The Continuing Story

In case any of you were wondering, I am still writing for Momversation.  My post about Zach's crush went up last week - I hadn't mentioned it because I already posted the full version here.  Things are getting worked out, which is good for both sides, and I have a post up there this morning if you'd like to check it out:

http://www.momversation.com/blog/teaching-other-kids-about-special-needs-children

Hope everyone had a good weekend and that your week is off to a great start!

 

ps. should probably mention that the actual beginning to the Momversation post is on their front page, so you might want to go there to see how it starts :)

 

When Good Field Trips Go Bad

Ferris Bueller didn't need to skip school to catch a mid-day major league game, he just needed to go to school in the greater Seattle area. 

In conjunction with Seattle's ABC tv affiliate, KOMO, the Seattle Mariners host a "Weather Day" every Spring.  This is an event held at Safeco Field and it involves a 45 minute discussion of meteorology by KOMO's lead meteorologist and a panel of various weather "experts", lunch, then tickets to stay for the Mariners' afternoon game.  Zach's school went last year but he and I were in Charlotte, NC at our karate training camp so we did not get to go.  So when the permission slip came home this year, I was like, heck yeah!  Sounds like a really cool field trip if you ask me. 

I signed us up and we were set.  Now most of Zach's field trips involve leaving his school at about 9am to get wherever they are going.  I can't do that because I don't drop Josh off at his school until 9:10am.  So we have an arrangement where if I have signed up for a trip, I just leave from dropping Josh off and meet Zach's crew at the destination.  Sometimes I keep Zach home and just drive up with him, occasionally I have dropped him at school and had him go with someone else until I can meet them. 

Yesterday was the day.  I had the paperwork regarding what gate we were to enter through, what times it was open, the schedule for the day, etc.  This time I was just going to bring Zach with me.  So here's the thing:  I've never actually been to Safeco Field.  I know where it is as it's right beside the train station where I pick up/drop off my mom all the time.  But I have never been to the stadium itself.  Haven't parked at it or near it, nothing.  I have parked up in Seattle many times in the Seattle Center area, which is further north, more in the heart of the city.  I figured it shouldn't be too big of a deal, huge stadium, bound to be parking everywhere since Qwest Field is right next door (where the Seahawks play). 

Now Josh gets dropped off at 9:10.  The weather day presentation was to start at 10am.  Timing was tight.  I always just assume I can do this stuff so I figured we'd be ok.  Close, but ok.  Josh hasn't been sleeping much at all this week so I was running on very little sleep.  I can do this, I am awesome like that.  We drop off the Toadie and I shift into "outta my way people" mode.  Um, yeah, have I mentioned that I have a teeny tiny problem with anger issues when I'm behind the wheel?  No?  *cough*  Ok, well, I do.  I know I wrote a whole piece for Momversation last week about being polite and I am, mostly, just maybe not so much when I'm driving.  I honestly don't know why or when it started, I haven't always been like that.  ANYWAY, since the universe likes to be funny, we end up behind several slow moving vehicles.  The speed limit was 50mph, they were going about 38.  Who does this?  Seriously, I understand speeding, but going well under the limit?  I just don't get.  So my blood pressure starts to hit the roof.  Takes us somewhat longer than I had anticipated just to get to the highway.  We did get there though, and after the initial merging traffic it seemed like smooth sailing.  I was starting to think we might just get there by 10.  No sooner had I started to relax a little about the time when I am headed toward a sea of red brake lights.... whoa... what the... bam.  Traffic had come to a dead stop.  Of COURSE it had.  Sigh.  OK.  No way are we going to make it in time now so I get on the cell phone to Zach's teacher.  She said she knew the traffic was bad, not to worry, call them when we get there and she'll send someone to come and find us at the gate.  Zach is cool, he's less stressed than I am.  Turns out there had been an accident, so when we managed to get past it we were on our way again.  Only there is this weird smell.  Pretty sure it's my car.  It smells like something is burning. Not oil, I know what that smells like. No, this was different, still not good, but different. Like a "your car is about to burst into flames or your engine is about to explode" smell.  There were no cars around me now so it wasn't someone else.  And it wasn't going away.  In a bit of a panic though trying to keep Zach from knowing how freaked out I was, I fixed my gaze on the dash waiting for some bad warning lights to come on, one eye on the hood of my car watching for flames. Zach could smell it too.  Nothing happened, but the smell lingered. I of course, kept driving.  WE HAVE A FIELD TRIP TO GET TO.  I follow the signs that tell me to get off at this exit for Safeco Field.  There was one more sign after I got off the highway... then nothing.  No more signs.  So this is how it is.  FINE. I can see the bloody thing so I just drive toward it.  Yes, I have a nav system in the car, however, Mr Nav Man Voice Thing has a tendency to lie, and I don't think it's funny so I opted not to use it this time. 

I managed to get to the stadium quite by accident.  By this time, the scary smell had faded enough that I stopped worrying about it. Now to look for parking.  Um, hmmm. There is nothing immediately obvious, oh wait, no that's the football stadium.  There's a self park right across from the gate we were to go in through.  Great, I'll just pop in there and hey, it's $30 to park when there is a game.  THIRTY. DOLLARS.  I kid you not.  Under normal circumstances I wouldn't pay that in a million years to park my car for a couple of hours. But we were late, this was for Zach, so yeah, you win mr parking extortionist.  I park the car, get out, and we head over to the machine to pay for the ticket.  Or, not.  Unlike its counterparts up in the city, this spot was cash only.  You had to fold up your bills and stuff them in the slot that corresponded to your car's spot.  Very antiquated. Very annoying.  I don't have enough cash on me.  I am so used to using my credit card for everything these days, including parking.  I had some cash, just not enough.  So, back in the car we get to find a place that took credit cards.  I passed about 4 more lots, all of which were cash only, including the actual stadium garage.  Cash. Only.  Since when did this become a thing?  I was starting to lose it a little, called Zach's teacher and told her parking was going to be a problem.  I finally found a small lot a couple blocks away that had a machine that looked like it would take the card... SCORE! Credit cards only at this one, so I parked the car and Zach and I made our way to the stadium in the rain. 

We get to the weather talk about 30 minutes late so we really only got the last 15 minutes of it.  I felt badly for Zach, but he didn't care that much, he was excited for lunch and the game.  We were not the only ones late, so I didn't feel too horrible.  Safeco Field is lovely, by the way.  If you like baseball and are ever in Seattle, I highly recommend it.  It's fairly new and has a wonderful retractable roof, perfect for this part of the world with all our rain.  Now I have to confess, the last time I attended a Major League baseball game was back in 1992 in Houston, the Astros vs the Montreal Expos in the Astrodome.  I'm not even sure if that exists any more.  I do know this - grounds keeping has been cultivated in to a fine art, it was fascinating to watch the crew working on the field before the game.  It looked too pretty to mess up when they were done, I can tell you that.  We ate our lunch in seats along the first baseline.  Very cool, so close to the field.  This was Zach's first live sporting event aside from some martial arts tournaments and training camps.  So he was taking it all in - with a giant, red, foam finger, of course.  Had to get a foam finger, it was all he wanted.  I realized while we were eating that the seats we were sitting in to eat were NOT our seats for the game.  I looked at our tickets.  Uh, wow.  Section 311. Row 19. Seats 13 - 14.  Without even knowing the stadium layout those numbers should suggest a notion about where we would be sitting for the game.  Indeed, at the farthest end down the first base line and waaaaaaaaaaay up at the very top.  Crazy.  They sat all the schools in this nosebleed section, over 1,000 kids.  Alrighty, then. So we made our way, all the way, up up up and in to our game seats.  Well, we could see the whole field, without any obstructions so that was good. 

Normally I enjoy live sporting events.  And I had been excited for this one.  But as we were waiting for the game to start, I got very cold. VERY cold. I could see my breath it was that cold.  The stadium is not enclosed so whatever the temperature is outside, it is in the stadium too.  May 26th and it's so cold you can see your breath... it was bizarre, and cold.  My hands were white and looked like wax.  Then there was this overwhelming smell.  No, not my random car-exploding smell, but, well, garlic.  Lots and lots of garlic.  They serve garlic fries at a number of the food vendors and the smell was insane.  Non-stop garlic.  Of course then the cotton candy guy came around and 1,000 kids swarmed at once.  When the carnage was over, cotton candy guy retired a rich man and I was now surrounded by cotton candy... and garlic fries.  I kinda wanted to hurl. The little girls behind us kept screaming randomly and as loud as they could, for Ichiro. Honestly, with what I deal with at home with Josh you'd think this would be a cake walk for me.  Funny, I guess with Josh it's a context, state and environment that I'm used to.  Josh wasn't there, I suppose I expected things to be a little more, well, normal, lol.

We made our way out of Safeco early, since I had to make sure I got back in time to get Josh from school and after the morning's traffic escapades I didn't want to take any chances.  Took us about 10 minutes just to get out of the stadium from way up where we were.  As we were walking back to the car, there were a number of establishments, shall we say, in this long building along the side street we were on.  There was a place called "Showgirls".  Because I'm a bit of an ass-hat I said to Zach, "hey, we've got some time, let's go in to Showgirls over here and get a drink."  Zach just rolls his eyes at me and shakes his head. "Do you even know what that is? " I asked him.  "I assume it's a strip club" he said, in a perfectly non-chalant manner.  I said, "good job!" and patted him on the back.  He was like, "mom, did you really just tell me 'good job' for knowing it was a strip club?"  "Sure did. See, sometimes I'm afraid you're not worldly enough. But dude, strip club, nicely done".  He started giggling.  You had to be there.

We made it home in plenty of time and Josh is now enjoying the enormous bag of popcorn we brought home from the game.  All in all, despite all the tribulations, it was a fun day, mostly because I was with Zach.  But absolutely one of the cooler field trips I've ever volunteered to attend.

Books Make a Difference!

Today marks the beginning of a month-long program by BlogHer and BookRenter.com to make a difference in children's lives.  Working together with First Book, a non-profit Head Start program, BlogHer and BookRenter (a company that rents textbooks) will donate 1 new book for every comment left in this thread at BlogHer.com, up to 1,000 books.   http://www.blogher.com/books-make-difference-share-which-book-changed-your-life-donate-book-child-need

Even if you aren't a blogger, you can sign up, leave your comment answering the question about books that made a difference in your life, and still help this wonderful program. :)

When I left my comment, I mentioned the book "Higglety Pigglety Pop" by Maurice Sendak.  This was the first book I ever really loved and boy, did I love that book.  For an entire year no one else could take it out of the school library because every time it was due to be returned I renewed it.  Which begs the question, why didn't my parents just get me my own copy??? GOOD QUESTION! (hi mom, love you! )  It also makes me wish I had a copy now, I'm feeling the need to read it again - it's probably been 37 years since I've seen it, let alone read it. Maybe Josh would like it. I mean, the shows he attached to and still loves are all about animals, Blue is a dog, and Little Bear, well, that's Maurice Sendak too so you never know...

 

How Far Do We Go?

Wasn't planning on another post today, but something happened yesterday that I think is important to talk about here. 

Josh was bitten by another child at school.  This is not the first time it has happened, it was in fact, the third time in the last couple of months, all by the same child.  A child getting hurt at school or being targeted by another child is certainly not unique to special needs children, but dealing with the issue in that respect is an entirely different ball-game on all sides. 

On the one hand, I am in Angry Mother-Bear mode, someone HURT MY CHILD.  We all have that instinct, the need to protect and keep them safe.  It's a big part of our job as parents.  When they do get hurt or their safety is compromised, we feel guilty, angry, scared, sad, you name it.  With typically developing children however, as they grow up, you transition that responsibility for their safety gradually over to them.  We teach them to look both ways before crossing a street, not to touch the stove or iron when it's hot because they could get burned, not to use the stapler on themselves (don't laugh, I did this when I was about 4 or 5 while standing at the counter in a bank with my mom - kids are insane, I actually remember thinking, "I wonder what this would feel like?" and then just stapling my thumb...  ), and we can even teach them to stay out of or away from situations/people that might harm them.  I can't do this with Josh.  He has absolutely no concept of danger, therefore personal safety is also meaningless.  So with him it's completely in the hands of the adults that are responsible for him at any given time, whether it's me, his dad, or the staff at his school.  So part of me is angry with the grown-ups he was with at the time, especially since this has happened before and I was assured after the first time that the staff had a "plan" in place to make sure that this other child would not ever be close enough to Josh for this to happen again.  Clearly that "plan" is not working, since it has happened twice more since then.  But I can't really be angry with them, since as a parent I know perfectly well you cannot always keep things from happening even when you are right there.  I can't be angry with the other child either.  If he were a child without special needs, that would be different.  A child without developmental issues can understand right and wrong.  Children like Josh and this other little boy, cannot.  I feel badly for his parents too, as I know how devastated I would be to find out Josh was hurting another child or children like that, and I know it's not their fault either. 

There is responsibility here though and it lies with those that make decisions about staffing.  In the world of Special Education as in all types of schooling, it always comes down to money and who gets how much and for what.  Giving a child a 1:1 aide costs $$ and many districts will not just hand those out to every teacher who says they need one for one of their kids.  It usually needs to be pretty extreme issues of care/safety to get this.  Josh had 1:1 for many years when he was younger, primarily because his tantrums were so extreme and prolonged, and he engaged in self-abuse behaviors.  In my mind though, any child who is known to be a danger to others should automatically be given 1:1 supervision.  The risk that is run when they are not, is too high for everyone involved.  You risk other children being hurt, as Josh has been.  I am contemplating posting pictures of the bite marks, just so you can see what we are talking about here.  Not sure if I should, I'll decide later, but these bites have left CSI-worthy dental impressions complete with bad bruising that lasts a good week or more - and this was through two layers of clothing, including a sweater.  So I know these bites were hard.  Have you ever been bitten?  It's extraordinarily painful.  All I can say is thank goodness he wasn't in short sleeves when it's happened, as his injuries would have been pretty severe.  

So now what?  Well, after discussing the situation with his dad, we have decided that we won't send him back to school until they can come up with a solution to this problem.  The easiest and most sensible seems to be to provide the extra staff member so that this other child can have the constant supervision he clearly needs. But I have no idea if the school district will do that.  School districts are interesting entities and I think will likely be the subject of another post here down the road.  So the question is, how far do we take this?  As Josh's mother I cannot bring myself to send him knowingly back in to a situation that I now consider un-safe.  I wouldn't be doing my job if I did.  Here in Washington state however, we have a law called the Becca Bill which allows the state to go after parents whose children are absent from school more than a certain percentage of time.  As an example, let me just throw this at you: when Josh gets sick, you can pretty much count on his having to be out of school for at least a week, sometimes a little longer.  This is just the way he is when he gets ill, things tend to linger with him. I get letters from the school, warning me that they will invoke the Becca Bill if he misses any more, and this is after he has been SICK and they know he has been sick.  Seems to be taking the Bill out of its intended context, which is truly negligent parents who don't know where their kids are or simply don't send them to school or provide any alternate form of education.  Regardless, this is what we deal with.  So now I have him home, he is not sick, and I honestly don't know how long it will be before we get some resolution on the issue.  If they tell us he has to come back or they will take us to court using the Becca Bill, do we come back with the pictures I have of these injuries and counter sue?  How far do we take this?  This is what his dad asked me and we decided we were in agreement that Josh's well being was worth it even if it means a court fight.  But really, that would be the last thing any of us needs to be dealing with, let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Behind this surface issue of there needing to be appropriate measures in place to keep our kids safe, there is the more difficult one of dealing with your child being hurt in the first place.  A child who doesn't understand except that he has been hurt a few times now, all I can think is does he wonder why I haven't helped him? Does it scare him? And I just die inside.  Josh first started school when he was three.  In Washington, once children who need special services reach three years old they move from Early Intervention to the school districts.  Three.  I had to take my three year old to a regular elementary school.  The program and teacher were great, but it was still a very difficult thing, especially since at that time he was in the uber-tantrum and self-abuse phase of his existence (we'll talk about that in detail another time).  He had only been at school for about two months when one day I brought him home, was changing him and noticed he was covered in bruises.  Covered.  I was horrified and completely stunned.  I took the rest of his clothes off.... they were everywhere, finger-tip shaped bruises all over his little body, as well as a large, circular pattern of bruising in the center of his back.  I was beside myself, honestly the emotion was the worst combination of heartbreak, rage, and guilt you could ever possibly imagine.  We kept him out of school, had the requisite meetings and were told that the staff working with him to that point just didn't have the necessary training to handle him during his tantrums - they were trying to hold him so that he wouldn't keep hitting himself (which he did at that stage), but in the process held him too hard and at one point tried holding him in a chair, hence the bruising on his back.  So we informed them we had taken photos, and that they had better provide him with staff who had appropriate training.  Turned out that was quite effective.  But the damage was done, no pun intended.  I can't tell you how hard it is trusting others to care for and be responsible for him at this point.  If anyone ever wonders why I will not ever have him take the bus or go to the camps that his teachers keep pressing me about, this post is your answer.  At not yet 12 he has been injured badly enough like this 4 times now - that first incident and now the three bites. 

I know that school is good for him, the routine and the structure work well for him and it keeps him busy.  When he is on breaks for too long he gets bored and then destructive, which is not good, and I can't enforce structure at home the way they do at school, he is very rigid about those worlds being separate.  All I want is to keep him safe and happy and it kills me that he's had to go through all this.

Edit for update:  A meeting with the school district SpEd co-ordinator and the school staff is scheduled for Monday April 19th, we'll see what comes of it then.  In the meantime, he is at home with me.