Lately I’ve been avoiding my blog because I’ve been coined a negative blogger by a few readers. When my writing was published on Yahoo Parenting several readers called me “over dramatic” and viciously attacked myself and Ailbe, going as far as calling her “a f*cked up kid.” Do these people bother me? No, they don’t. I pity them, and envy them at the same time. Pity because they don’t know hardship and envy because, they don’t know hardship. Am I a negative writer? I try not to be, but it seems to flow easiest for me when I use my writing to serve as an outlet instead of holding in my fears and I survive best when I let the sharing flow.
So here goes…
Recently Ailbe started TK in a general education classroom. She has a 1:1 aide at all times but she is fully included in the typical peers classroom environment. Now let’s pause for a moment to clap, because, this is a HUGE deal. My child shouldn’t be in GE. She’s the kid that fellow teachers say “doesn’t belong here” about. On paper, my child doesn’t belong. See I’ve never felt that way about any child in my teaching experiences, but I do understand that typically, GE teachers are not trained to work with special needs children. Now in the case of my special needs child and many others, I believe I strongly feel different about inclusion because I think ALL children have special needs. The kid with the allergy, the child who can’t wipe their own nose properly, the reader that cries at the “scary” crossing guard on the magic school bus show, the child who screams so loud you flinch when they spill their juice box, the visibly disabled child, the non visibly disabled child. They all, to me, have special needs and it’s our job to meet those needs, diagnosed or not.
Luckily, Ailbe has been blessed with two seemingly wonderful teachers who are trying so very hard to accommodate her. She has three aides, over the course of the day (not happy about this) and she doesn’t like two of the three. And, in my opinion 2 of the 3 don’t like her, or maybe just kids in general lol. News flash, you can’t work with kids if you don’t actually like kids!!!! Minus several potty accidents and many tears,(the hour after school) Ailbe has shown tremendous growth already in our eyes.
Although school is yet to hear Ailbe talk (almost a month in) she has shown us so much growth. Now keep in mind what we were told about Ailbe. You know, the whole, she will “never talk, she doesn’t know she’s here right now and couldn’t identify me, her own mother, from a stranger…” yada yada. I stopped listening. Anyway, so besides proving ALL of those doubts wrong, Ailbe has now started to learn academic skills. I laughed at the teacher in her last IEP in spring (I did feel bad about laughing) but she actually put an assessment form in front of me showing me that Ailbe knew 0/26 letter names and sounds, 0/6 shapes, 0/8 colors… I looked and her and said “yes, we’ve been focusing on surviving this past year and you know the basics, personal hygiene, feeding ourselves, kind mannerisms, coloring, painting and learning words, we haven’t gotten to academics yet.” Any mother of a child with Autism or any brain disability can relate to what I experienced in this IEP. That aside, I’m happy to report that as of today we can say A-H, we can identify A-C, we can count almost to 11, we can count down from 11, we know the colors; blue, green and red, we can identify and make a circle, we can write with a pencil, we can sit for long periods of time and we are starting to write letters 🙂 All in a month of school! The sad part is this doesn’t come at a cost and Ailbe is really struggling to settle in to the length of time the school day is, the long period of sitting (40 minutes at a time), large numbers of kids and sensory overload.
Now let’s get to the bubble bursting because you know me, I always have a story 🙂 Ailbe made a friend. Yes, she made a friend all by herself. This friend is so sweet and caring. I’ve watched her run over to Ailbe and tell her she missed her and watched her hold Ailbe’s hand to show her about the school. I bumped into this friends mom at pick-up and expressed how much Ailbe enjoys her child and would love to have a playdate. The mother told me that her child always talks about Ailbe and that they would love that. So, the next day I sent in a card with our number and asked for a playdate. A week passed and still no response. I saw the friends dad at drop off the next week and I said hey, we would love a playdate, you guys must be so busy, but Ailbe just loves your kiddo. He said to me “oh yeah, she’s so good with kids like ______ (long pause), you know, she’s great with babies, like she loves them, she wants one of her own.” Now in this moment you don’t actually realize what’s been said when you’re a mother of a special needs child. You laugh, you say something like “oh yeah, thirty years from now she can have one” and then you kindly part ways. It’s not until you reach your car that you realize you were just put down. Your child that you know has worked so hard for this moment, is still not good enough in this persons eyes, and you cry. Now, some people would say I’m over reacting and simply let this interaction go. Some would say it’s possible the dad didn’t mean anything by it and just wanted to get out of almost telling me (the mother) that his kid was good with SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN you know those kids that are just like BABIES. Honestly, I wouldn’t have thought much about it had it not felt like we were being rejected. Sweet Bee wasn’t going to make the playdate cut after all. In the end, none of this matters but mummy’s bubble was burst as I was on cloud nine about her making a friend 🙂
The truth is, life is different when you’re part of the crew. Friendships end for petty reasons, family argues, hearts break at times, but through it all, that undeniable love for your child, that love that’s so strong (for all mothers), just keeps you going and going and going.