Friday, December 16, 2005

Working through it

Here is the letter I am sending the parent of the child who harassed my son. I don't hold out a lot of hope that the mother will respond appropriately given my experience of her on the telephone last weekend. But I need to start a paper trail going. I fear this will escalate to police/social services.


After unsuccessfully attempting to discuss matters with you over the telephone last weekend, I feel compelled to write you this letter. There is a discrepancy in our children's reporting of the events that occurred on Sunday, December 11, 2005 at the ###### sledding hill.

My son maintains that your daughter, ******, both verbally and physically harassed him, pushing him down the hill and causing him to hit his head on the ice. You stated that your daughter claimed my son was the aggressor.

We may never know exactly what happened last Sunday; however, we do have control of what happens from now on. I am formally requesting that your daughter stay away from my son. I have asked my son to avoid contact with your daughter.

My son has reported witnessing prior instances of *****’s verbal and physical aggression and inappropriate language with other children and I am concerned about this pattern of behavior. Both you and your daughter use language that is unacceptable in our home and I don’t wish him to be exposed to it any further.

I expect that you will take this letter seriously and heed my request to have our children stay clear of one another. In the future, if I discover that your daughter has bothered my son in any way, I will be forced to take further action through the ++++++ Police Department, the school system and/or the Department of Social Services.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Navigating the Bumps

No. This is not a post about skiing, although that is one sport we all love as a family. The bumps are social ones, and this bump is the size and shape of a mountain.

My 7th grader, who is a big and strong kid, a green belt in karate, is being harassed by a 7th grade girl whom he outweighs and physically outmasters.

But she seems savvy in the ways of social harassment in a way my son will likely never be.

My son reports that this girl verbally accosted him on a sledding hill near the house. When he tried to ignore her and resume sledding, she shoved him and he went down unprepared, fell and hit his head on the ice. He was furious, but understood the 'rules' about retaliation: he went home.

I called the parent, asking her to speak with her daughter about the incident. The mother became incensed on the telephone, rude, swearing at me and ultimately hung up. I called her back. She claims that my son accosted her daughter, both verbally and physically.

Now I know all kids are capable of lying and of making bad choices. But I *do* know my son and he is a lousy lier. He also lacks the social guile to lie to this extent. I also have outside corroboration about this girl's previous aggressive behavior.

My son feels believed and safe within his family. That's no small feat. But he is frustrated, angry, and scared, not knowing why this girl is targeting him or what he will have to do to stay safe the next time.

I can't keep him from experiencing the bewildering array of cruelty in the world. The bumps will happen. And I will not always be there to help him navigate.

I want this girl to understand the hurt my son has experienced--not the physical hurt. That fades. But the emotional hurt that comes from not being able to trust in the 'rules' of social interaction that are supposed to keep him safe. But maybe she already knows--maybe she hopes to inflict that kind of pain. I don't understand it and it makes me doubt my abilities as a parent. How can I help my son when I don't understand the world we have to inhabit?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

IEP Annual Review--Beware the Unintended Consequences

My son's annual review meeting is tomorrow. I should be asleep--it's midnight--instead I'm sitting here quietly obsessing about what's wrong with a system that has so many negative unintended consequences.

"Where all the women are beautiful and all the children above average" (With apologies to Garrison Keiler)
He has an IEP--the Individualized Education Plan that opens the magic doors to classroom accomodations and access to the personell that can shift his school life from living hell to something resembling bearable. But starting off with the name--shouldn't *all* education be individualized? Each child will learn best in idiosyncratic ways. It makes sense for the adults in the system to be flexible in the way education is delivered so each kid gets what he or she needs.

However, that very document, the IEP, is predicated on *impairments*. It, by its very nature, focuses primarily on the things my son has difficulty with or cannot do. I have certainly mused about this before, but there are dangers in letting a list of impairments define reality.

"Accentuate the Negative. . ."
Although provision of 'special education' services is a federal mandate, it is not fully funded at the federal tax level, and so paying for the implementation of federally mandated services falls to the states and local districts. We all know there is no endlessly refilling tax coffer. (I envision some 'Willy Wonka'-like everlasting gobstopper) Districts are between the proverbial rock and hard place. So are parents. So we must accentuate the negative to keep our children's needed survices.

"You say potato and I say Pot-ah-to. . . let's call the whole thing off."
A parent's biggest fear is that once a child gets what he or she needs and starts to thrive, the school will begin to pull back. But that is in fact the success point--the point where everyone has figured out what the child needs to do well. That needs to become the baseline, not an argument for releasing the child from an IEP.

"To be or not to be. . ."
So all this is fairly general and abstract. Lets really take a good look in the mirror here. My kid's an Aspie. I'm an Aspie. Is there a point where it ever becomes useful to disclose this to the team? If I thought for a moment that my disclosure would educate the school, would let them see me as a role model for my son and others, would want to use what I know to help others in the school, I would tell them in an instant. My fear (what keeps me 'in the closet' about this) is that they will completely discount what I say because I'm an Aspie.

"Time Flies when you're Having Fun. . ."
The other irony is that the areas in which my son needs the most guidance are not traditionally academic concerns. I feel the school is doing a poor job with the social and emotional issues that plague my son. Despite a zero tolerance approach for 'bullying', in actual day to day middle school life, my son experiences quite a large degree of both physical and verbal bullying. By the very nature of AS, he will have difficulty developing and implementing the strategies to assure his social and emotional safety in school. Yes, middle school years are tough for all kids. they don't need to be make frankly impossible for my kid.

/end incoherent rant at midnight-thirty.