Bloggy Moms

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Effect Bullying Had on my Daughter with Special Needs

My daughter is a very sensitive child. She has a warrior inside of her, but she's still very tender. Following a recent move, I was able to see how delicate she really is. 

When school began in September, our new school district assigned her to a school they had just opened up. It was a school for children like my daughter or so they said. We soon found out that most of the children attending it had more severe behaviors than my daughter. They were very aggressive and hostile. After a few weeks at this school, my daughter began showing signs of distress not unlike those of a child being bullied. I advocated on my child's behalf, but to no avail. I really felt like my words were falling on deaf ears.

My daughter has a lot of needs both medical and behavioral. I often have to pick her up early from school or drop her off late due to her various appointments. On an early pick up day, a school administrator brought my child to the office. He informed me that Princess had been hit in the nose with a pencil. She was so distressed by the incident, that she missed over an hour of instruction while she calmed down. I asked questions to find out more details. I was told very little as no one saw anything.

Additionally,  on numerous other occasions daughter also told me that she felt threatened by several of the boys in her class. They called her nasty names and used racial slurs. She tried to inform the staff as to what was happening, however, they were often breaking up fights in the classroom or campus so they were not able to help her out. 

The Friday following the pencil incident, I pulled my daughter out of the school. That Monday I attended an emergency IEP meeting to make my request formal. The school district and school agreed this placement was not a good fit for my daughter. I've been working with the school district ever since to find a more suitable school. I believe I've found one, however, they are not ready to accept my child. They want to make sure everything is in place before she starts there.

In the meantime, my daughter has been through intensive therapy to help her deal with what she encountered at her previous school. Most days she has been doing extremely well. There are days though where she doesn't know what to do with all of her emotions.

Last week, we were in the car returning home from an appointment when I noticed she was angry with me for what appeared to be no reason. So I asked her about it.:

Me: I don't understand why you are upset with me. We've had such a good day. Have I done something to make you angry?
Princess: I feel like I am with you all of the time. I wish there was someone else I could talk to.
Me: Well you will see you dad soon and you can talk to your therapist tomorrow. I feel like there is something else.
Princess: I don't know how to say it without making you mad.
Me: Just say it.
Princess: I'm scared. What if all of the boys at my new school are mean? What if they treat me like the boys treated me at my old school?
Me: Well, when we toured the school, they seemed really nice and friendly.
Princess: What if that was just fake? What if they are really mean on the inside? (At this point the tears started flowing)
Me: Oh, baby! I'm so sorry you feel this way. I do think that this new school has a caring staff who won't let that happen. They told me they have a plan in place so you won't get bullied.
Princess: Mom?
Me: Yes.
Princess: I think I need a hug. Could you pull the car over and give me a hug?

At that point, I pulled into a neighborhood, stopped in front of a cute house with a basketball hoop and got out to give my daughter the longest hug in awhile. We both cried together. She cried because she was scared and relieved. I cried because my girl was so sad. My heart ached for her.

After our crying party ended, as I got in the car, I told my girl how proud I was of her for expressing her feelings. I also told her that I now know that when she is anxious and stressed, she displays anger. This knowledge can help us in the future.

As I work with my daughter's team to help her become emotionally strong, I hope and pray that she never has to endure what she went through this September. I believe the school she attended for just a few short weeks was ill equipped to handle her needs. In some respects, they did try to help. Unfortunately, it was not enough. When I first brought my concerns to their attention,  denied that anything was wrong. I kept trying to figure out a solution until it became apparent that the solution was to pull my child out of that school.

In all of this I have learned that my daughter will survive. In fact, I think she'll come out being a stronger person.

As I drove off on that day not too long ago, I reminded Princess that not all boys are mean. Not all boys are bullies. Her BFF, pictured below, is one of the nicest boys. We're pleased to have him (and his family) in our lives.

Princess and her best friend two years ago

Friday, October 7, 2016

Inclusion Isn't For Every Child, But It Should Be

Yep, I said it. I am not in favor of inclusion for my child. I know there are many parents who feel just the opposite of me. They want their child to be loved and accepted for who they are. Their desire is that other typically developing children embrace their loved one. I'll be the first to admit that I too wanted that for my daughter at one time. I still do, but at a different level. My husband and I tried for years to make our child fit into the round hole of public school. Heck, even private school, if we'd had the money, would have been something we desired. The truth of the matter is that is never going to happen.
My daughter, who I love and adore to pieces, is quirky. All of her challenges: autism, bipolar disorder, ADHD, OCD and sensory processing disorder; make her stand out among other children her age. I've worked really hard to teach my daughter how to behave so she doesn't stand out, so she fits in. The only problem is she doesn't see the importance of fitting in. It's too hard for her. I know other educators and professionals have worked with her on this as well. She gets frustrated when we work on changing her before she's ready.
Her peers for their part, are not being taught to love and accept my daughter where she is at. It's just not something that parents and educators typically teach those without challenges. Sure they are taught to not look at the skin color, cultural differences or even those with outward signs of disabilities. My daughter doesn't look different than her peers. She certainly acts differently though.
When we've pushed her to make the changes she is not ready for, she shuts down. It affects every part of her life from school to home to church.
Since 4th grade my daughter has attended a school where there are children like her.  It's the norm rather than the exception. She's still the quirkiest one in the bunch, but she is loved and accepted for her differences. The staff at the school are trained on how to nurture her strengths.
The only place where I place my daughter alongside he typically developing peers is at church. Even there, the other kids tolerate her. I don't get the sense that they are truly accepting her. No one goes out of their way to include my girl. I've never seen one of them invite her over to join in on the fun. There is a disconnect. I tell my daughter to look for opportunities to be a part of a group. Ask someone their name etc. Yet time and time again, I don't see this being reciprocated with her peers. I've never witnessed a child inviting my child to play a game or join in on a conversation. It's too difficult and uncomfortable for them. Maybe my daughter isn't the only one who needs to be pushed out of her comfort zone.
Parents of typically developing children tell me how this is such a difficult age for all kids. They are all struggling to find their place.  That I need to be more understanding.
On the rare occasion where my child is included and made to feel welcome, it happens because there is either a sibling of a special needs child present or a parent of a special needs child facilitated it.
In the past when my child attended a public school or even participated in an extra curricular activity aimed for mainstream children, things often ended poorly. She spent her days crying in class. I was constantly being spoken to by the adults in charge. It seemed like my daughter and I were the ones who needed to change. I was told  that I needed to teach my child how to belong. How to act like everyone else. What if instead mainstream parents and adults taught children to look for those who didn't fit in? Those on the outside of the circle would be a rare sighting.  As a society, we have a long way to go before all differences are embraced. I'm reminded that it's been over fifty years since Rosa Parks started the civil rights movement.  All these years later,  society still has a way to go before people of color are accepted everywhere. As far as acceptance for those whose differences are not as evident, I'm in this battle for all for the long haul. My daughter is counting on me.
For now, the only inclusion that I'm pushing for is at our church. One day, things will change.  I believe society is capable of it.