Is She Sick?

I feel like I have posted this same “song” before.  Same song, SEVENTH verse!  But here it goes again . . .

To Whom it May Concern:

My 9-year-old daughter is nonverbal.  Yes, she’s learning to communicate.  I appreciate the charts and pictures you are using to teach her to communicate.  I have lots of hope that one day, my daughter will completely on her own point to a picture that says, “I feel sick.”  I think she will do that some day.  Or maybe she will pick up her pencil and write the words:  “sick.  nurse.  home.”  Or something similar.  I am hopeful that this whole communication thing will click with her and she will understand the importance of uttering the words, “I feel sick.”

But right now, she is nonverbal and she isn’t going to do that.  For now, we have to be detectives.  You -her teacher, and I -her mom have to be detectives.  Every day.  Does she look well, or does she look ill?  Is she behaving like she normally does, or is something different?  Is she upset because she’s frustrated, or is she not feeling well?  Is she sneezing or coughing?  Is her nose snotty?  Is she putting her head down on her desk because she doesn’t want to do the assignment, or does she have a headache?

It’s not easy.  It has never been easy.  But Chloe is depending on us to be the detectives and to take good care of her.  She is depending on us to meet her needs.

Last week when you took her to the school nurse because she was acting strangely, it gave me hope that you really got it.  You were watching her clues.  You knew that since she kept putting her head down on her desk, it probably meant that she wasn’t well.  The nurse checked her temperature, and it was normal.  But you knew that she just wasn’t right.  I loved that the nurse called me and let me decide what to do.  We all had to be detectives together, and we decided that Chloe didn’t feel well and that she should come home from school early.

I was filled with relief and with hope because I felt like you really finally got it.  I was and am so thankful.  Chloe was able to come home and take a nap.  She was able to lie around the house and do nothing on a day that she didn’t feel well.  And I appreciated it.  And Chloe greatly appreciated it.

But then two days later, you missed her clues.  Just when I thought you had it figured out.

When she got off the bus at 3 o’clock, her notes home reported odd behaviors.  Apparently all morning, she was screaming, “No!” and wasn’t completing any work.  And then in the afternoon the report was that Chloe had slapped another student.  Wow.  Those behaviors are not normal for Chloe.  I sure wish you had realized that she wasn’t feeling well.

Don’t forget that Chloe isn’t going to say, “Can I go home?  I’m sick.”  Remember that since she’s nonverbal, we have to be detectives.  When Chloe acts differently on a certain day, we have to wonder if maybe she isn’t feeling well.  Please don’t forget to watch for her clues.  My knowing that you’re watching for her clues and will act on them when necessary gives me confidence when I send her to school.  If I’m not confident that she has detectives on her side at school, then if I have any doubt of how she feels, I have to leave her home for the day.  I need to know you are going to watch out for her.  Chloe needs to know that you are going to watch out for her.

I know she’s complicated.  I know she frustrates you sometimes.  But I have to know that you are going to watch out for her.


5 responses to this post.

  1. I feel your pain, anger and frustrations! It is so sad to think of our girls at school, unable to say one word, trying to communicate in any way that they can, only to be treated as if they were showing bad behaviors. Hugs to you and to Chloe!


    • I know, Debbi! I feel like we are doing everything we can do . . . . and the girls are doing everything they can do . . . . and the teachers are doing everything they can do. . . . but it’s still not enough. Even one day of my girl being miserable and misunderstood at school is one too many. I think the school hesitates to call because they don’t want to call me everyday, and they want to try to do it on their own. And possibly they think I’ll come get her too often when she could really push through and stay at school. Teachers in the past have called way more often, and they and I together would decide if she should come home or not. . . Anyway, I know it’s a learning experience for everyone, but I don’t like that Chloe suffers in the meantime. . .


  2. Posted by Tia on February 5, 2011 at 7:46 PM

    It sounds to me that when Chloe is acting the way you expect a sick child to: lethargic, quiet, tired – that the teachers around her interpret it as her not feeling well. However, when she is acting in a frustrated, agressive way, they assume it is something else. I’m not sure how you change that. When Chloe is showing signs of frustration at school, do they allow a cooling off period before pushing her further, or allow her a chance to rest? I know that is hard during the school day, but we sometimes have kids that just plain old need a nap and we let them sleep in the nurse’s office. It doesn’t happen often, or repetitively, but I’m sure Chloe gets tired faster and more frequently than the other kids because it is mentally exhausting trying to communicate and be understood. I can’t imagine what her day must be like. I’m sure she enjoys much of it, but even the fun stuff is tiring. I’M exhausted at the end of the school day and sometimes need a nap! 🙂


    • Tia, you have some good thoughts. It’s fun to hear from someone on the teacher side of things! 🙂 Her teachers really ARE getting it. I am encouraged that they are getting it. But I wish they were attune to her EVERY day. There is no way they can know her like I know her, of course. . . Yes, they try to give her time and space to cool off sometimes. I’m not sure how readily they are using that . . . And, yes, you’re right that every single thing about school is physically exhausting for her. I can’t imagine that they realize the efforts it takes Chloe just to stay upright in her chair all day. . . . Yes, her teachers and everyone are learning, and I think they are trying. I love Chloe’s aide and how attentive and understanding and patient she seems to be with Chloe. I hesitated to even write this entry because I do think they’re getting it. But then all of a sudden there’s another day when they don’t get it. . . . Thanks so much for your thoughts!! 🙂


  3. Again today, Chloe’s aide took her to the nurse when she was acting sad. Yay! It really gives me confidence knowing they are thinking more the route of nurse for illness than assistant principal for behavior! Love that they’re getting it! And I LOVE that the nurse called me again to give me the update!


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