Screw you, Bob Marley

Just kidding. I don’t have anything against Bob Marley. I just thought it was a funny title since I’m a little bitter that hearing “Three Little Birds” as I dropped Colin off at his new school for the first time turned out *not* to be the sign I had hoped it was.

Colin’s school (which I will call School V) did not work out. We had a conference the week of Thanksgiving, and I left bawling. I don’t know why I had such a visceral reaction, because I knew it was coming, but I just could not stop crying. I tried to go to work afterward, but all I was doing was sitting in my office with the door closed, sobbing. After three hours, I gave up and went home.

There were lots of reasons why we chose School V. It was smaller and more personal. We liked the young energy. It was closer to our house. They offered us financial assistance. But in the end, it was not a good fit. Colin was the first child School V had with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (these schools are traditionally for kids with autism). The other school we had looked at (which I will call school LS) had only had one FAS child, so we didn’t think it was a huge difference. Only it was.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a “typical” autistic child, but that’s what School V was used to dealing with. They had not had much experience outside of that. They did not know how to modify their program to adapt to Colin’s needs. They sent home reports saying that Colin was making great eye contact and was communicating well. We knew that. Those are not his issues, and we had been clear about that from the start. We had a conference to discuss it. They changed the program for a week, and tried to challenge Colin to elicit some of his inappropriate behaviors. They did see some issues, and we thought they were on the right track. The following week, however, they went back to business as usual. We were concerned.

My concern grew even more when, after Colin had been at this school for eight weeks, the lead therapist asked me if I could print out some information on FAS for her. Um, hello? Colin had been there for *eight weeks* and the whole staff knew his diagnosis the entire time, but had not bothered to research it? Also, she has Google just like I do. I wanted to scream, “Look it up your damn self. That’s your freaking *job*!”

Like I said, Christian and I could see this was coming. The night before we went in for the conference, I said to him, “Do you think we should just come right out and ask if they think they can help him?” We decided to wait and see how the meeting went, and it went pretty much as we thought it would. They were beating around the bush, so I just asked. The executive director said, “Well, you know, that’s an interesting question.” She didn’t end up saying they *couldn’t* help him, but we could read between the lines. They weren’t going to do anything beyond their standard program, and we didn’t think that was in Colin’s best interest. We called the following week and told them Colin’s last day would be right before Christmas.

In the meantime, we weighed our options. Did we send him back to the church pre-school and increase our First Steps therapies, so that the occupational therapist and the developmental therapist could spend some time with him in the classroom? Did we just bide our time and wait until he is three and eligible for our school district’s developmental pre-school in the fall? Should we go back to the other ABA school (School LS) and see if they could help him?

We finally decided to give School LS a call. I felt a little like I was going back with my tail between my legs. They had been really helpful to us when we were looking at ABA schools a few months ago. We told them we were going with them, so they held a spot for Colin and scheduled an assessment date, but then we called back to tell them we were going somewhere else. To my relief, they were wonderful again. They said they were sorry the other school had not worked out, and they hoped they would be a better fit. They told us that the FAS child they had before was a challenge, and that they had to change their typical program a bit for him, but that they were willing and able to do that.

We had Colin’s assessment yesterday. They did their own testing and got feedback from us. We were very clear that Colin will not be their typical student. His problems are behavioral and not communication-related (although they will still do a speech assessment). We were clear that Colin will be far from the “worst” student they have. We were clear that he is charming, but that we don’t want them to be fooled! We were clear that we know he has lots of good skills, but that we want to do everything possible for him now and get this early intervention. We will get a full report in two weeks, but they called today to tell us that they definitely think they can help Colin. They have a spot opening up in January, and Colin can start then.

I am trying not to beat myself up that we chose the “wrong” school, but it is hard. I think my reaction at that conference was so strong because we had really hoped that School V was “the answer.” In reality, nothing is going to be “the answer,” and I’m terrified that this is going to get much harder. We saw Colin’s developmental pediatrician last week (I cried there, too, by the way) and he told us, “It’s not that things are going to get harder, but the challenges are going to be different as he gets older.” In my heart I know that, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to find a “cure” for it now.

It’s been a really rough couple of weeks, but I’m staying hopeful that School LS is a better fit.

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18 thoughts on “Screw you, Bob Marley

  1. Tracy, I think that you are doing a wonderful job for Colin. Not because you chose the school that did not work out well but because you paid enough attention to notice. I think that initial impressions can be misleading and the people at school V might have tried to upsell you on their program. It is so hard to really get a full picture from one or two visits and conversations with the people there. I admire you for staying alert once he started school and daring to ask the tough questions. I am pretty sure that Colin will be alright because he has parents that really care for him and his well-being, and are able to admit when they were wrong and correct the situation.

  2. You are such a wonderful Mom. Of course you were devastated. You put a lot of hope into that very VERY well-thought out and weighted decision and then it fell through. But these things tend to happen for a reason, I think, and maybe the perspective can make you better advocates for Colin’s needs. The few months he was there were not long enough to set him back and you acted quickly when you knew it wouldn’t work. You can’t ask for more than that in parents of kids with unique needs. This stuff is a journey, which sucks, but you are traversing it so SO well!

  3. I am so sorry. I can only imagine what you are going through, but I know the hurt of a mama who wants the best for her baby. I’m glad LS agreed to assess him instead of being poopy about it.

  4. Tracy,
    30 something years ago I did a research paper on FAS when I was taking some college classes. It was heartbreaking to go through all the statistics that are endured by a little one suffering from FAS. I wish I still had the paper, but I don’t have a clue where it is now. I learned so much. At that time, the American Indians (US) were the most at risk for drinking during pregnancy. I don’t have a clue what the stats are now. It really ticks me off that School V totally dropped the ball and didn’t even google FAS. There was a ton of information out there 30 years ago and I’m sure there’s a ton more now with updated research. I’m so proud of you and Christian for setting deadlines and expecting results and not taking their crap…….Everything is a roll of the dice and you did what you felt was best at the time. It was an experience you can now help others through. You have to stop beating yourself up…..AT LEAST YOU GUYS ARE DOING SOMETHING…..AND EXPECTING RESULTS……..Thank you for not taking their lame excuses. Colin will be fine with the loving, caring, devoted parents he is blessed with having. I’m impressed with the new school and their kindness and welcoming of Colin to their school and their offer to adapt their program right off the bat for him. It is certainly what the little fellow needs. May your hearts be calmed and free from darkness knowing that you guys are at the right school. With y’alls determination to do the very best for your children, they will rise amazingly above roadblocks in their future endeavors. Love you tons Lady, T.

  5. Glad everything is set up for LS. You are a wonderful advocate for Colin. There will be lots of trail and errors through the years and I’m glad you got him switched sooner rather than later. You are an awesome mom!

  6. Tracy,
    Now you know the other school wasn’t right, and you can go to the new school with that knowledge firmly in place. You’ve ruled one option out and that is hugely valuable! Hang in there, he’ll learn good stuff wherever he goes…each experience is something he’ll gain something from, and when you find the perfect fit, you’ll be in good shape!
    Melissa

  7. Thanks everyone. It’s been a tough couple of weeks (and an even tougher year), and I really appreciate the support. 🙂

  8. I wish there was something more I could add but everyone has pretty much said what I would. You guys are amazing and even though this school didn’t work out you are moving ahead and trying something else and I think that is the key. You guys are fighting for your son and the love you have for him is so obvious.

    Sending lots of prayers and hugs your way!

  9. I am really sorry the first school didn’t work out. It’s a shame that they would try to fake their way through it and waste your time.
    But it was a learning experience. You and Christian are so thorough in figuring out what is best for Colin. This school said they could do what you needed them to do and they failed, not you and Christian.
    The best part is you guys are right back at it. You will not accept anything but the best for Colin and that is something to be applauded for.

  10. Don’t be hatin’ on Marley just yet…this first pre-school experience might have been necessary to help you recognize when he’s in the perfect spot. Hopefully, it will be the new school, but if it’s not you’ll keep searching until you find it. Meanwhile, your three little birds are happy and healthy and looking forward to Santa. 🙂

  11. Well, I’m glad you found out now that the school isn’t going to work. At least you have another school to try in January. I’m sorry you’ve been facing so much this whole year! Let’s get rid of 2010 soon, whaddaya say?

  12. I worked in EI for a number of years and worked with a fair share of children with FAS. You are doing what many parents don’t (and this is not faulting them, or wagging a finger- it’s usually lack of resources or simply not knowing…). You are pro active and involved- period. This is going to do wonders for your son and the kind of education and supports he receives. Don’t beat yourself up- you are doing a great job. x

  13. Tracy, I’m so sorry that the V school didn’t work out. They seemed to say all the right things, I would have thought they were wonderful too. It’s so great how you held them accountable to address Colin’s actual challenges. This must be physically and emotionally draining.

    You are so thoughtful and deliberative and you do your homework – please know you are a great advocate for your son.

    Love what your pediatrician said by the way. It’s hard to hear especially for such a problem-solver such as yourself. I hope the next school is a better fit and can help him and you work with his challenges.

  14. Pingback: Colin’s first day of school (again) « My Minivan Rocks!

  15. Pingback: 2011 didn’t suck (or blow) | My Minivan Rocks!

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