Archive for February, 2011

Inclusion Works 4

I am mostly an even . . . level . . . unexcitable . . . low-key person.  It takes a lot to get me riled.  It takes a lot to stir me or to disrupt my peaceful, constant, calm norm.

So I’ve been surprised at the emotions and the level of emotions that I have experienced in these few days at the Inclusion Works conference in Austin.

I came excited!  I was hopeful and excited about the tools I would pick up while listening to the experts talk about inclusion of students with disabilities — which I would have called special needs two days ago.  😉

I felt overwhelmed and desperate and helpless after the first session I attended.  I was frustrated that Chloe’s teachers aren’t here learning with me.

I was touched and thankful as I talked to a teacher from Ohio that is here at the conference — thankful that a teacher values inclusion and her included students enough to travel across the country to learn more.  (Thank you!)

I was angry as I listened to a teacher badger concerned, fearful, desperate parents as if they were evil people.  It made me long for a relationship where teachers and parents can understand and respect each other.

I was moved to tears as I talked to a young teacher — crying and concerned about one of her middle school students whom she wanted to help.  I was so grateful that there are teachers who have such a deep love and concern for their students.

I was furious and appalled and felt like throwing up my hands as I heard a teacher say that a particular student was in all general ed classes because he was smart, implying that students in special ed are not smart.

I was challenged and emotional as I was forced to think about the language I use to describe my children and their disabilities.  I was convicted and disappointed and then empowered as I learned new ways to talk about my children.

I laughed and nearly cried with a teenager this morning.  He has Asperger’s Syndrome and gave us a speech about his disability.  He and his mom answered questions from the audience.  I was moved at his bravery and blessed by his independence and by his relationship with his mom.

I was excited . . . thrilled . . . as I listened to two moms tell of their journeys and their beliefs in inclusion.  I felt empowered and steadfast as I learned new ways to communicate why it is important to me that my daughter be educated with nondisabled peers.

Yeah.  It’s been emotional.  It’s been powerful.  It’s been motivating and encouraging.

Inclusion Works 3

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times.  But today I’ve decided to stop saying it.

“I have a child (2 children, actually) with special needs.”

I have said the statement a million and one times and been completely fine with its meaning and with its conotation. 

But today I attended a session at the Inclusion Works conference titled “Person First Language.”  I am quite familiar with person first language.  Person first language says the person first, then the disability.  So instead of an autistic child, he is a child with autism; instead of a Downs Syndrome child, she is a child with Downs Syndrome; instead of wheelchair kids, they are children who use wheelchairs; etc.  The disability does not define the child . . . he is a child first. 

But in this session, the presenter took it a few steps further.  Not just person first language.

She encouraged us as parents and as teachers to describe kids by beginning with what they can do instead of what they can’t do.  That’s a big difference!

The presenter challenged a teacher in the session who described a student as “struggling in math.”  She suggested the words “needs support in math.”  It is a subtle difference that makes a huge statement!  It’s a difference in perception.  It’s a different mindset.  She suggested that it is a way of shaping people’s thoughts . . . shaping our own thoughts . . . shaping the thoughts of our child.

And she even challenged the use of the term special needs.  She explained that saying, “I have a child with special needs” evokes pity.   The word “special” is a word that stirs an emotion — pity.  And pity is isolating.  She also pointed out that these children aren’t going to be little children forever.  Being special at the age of 4 is cute.  But special isn’t cute at age 21 or age 34.

Another wow.  Definitely an aha! moment.

So.  What will I say instead?

Well, I will try to say nothing about a diagnosis or disability unless really needed.  In a case where an explanation is necessary, I think I will say, “Chloe has a disability, and she will need you to support her by …..”  Not “she needs you to help her by . . .” because  the word “help” also evokes pity.

What do you think?  Is it worth the fuss?  Is it worth the effort to change something that I’ve gotten used to saying?  Will this subtle effort make a difference in protecting Chloe’s integrity?  Will it show more respect to children with disabilities?

Let me know what YOU think.

Inclusion Works 2

Still at the Inclusion Works conference in Austin.  I am here with my friend Jennifer — loving the time I get to spend with her.  It is amazingly relaxing to have no responsibilities at all.  No diapers to change, no meals to prepare, no homework to complete, no practices to attend. . .  I could go on and on.  All I have to do here is attend the sessions that I want to attend . . . and eat the food I want to eat and rest on the bed enjoying wifi and watch TV in the hotel room.  That’s it.  It’s crazy.

I told you about the first session I attended at the conference.  Although it was a great session, I left feeling helpless and left with a feeling of, “Now what do I do with THAT?”  I left with a screaming reminder that my hands are partially tied.  I can suggest and encourage and even educate the people working with Chloe, but the reality is that THEY are the ones that will have to implement the stuff.  And I just keep wishing that THEY were here at the conference with me.

Can I just throw in here how amazed I am at the RUDENESS of the people attending this conference?  This conference is for teachers, administrators, other personnel, and parents.  When they had people raise their hands identifying whether they were teachers or parents or what, it looked as though the population is at least 75% teachers.  Maybe they don’t really want to be here.  Maybe they are only here for the training hours credit they will receive . . . I, of course, don’t know.  But they are SO RUDE.  Many of them talk through the sessions, they get up and leave during  the sessions . . . it’s truly amazing.  And frustrating.

The second session I attended was about Conflict Resolution, focusing on the relationship between parent and school personnel.  The presenter was entertaining and made us all laugh a few times.  It wasn’t as useful as I thought it might be.  We took a little survey / quiz to determine our personal style in managing conflict.  I can not stand assessments like this.  I overthink my responses, and I can’t make a decision to save my life so taking these surveys is a painful experience.  But I took it, and I think the results were quite accurate of me.  I was very heavy in AVOIDANCE.  Yes, I’m an avoider.  Most times it is just not worth it to me to spend time disagreeing with someone.  There are very few things in my life that I think are important enough to argue about.  My second conflict style is CONTROL.  Umm, that is not a surprise either.  I love control.  I am a controlling mama.  Umm, yeah.

Anyway, this second session finally forced me to leave the room for a breath of fresh air in the middle of the session.  (I realize above I pointed out the rudeness of people leaving sessions, but I left for fear that my head might explode from frustration and make a mess if I didn’t leave quickly . . . and I went back in after a few minutes.)  First of all, it was so hot in that room.  Lots of people, personal assessment tool, and warm temperature was not a good setting.  Add to that a 29-year veteran teacher who was obnoxiously rude.  Yeah, I couldn’t handle it anymore.  A few minutes after I came back into the room, the presenter was attempting to close up the session.  The teacher sitting beside the 29-year-vet was giving the example of a student of hers from a few years back:  The student was deaf and receiving special ed services.  She began a sentence and then paused, “The student was in all regular ed classes because . . .”  after a 1/2 second pause, the 29-year vet finished her sentence with words that nearly knocked me face-first into the floor.  “Because he’s smart.”   He was in all regular ed classes because he was smart?   The 29-year vet, sitting in an inclusion conference just said that smart kids are not in special ed.  Smart kids are in general ed.

<pause for effect while I scream a silent scream!>

The student was in all regular classes because he was smart.  Wow.  My head snapped toward Jennifer checking to see if I had just heard that correctly.  I could tell by the angry steam surrounding Jennifer that I, indeed, had heard correctly.

Wow.  Think we need more awareness?  Think we need more conferences?

Just for the record, I would like the 29-year vet to know that I have a child in special ed.  I would also like her to know that my child who is in special ed is smart.  In fact, my child who is in spec ed happens to be really smart.

Wow.  Just wow.

Inclusion Works

Can you believe that while my little family is going on with life in Fort Worth that I am sitting in a fancy hotel in Austin watching cable TV, surfing the internet, and eating cheesecake??  🙂

It is true.  But besides all the luxuries the hotel offers me here, I am attending the Inclusion Works conference — a whole  4 days dedicated to discussing inclusion.  Inclusion is what we’re doing with Chloe this year — a special ed student placed in a general ed classroom (with typical students) with aids and supports to ensure success.  Inclusion is a common practice in some areas, but man, oh man, have we got a long way to go!!

I came to this conference to gain power and knowledge and inspiration to keep up the inclusion that we’ve started with Chloe. 

The first breakout session I attended was one encouraging a range of response in the classroom to allow for students’ individual skills and interests.  The presenter spent time using examples of different types of media and activities to spur teachers on in their efforts to include all students.  He was so knowledgeable and passionate.  I left from that session thinking that if I were a teacher, I would go home and have a different approach in my classroom — not just apps on the ipad for my one or two special ed kids, but apps on the ipad for all of my students. . . . not just the chance to respond by podcast for my special ed students, but response through podcasts for all of my students.  It was a great reminder that any special thing done in the classroom for a special ed student would actually benefit every student in the classroom!

But I’m not a teacher.  I’m the parent of a special ed child.  A special ed child who is being included in a general ed classroom.  A special ed child who is the first to ever be included at this level at this school.  We are treading new waters in this whole inclusion thing.  So instead of leaving with a feeling of empowerment, I left that session with a feeling of helplessness.  I would’ve loved for Chloe’s teachers and therapists to have been there.  They are the ones who would implement something like that.

Yes, perhaps it is my role to do my part to educate and empower the folks working with my child.  But oh, how I would love for them to have attended this conference.  Instead of hearing it from me when it could be dismissed as a high-maintenance mama with a big agenda for my little girl, I would love for the teachers, therapists, and administrators to hear it from the experts just as I am hearing it.

I believe Inclusion Works.  I believe it with all of my heart.  But I want to be empowered at this conference . . . not made to feel helpless.  What can I do to be an effective parent?

First Impressions

Yesterday I received the package that I had been waiting for for days.  I had waited so impatiently and so excitedly for Chloe’s new Nickel Bed Tent to arrive.

I opened the front door to get Chloe off the bus, and there on my porch was the package.  Even when I first saw the box, I was already disappointed.  It was surprisingly small.  Now, while the website boasts that the bed tent is portable and sells its portability as a positive, I just couldn’t imagine that the tent that I was imagining would fit in the tiny box that was sitting on my porch.  Bummer.

First impressions are very important.

Maybe when I spend $139 on a tent, I want it to come in a really big box.  I’m not believer in “big surprises come in small packages.”

Even though I should’ve been thrilled that the package had actually arrived, I was in the middle of a terrible migraine and was less than thrilled with everything around me.

I figured since I was out of commission with my migraine that we would wait til the next day to set up the tent.  You see, not only did we need to set up the new tent, but we needed to move Zippy’s bed into Chloe’s room and move Chloe’s bunk bed into Zippy’s room.  All of that sounded like some pretty major work that I didn’t want to embark on.  But Paul came home from work and immediately (after serving us all dinner in the TV room) began the task at hand.

While Paul wrestled with the furniture and heavy work, I opened the little box that held the tent which I hoped would improve the quality of our lives.

Now, let me remind you that I had a terrible migraine.  The time spent opening this box and examining the tent was the first time all day that I was able to open my eyes without feeling terribly sick.  So I wasn’t in the greatest of moods.

But when I first saw the tent . . . and felt it . . .  I was already disappointed.  I was expecting a camping tent type quality, but the Nickel Bed Tent is more the quality of a kid’s play tent.  The first time I slid the aluminum poles through their sleeves, the edges of the sleeves frayed a little bit.  Even a little bit of the stitching of the sleeves seemed to loosen a little bit.  I was getting more and more discouraged as I set up this new tent.

But the idea is awesome!  Maybe, just maybe it will work.  Maybe it will surprise me. 

I surprised myself with my bad attitude.  It’s not like me to be that pessimistic.

The last step to setting up the tent was to put two poles along the top of the tent, securing it horizontally.  But the poles were too short to make it a good, tight fit.  Ugh.  Another disappointment.

I left the tent in the living room and went to Chloe’s room where Paul was setting up Zippy’s bed.  I reported my disappointment and apologized for my bad attitude.

I went right back to the living room just in time to see Chloe lose her balance and fall against the brand new Nickel Bed Tent. 

Just as I yelled, “No!” there was a distinct POP! that came from the tent.  I grabbed Chloe and pulled her away from the tent.

“Did she break it??” Zippy yelled.

“I don’t know,” I snapped back.

But upon inspection, I realized that one of the 4 long aluminum poles had snapped in two.  Less than three minutes after putting together the tent that would improve the quality of our lives, it broke.  Just. like. that.

When I started throwing a fit, Paul and Elliot came running to see what was going on.

Even through the disappointment, we kept on keeping on, hoping to still be surprised — pleasantly surprised.

The end of the story of Night One with the tent:  I layed in the floor of Chloe’s room for a while until she had relaxed.  She stayed in her bed, safely enclosed in her tent.  (She did undress, but I can’t blame that on the tent!  I’m blaming that on her needing to be in control of something since she couldn’t get out of her new tent!)  So, that was success.  Night One was a success.

Yay!

Night Two (tonight):  Chloe got out of the tent, but one of our respite providers put her to bed so we’re hoping the tent just wasn’t closed up correctly.  Last time Paul checked on her, she was still in the tent, but she was undressed again.  At least she kept her diaper on . . . .

I have sent an email to the website where we bought the tent explaining the problems we experienced and requesting a new pole to replace the broken one.  I will let you know how they reply.  Stay tuned for more on The Bed Tent Saga!

When You Ask For It . . .

One night this week after I had put the kids to bed,

One night this week after a friend of mine had put her kids to bed, she heard a crash in the bathroom near her children’s rooms.  When she investigated, she found one of her children washing his hands — soap and suds everywhere and the pump soap dispenser on the floor.

Baffled, she asked, “Why in the world are you washing your hands right now?!”

Her child looked up with a grin of hesitation.  “Scratching my butt??” was his truthful answer.

Surprised and amazed at the blunt and truthful answer, she agreed that that was, indeed, a good reason for hands to be washed.  She encouraged her child to dry his hands and get back to bed.

I must say my friend asked for it . . . . 

Don’t ask if you don’t want to know.  Just sayin’.

Not Me! Monday

Back by popular demand is my Not Me! Monday post where I spill the beans on the embarrassing things I have notbeen doing all week.  It’s a type of confessional where we folks can freely laugh at ourselves and at each other!

I used to join up with MckMama and lots of other bloggers in Not Me! Monday, where we confessed many things that we absolutely did not do this week!  (Of course we didn’t!)  But I get the feeling that she isn’t do it anymore so today I’m not linking up.

Here are a few things that have not been going on at my house this week:

I am not very much excited to be attending the Inclusion Works Conference in Austin this week!  I have not heard of this great conference for years and have not wanted to go each and every year.  In the past, I have not talked myself out of going because it’s so long (Wed -Sat) and I did not think I could really be gone from home that long.  But this year I am not just making it happen.  And I am not thrilled about it.  I do not have extremely high hopes to soak up like a little sponge and come home more empowered and more energized and more knowledgeable about how to make inclusion work for my children.  And I’m not also very excited to be able to spend lots of time with my good friend Jennifer, Wade’s mom, who is my roommate for the conference.  I. can’t. wait.

As excited as I am though, I am not dreading the thought and the work and the detail of organizing my household before I’m gone for 4 days at the Inclusion Works Conference.  Organizing meals, childcare, pick up from school, transportation for practices, activities, homework, medications, and other details for four days does not seem like an impossible task to me today.  I am not hoping to be pleasantly surprised when I get started.

I am not totally bummed that we haven’t received our Nickel Bed Tent yet!!  I was not so excited (and desperate) to get the tent . . . and the shipping was not delayed . . . and we are still not waiting on Chloe’s new bed tent.  Ugh.  I have not been fighting a really bad attitude about the people at Ready, Set, Bloom who make the Nickel Bed Tent for not communicating with me and letting me know shipping was delayed.  I am not totally struggling with the poor buying / shipping experience so far . . . I am not struggling with the experience and disappointment just totally stealing my joy in this whole thing.  And meanwhile, Chloe is not staying up and at it ’til all hours of the wee, sleepy night.  She was not up and playing until midnight again last night.  I am not hoping, hoping, hoping that we get the tent TODAY!!

Chloe is not still in bed sleeping even though her bus came 15 minutes ago.  I am not letting her sleep in, in hopes that she has a better day at school today.  I am thinking that when a child only gets 4 or 5 hours of sleep in the night, that child is not the grumpiest and sleepiest child on the planet, and that the assistant principal does not call her mama to report that she’s crying and screaming and being naughty.  I think when a child does not get enough sleep at night, that child does not just waste everyone’s time at school the next day.  So today — even though I know truancy will be all over me — I did not choose to let Chloe sleep in, hoping that she will have a successful day at school and actually get some work done.

While this Not Me! Monday post is not my usual confessional type of post, I decided to use this format to catch you up on the above things.  Hope it’s okay.

How about you?  Anything you’ve not been doing this week?

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