Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Beth started school on 9/7. Ever since then the world has crashed every day at 3:50 pm. She's angry, frustrated, emotional, and mean. I know that what we are seeing is a window to how she feels inside, and it breaks my heart. Literally.

The first day of school was awful for her. I knew it would be. We gave her the social story they created for her and she had already visited the school. Her new teacher even mailed her a letter before school started. I was hoping this would be enough. It wasn't.

Somewhere along the lines communication failed. I had no idea I was supposed to send her with a snack. I don't have any kids older than her and I swear the school never sent anything. It would have been nice if they did because then we could have avoided the complete melt-down she had when she got home because everyone had a snack but her. We made it through that and she now has her choice of snacks and juice boxes to choose from every morning.

I was hoping that was it.

We really weren't that lucky. Day 2 was a Wednesday. I took Jolene to karate... my sister waited for Beth at the bus stop and brought Beth to karate after she had changed. When Beth got there she was very upset. She said someone in the lunchroom made her sit in another spot away from her class. She was getting increasingly upset as she told me that she got lost and a girl had to bring her back to her class because her teacher couldn't find her. Once I got the story out of her and calmed her down it was time for her karate class, so I sent her in and hoped for the best. Her karate instructors are fantastic with the kids, so I knew she was in good hands and I watched her closely. She did wonderfully.... until the very end. The class went outside and started a "stranger danger" drill. Beth has done this drill before, so I decided instead of waiting with her for her turn I would go to the other side of the car they had staged and was going to try and get pictures with my cell phone. And that's when it happened.

She hadn't really been paying attention. I think her emotional resources were spent for the day and she was just going through the movements. All of the sudden she decided it was her turn. A few of the other kids showed her where the line was and this was her undoing. She started crying and yelling about not wanting to do it any more. In a matter of seconds one of her fantastic teachers was right beside her talking her through it. By the time I got back around everyone and to her she was calm and just wanted to go home. The kids came to apologize and we went home.

I did everything I could not cry on the way home. I was overwhelmed entirely and had no idea how to deal with the school situation. When we got home I wrote a letter to her teacher.... which returned to me unread the next afternoon. I think this is about the time where I realized that we may not be dealing with people who understand special needs as well as I had hoped they would. I admit to being really lost. JD and I went to the IEP meeting, we saw the evals, we heard the discussions.... we got a copy in the mail and read it over and over again. Signed and sent back the acceptance slip... and then had no idea what happened next. I had, wrongly, assumed that we would get some kind of communication. Like maybe a chance to meet her teacher ahead of time... something. So I sent her to school on blind faith without fully knowing what to expect.
That was my fault. I should have made someone explain this to me in layman's terms. It was my fault, but my little one is paying for it.

So the following morning I made sure Beth understood that there was a note for her teacher in her folder. My cell phone rang right around lunch time and it was her teacher. She expressed complete confusion over the story I had written her in my note. She had no idea that Beth had been moved in the lunchroom, or that Beth had gotten lost. She said she investigated a little bit and found that Beth had been moved from her normal table because she got up to throw something away without permission. That placed Beth in a different line to go back to the classroom than she was used to. She said all of the 1st grade classrooms are in the same hall so Beth was never truly lost.  I know the teacher heard my sigh in response. I don't know what made me ask, but I asked the teacher to explain exactly what makes up Beth's classroom environment. She told me that it is a general education classroom (I had a feeling, but the IEP was vague), that she has a handbook on PDD,and that if she didn't have paperwork on Beth she never would have guessed that she is on the autism spectrum.

I know the teacher didn't see this as a big deal. I know, from the way our conversation went, that she can't figure out why this simple incident was enough to cause me to write in about. She probably already has me on a list of problem parents, but in all honesty this is a problem. A real problem. Elizabeth had no idea what was happening or why. None of the events that seemed so simple to the teacher and the lunch aids made any sense to her. She was purposely removed from a place she felt safe and placed somewhere else for reasons she was unable to explain.

The teacher praised Beth's coping skills because Beth didn't seem upset about it and didn't tell the teacher what had happened. This, to me, is not coping. This was her bottling it up and letting it fester all day until she was safe with her family, her comfort zone.

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