Good: Daniel's MEAP scores came in the mail. MEAP is the statewide achievement test here in Michigan that everyone takes (except for you IEP savvy people who take the MIAccess,) Daniel took the MEAP only in math this year, because we thought that would be the most appropriate test for him. Testing him is not always easy, and he gets accommodations for it, like more time, a different location etc (write those in the IEP folks!). But still he usually doesn't do well. I know that the testing doesn't always show his true levels of achievement, but the scores can be gut wrenching to see. They usually get glanced at and filed away, far away, so I don't have to see them. It's easier to go to my happy place of denial that way. But not this year! He went from a 4 (not proficient) last year to a 2 (proficient for 7th graders!) this year. This is in comparison to all 7th graders in Michigan!
Bad: In Daniel's Resource English class there has been three parapros available to assist a class with very high needs. One was just pulled from the class to be put into another class, and it was Daniel's long time parapro.
Good: I had a very good conversation with the special ed. director. This was after talking to teachers, vice principals and principals. She understands my concerns and has assured me that if Daniel starts showing frustration and falling behind (after making so much progress!) that they will reassess the situation. I have known her a long time and I feel confident this is true.
Bad: Daniel was screaming on the bus last Wednesday and hitting himself because the natives (teens) were restless and acting like caged animals. i.e. hanging out the windows, arms flailing around similar to chimps at the zoo reaching out through the bars. This, not too surprisingly, stressed Daniel out. The bus driver was trying to get the kids under control. They wouldn't listen (and refused to raise the windows?!) which made Daniel even more upset. The vice principal was called out and he had to RIDE THE BUS WITH THE KIDS. Daniel recovered part way home since the bus was SILENT (a "request" from the vice principal). I then received an email explaining the situation from the vice principal.
Good: This lead to a brain storming session about giving Daniel something to concentrate on while on the bus. If he is in noisy situations (like a sporting event his brother is participating in) it helps for him to have something else to concentrate on. Like his "DS" (Nintendo DS). When I asked him what would help him on the bus he answered "my DS" which was immediately shot down by me. I fear him losing it or kids would want to see what he is doing and hang over his shoulder. This would NOT make him happy. During my conversation with the special ed director. She immediately offered up an MP3 player for him to borrow. We loaded it with music from Fantasia and so far, he is ONE HAPPY BOY! It has worked like a charm! It is very relaxing for him and the music makes him happy. Now he can ignore the caged animals if he so desires...
Bad: A friend let me know that her daughter reported that she witnessed some kids harassing Daniel in the hall and frustrating him to the point of him getting upset.
Good: She stepped in and stood up for Daniel
Bad: They didn't listen
Good: This led to topic number 3 with the Special Ed director and she was very upset about it. It seems that is it is being taken very very seriously by the school and we are working on it. When I had dinner alone with Daniel last Thursday we had a conversation about his morning routine. (an entire conversation!) When I got to the spot where I thought the harassing was occurring I asked him if people ever bother him. His answer. "Sometimes". Which makes me think that it happens with some regularity.
Bad: While talking to the special ed director about this I was crying the ENTIRE time. In my defense, I was also in the middle of a migraine day and was not handling anything very well. It was an ugly cry too. Not a few tears, but all out crying.
Good: She was extremely kind, especially when I asked if she could please just ignore my crying and continue on with the conversation. She was very sympathetic. We have known each other for many years (long before she became our special ed. director.) I have always felt a connection to her and I think that is reciprocated. She immediately called the social worker at the middle school to get to the bottom of this issue and delivered the MP3 player to come home the same day!
I talked through this with my friend afterward. (crying again). This is the friend who's daughter stood up for Daniel to several kids. This girl has the self image and strength as a 7th grader to do what is right, for someone she cares about. Not only is she amazing, but her parents are too, for raising such a child. I am starting to sound like a broken record but I am very lucky to have them in our lives. As I was crying to her on the phone, and complaining that I can't stop crying when talking to someone like the special ed. director about an emotional issue, or in a meeting in front of people and she said something that made me pause. I'm sure I will never ever forget it . She said, "You cry the tears that he can't cry for himself and you get the job done and make it a better world for him."
Wow. What a powerful statement. I said, "that's beautiful and I'm stealing it from you". Which I am! That is honestly the most lovely thing I've ever heard anyone say. I wrote it down immediately so I'd get it right. I'm glad I did because I only remembered the "you cry the tears that he can't cry for himself part". I had completely forgotten the last half about making it a better place for him. I guess I had forgotten that part, because in terms of that, what choice do we have as parents? In my opinion, that is why we are here, and I know that I will always do that. Sometimes when we are having a hard time with Daniel, I think back to about 5 days after he was born. He was a very sick little boy and was in an incubator for several days receiving oxygen and medicine. It had been a long week, but we knew at that point he was in the clear and recovering. I was sitting in my special room at the hospital for mom's whose children are sick and still admitted after the mom's are released. They give a bed to you and you can stay in the hospital to be close to your baby. I was holding him in that room and looking into his face and I clearly remember promising him that I would be there for him always, I would be there to protect him and help him with everything, that I would do whatever necessary to help him. It was a different feeling than with my other son. It is almost like I knew that the hard part wasn't over and it was going to be a long long road with Daniel. But I have kept my promise to him from that day. I always always will, through the good, the bad and the ugly.