Friday, September 17, 2010

Mainstreaming is NOT for Wimps

I attended the open house at Clare's school. I admit I was not in the best frame of mind going there since I had two sick kids at home, a husband suffering an allergy attack, and I myself had just gotten over a virus and was still pretty wiped out. Yet I did not want to miss Clare's first open house in her new school. I could manage the hour. Or so I thought.

Clare's kindergarten teacher passed out the children's folders of work completed in their first nine days of school. Included in the folder was an outline of what they would be working on literacy-wise in their first twelve weeks of kindergarten. As I quickly thumbed through the pages, I mentally thought "skip this, skip this, skip this, Clare is not there yet." It was all about lower case letter recognition and formation. Clare does not even recognize her upper case letters (except C, for obvious reasons), never mind writing any of them. How is she going to start learning lower case?

The teacher described their day, what they are working on, learning to sight read words, writing letters, writing their names, and simple math concepts. When she said the word "math," my brain went into panic mode again. Math? Clare can rote count to ten, but still has difficulty looking at objects and counting them. She often loses her place or just continues to rote count, even when she's passed the number of objects. Forget about math - she does not recognize or write any numbers. At this point, I admit I tuned the teacher out for the most part and concentrated instead on not crying. Which involves a lot of jaw-clenching, biting the inside of my cheek, and looking at whatever is hanging from the ceiling.

At the beginning of her presentation, the teacher had quickly introduced one of the reading specialists for the school. Aah... there was someone I would love to talk to. So after the presentation was complete, I made a beeline for this woman. I introduced myself and explained that I knew Clare would not be reading by the end of kindergarten. So what happens then? I babbled some stuff about her IEP, getting some extra reading services, blah, blah, blah. The woman was very kind, but she looked at me as if I was neurotic. As in, what is wrong with this mother who nine days into kindergarten is already freaking out that her daughter cannot read? I told her I knew I was jumping the gun a bit, but I wanted to give Clare the best chance to keep up with her classmates the best I could. I told her how we purchased an alphabet and phonics music program to work on with Clare at home. Clare is not really even interested in learning her letters, so her private speech therapist and I thought a program based on music would spark her interest. At this point, the kind lady (who really was kind, but who obviously thought I was a fruitcake and was just placating me by this point) told me that she really only worked with students in grades 1-5, that she had many students who needed help, and if Clare needed help once she was in first grade, she would see her then. Then she told me that she had met Clare briefly because her son was in Clare's kindergarten class and that she thought Clare was a doll. She then excused herself to talk to the teacher about her own child.

Now I really wanted to cry. I had no idea this woman was in the classroom as a parent, not as a specialist. The kindergarten teacher had introduced her to the class, so I assumed she was there to answer any questions about reading. Now she would have this idea in her head of what kind of parent she thought I was. (Add to that my already sensitive self-consciousness over Clare's school speech therapist witnessing both Clare and Simon having a temper tantrum, complete with hitting in each other, in the school hallway two days ago.)

Mainstreaming... that's the term for what we are doing with Clare. Inclusion. There's another term. My term is "trying to be as normal as we can get." But none of it's normal. None of it's typical. None of it's easy. I have so many doubts now about whether Clare really can be included. I know deep down in my heart she can, she will, and I feel (hope, wish, want) this is what is best for her. And I know we are only nine days into the process. I just never knew it would be this hard. I want to put Clare back into her safe, little, special ed preschool bubble - where she loved school, the teachers loved her, I had no idea where Clare stood skills-wise as opposed to the rest of her classmates and it didn't matter because Clare was progressing as Clare needed to progress. Not as the teachers needed her to progress or how I needed her to progress.

I had a good cry in the car on the way home from the open house. In the morning, Shawn and I discussed it, and I had another good cry. I hope all the crying and feeling sorry for myself is now out of my system for the time being, and we can start figuring out what we're going to do about all this mainstreaming stuff.


Priscilla said...

I just wanted to cry with you when reading this...our family still has all this ahead of us. I just want to keep my little grandson, age 2, in his safe little toddler cocoon...where the PT, OT and speech therapist make learning fun and a game. The thought of school and mainstreaming...well, it brings me to tears.

Anonymous said...

I am dreading this day also! I think about how in two years from now this will be me trying to figure out how school is going to work for my little guy!

Noel said...

so I have to admit...I'm a BIG chicken and this post reminds me of why I am...part of my reasoning behind homeschooling Abi is for selfish reasons...the whole special ed preschool be exact. I can read this post and be there with you because I have done this too many times myself. Having 3 much older kids I know EXACTLY where Abi is supposed to be and what she is not doing and it makes me want to cry daily. In fact I cry at least once a week over it...I don't think it is really feeling sorry for yourself..I think it is just being a good mom and wanting your child not to are right, mainstreaming is NOT for wimps, HUGS

Kerry said...

I wonder about this stuff too... Brady is no where near ready for kindergarten next year... I am hoping we do more years in preschool vs more years in kindergarten.

Hugs xoxoxo

Aunt Joan said...

There is nothing for me to add here. I simply want you to remember that your family thinks you (& Shawn) are fabulous parents and pray daily for your strength! You amaze me daily!! Hugs, kisses & prayers!!

Tara said...

Your title couldn't be any better. As I was reading your post, I pictured myself right along with it - walking thru the exact same emotions. I have no adivce because we're just one year ahead of you, but I just wanted to let you know I understand exactly what you are saying and know how you feel. I look forward to hearing how Clare is doing in school. You and Shawn are amazing parents~ HUGS

Anonymous said...

I will keep you and Clare in my prayers.

Christina and Tee Jay said...

Thank the good Lord you've never been a wimp, not a day in your life, not even when you let yourself have "the cry" that you need. Go forward, my strong sister, with the graces God gives you!!

Anonymous said...

My little boy Nick (WS) picked up his letters by watching the LeapFrog Letter Factory video - phonics, animation and music....who could ask for more?
Good luck!

Yocheved said...

Rivka, my WS daughter, is now in third grade, and I am every bit as terrified as you are. I wish I could tell you it gets easier. :-(

At orientation, the teacher kept going on about times tables, long division and cursive handwriting - and I just kept thinking "She can't DO THAT!"

I am so afraid that she's going to be coming home in tears because she can't meet this very strict teacher's standards, or because the other kids tease her about doing "baby math" (like they did last year). She's even begged to be held back a grade, but the school won't do it because she's an avid reader, and is doing fairly well socially (and they don't want to lower their school rankings, GRRRRRR!).

I can't let her see how worried I am because I don't want to undermine her confidence, so I have to stuff it down and put on a happy face, hoping for the best.