I came early with him each day. Butterflies in my stomach. Hope in my heart, mixed with a heavy foreboding at what would probably be. Each day filled me with worry.
Monday morning, I left him happy.
Monday afternoon, I picked him up in a fog. The fog of an overmedicated child. I was surprised and so was the tutor who took over the shift.
The tutors split the school shift. One is in the morning and a switch occurs at noon. The one who takes him at noon does not see the administration of the medication which is done by school staff. My son takes 1/2 a syringe of ADHD medication just before noon. If he is given more than this dose, he goes into a foggy state. I saw it when we were trying to get the dosage right when he started the medication.
From a lively, interactive morning, he went into a fog. That never happened at the right dose. But over medication could make him just like this.
The second tutor had the first shift the following day. At noon, the administration of medication came. She watched. She saw that the dose was too high and grabbed the syringe headed toward my son’s mouth. The school person says she had the right dose – that there was just air in the syringe.
Why would the tutor, specifically watching for what was happening, grab for the syringe? She’s not an over bearing person. She’s quiet, mellow and kind under normal circumstances. She was protecting my child from what she saw the day before.
Tuesday after she protected him, when I picked him up? He was his normal, interactive self.
Tuesday evening was back to school night. I sat down in his tiny chair. The teacher sat on a chair in the front of the class. She said nothing about herself, her teaching method, how she would approach the curriculum or what it included. She pointed to some books for math, said there would be 6 reading groups.
The teacher smiled at me, in the way someone smiles right through you. She never had a single sentence for me as Tootles’ mom, just – nothing. I’m the only mom of a special needs child in the class but she only spoke to confirm my availability for the volunteer jobs.
She strikes me as someone who cannot keep a houseplant. You know, a nice healthy plant? Left without water, light, attention, care, it slowly withers away. My son’s skills, well nourished and cared for by kindergarten teachers, ABA staff and me, are turned over to her and then just lie unattended, withering.
The teacher talked about about class size in the politically correct, propagandized way, to reassure those who would believe her. I was not one of them. She said how she’d taught only large classes of 28 students or more. How does that add quality to her teaching? She emphasized that half the class would split up and with smaller groups, she would do math or reading. Did that not just prove that smaller groups were conducive to better learning?
She said the kids were so “cute” this year. Not bright, well-behaved, respectful, mindful or responsible, just “cute.”
If my heart was a ship, she sank it.
Back when my son was still in kindergarten, I registered him for a private school for first grade. Because the school’s kindergarten class was full and expected to move up to first grade, the classes were full, but Toots was placed on a waiting list. He was third on that list.
You see there was a limit on the number of students per class. It is a K-8 school. My son would have the same faces for eight years! With the difficulty he has in facial recognition, this was important.
The medication incident was the last straw. Coupled with dire concerns about my son’s safety (see this post) when Wednesday rolled around, I was distraught. I thought again, of homeschooling and simply involving my son in extracurricular activities that could provide social skills opportunities. That could work.
And then the call came. The call that changes everything. There was an opening for Tootles.
And just like that, the first day of school starts again.
Orientation was last night. 400 students in the auditorium. A video presentation done comically with an “Olympics” theme to music to introduce the entire K-8 staff. Short, informative warm speeches by the Principal, the President of the parent teacher group, welcoming us, an introduction to the online web service where we can access every record pertaining to our child’s education, and topics from uniforms to parking lot traffic.
Adjournment to the “Ports” where the children watched a movie while I went to Tootles new first grade class.
His teacher gave a power point presentation telling us all about her family and that of her aide, and their backgrounds, her philosophy on teaching, a discussion of curriculum, building character and socialization. The children can earn tickets for good behavior that can be used to buy things (parent donations) from her “shop” and then buying things for family at holiday (building character). They have to pay tickets for things like losing an eraser or pencil (learning responsibility). The children do math with partners. She showed us behavior charts she implements and her style in doing so. She gave us pages of written materials to help us along. Each week is a celebration of each student with an activity for each day of the week for each student throughout the year…
Can you see a little night and day here?
Tootles has been rescued from an unsafe, stagnant environment to a strong, structured environment that implements behavioral and social education with academics in a clear, consistent way.
We were persistent. We knew there was something better, but just didn’t know how much better until the contrast was complete. From the detour, we have made our way back to the main road. And don’t doubt that I know how fortunate Tootles is. Tootles does too.