Transitioning to the “Mainstream”
It’s really hard to go from a setting staffed by a teacher and a paraprofessional for 6 kids to a teacher, a para and 22 kids who are equally needy (as your child) for lots of different reasons, some of them unidentified.
So, I would say to a parent to be aware that if your child is mainstreamed, we would like to think that they will stand out because we see their needs as clearly identified and we know what the intervention is going to be. Yet, there are probably half of the other students in the classroom who have never had an educational experience and have a lot of other needs. So the teacher is juggling both the high needs of your child as well as all these other little ones who are making demands on them and they don’t know what to do yet.
For parents of little ones who are going into a formal academic setting, it is really important to remember that you probably have more answers than the school might have because you’ve been working on it for a longer time than that school. You need to be patient and walk that fine line between pushing to make sure that the attention is there and the teacher is going that extra mile, but also be sensitive to the fact that there are 20 other children being supported. And, sometimes you feel like you are being a pain, but that’s ok because that’s your job, to advocate for your child. But, you can’t advocate for your child in a way that makes the recipient feel like they don’t want to be in a partnership with you. And, this is an on-going learning experience. And, there was a moment in time when I did not push very hard because I was worried about the perception and then there were moments when I walked out of the school thinking nobody was going to take my phone call the next time. But, the FM system got fixed and they made sure to change the channels on the other kids in the school’s FMs so my son wasn’t hearing instruction from the kids in fifth grade down the hall. Also, finding out how to help your child to be a self-advocate is huge because you’re not there 90% of the time. So, my son being able to remind the teacher to turn off the FM system when his teacher leaves the room or turn it on or that one of his aids isn’t working or that he might need a new battery. All of these things, I can’t help him with when he’s at school. He needs to know that it’s okay to ask and it’s actually part of his responsibility; that has been a part of the process in this transition to the mainstream as well.
You Shouldn’t Leave the Child Behind
I think that you shouldn’t have a child in your home that you can’t communicate with. So, surely, if you have a child born into your family with any special needs issues, you have to get yourself in the position to be available to the child for whatever their needs are. If it’s sign language, you need to do that. I’ve been to class, when Troy started the school, he wasn’t there alone. I drove him to school, and stayed in the class with him, everyday, four days a week. I drove him every single day. It’s a sacrifice. I had a business, I just made the sacrifice. I don’t know what it means to him to be missing in one sense. I wanted him to have everything he needed to be successful in life, so I made the sacrifice. If they’re blind, they don’t have to be deaf, no matter what the situation is, you shouldn’t leave the child behind.
Get the School Involved
Social issues are the absolute worst. My advice is to get the school involved. First and second grade were hard and kindergarten was terrible. Third grade gets better and fourth grade gets even better. She started taking art lessons and that helped a lot. One thing that’s really hard is that she’s frustrated and she has to deal with a lot. She loves Wednesdays and Fridays because we don’t do anything. She only has Girl Scouts every other Monday. Give her down time and time to relax.
As a Parent, It’s My Job to Educate People
We did have trouble with a principal that said to me, I was trying to explain why her classroom shouldn’t be located near the cafeteria or in a high traffic area, and I said those hearing aids are very sensitive and they pick up all those sounds and it doesn’t filter sounds like your brain does. So he says to me “well, if those hearing aids are so sensitive, why can’t she just hear like everyone else?” So you do run into people that are ignorant of the whole problem and they’re not willing to listen. So, luckily, he retired. I feel as a parent, that’s my job, to educate the teachers, her classmates, the administrators.
An Aunt’s Point of View
All I can say is that an illness or a hearing loss or anything life can throw at you if you think of it as a project that needs to be coped with it is much easier to put one foot in front of the other and do the research and find the resources. In this area there are so many wonderful resources. You can tackle it. If you step back and figure out what you need to do to get through it you can get somewhere not just acceptable but you can have a good life. It’s easy to flip out when something happens but just step back and you’ll get through it.