportunity to create one. Pave the way for other kiddos in the future who might walk your path. Here I go sounding ideal again and maybe overly optimistic. As with anything in life, it's easier said than done. Also, the fact that you are recognizing the anticipated challenges and thinking of possible solutions for Morgan demonstrates that you are NOT setting her up to fail.

datri said...

I think schooling has got to be one of the hardest thing in this journey. Kayla is extremely "low-functioning" (she functions at an 9 - 18 month level and is going into Kindy) and I suppose that it is a good thing because the choice was relatively easy for us (private special education school). It completely broke my heart when I came to the reality that inclusion would not be in her future, although she has been successful in an integrated PreK setting. But "real" school is a different story. Yeah, I've heard about how inclusion is best regardless of level of functioning and all that, but if the school and people who are working with your child aren't behind the idea 100%, it really is setting your child up for failure. And honestly, I don't want to be teaching the teachers how to deal with my child. I want teachers who have a whole bag of tricks and innovations to teach my child.