Friday, September 28, 2007

Subtle Exclusion

What's the power of a label? Protection of law.

Sensory Integration Dysfunction/Sensory Processing Disorder is a strange animal. If one says "Down Syndrome" or "Autism" or "Cerebral Palsy" or any number of labels tossed about special ed and medical facilities today, there is an implication of disability already implied- whether the condition is disabiling for the person or not. There is an automatic search for accommodation. The local school district may have to be sued, but they are legally obligated to provide service. These are recognized disability labels. SID/SPD is not. A child who cannot sit still is considered a problem, not a child in need of accommodation because of sensory issues. A child who needs help pulling up underwear is considered stupid or unfit for school, not a child with potential motor issues or sensory issues that may need accommodation. There is no "25% delay" to pinpoint and document. You can't take "covers ears in large, noisy rooms" to a committee and get your child into ECSE.

At the same time, no other school or daycare will take that child, either.

Our interview at the Montessori lasted 15 minutes, maybe 20. Everything I actually saw them ask him to do- letter puzzles, sorting small objects, etc., he did it. We were very frank about Andy's strengths, and just as frank about his weaknesses, and what we needed for him: a positive, supportive environment with somebody who could occasionally step in and remind him to pull his underwear over his bottom. You know... a preschool. For a three-year-old. They're all the rage this year, honest. It was probably telling when we left and my Mom asked Andy, "Would you like to go to school here?" he replied, "no, thank you." But the excuse for not accepting him when they called today was also telling: "We cannot accommodate him in our program at this time."

So many schools talk the big talk. They had a whole classroom section about "children of the world." There were smiling children in traditional costumes, like an Eskimo child wearing a fur-lined hood, a Chinese child in yellow silk, and African child in bright fabric and beads, watching the classroom from their poster dutifully. This is "diversity."

They have no idea what the word even means.


Club 166 said...

...They have no idea what the word even means.


Your description echoes an interview we had with Buddy Boy at a local religious based "progressive" preschool. They were very PC, but also very uncomfortable with such an "active" child.


VAB said...

That sucks. The only thing that would suck more is if they actually ended up looking after Andy.

Joeymom said...

Yeah, the condolences often come with "well, maybe we can think about it again in a few months..."

Not. Andy is a developmentaly appropriate 3-year-old. If you can't handle a developmentally appropriate child now, why would you be able to in a "a few months"??? I don't THINK so. :P

Niksmom said...

Oh that absolutely BITES! But, like vab would suck more if they took care of Andy. Don't give up...the right thing will come along. Have you tried the SPD Foundation to see if there are any therapists in your area...they may have info on some schools that "get it."

I forget where you live but you can try this site:

(Haven't figured out the whole HTML thing yet!)

Maddy said...

When we first started the evaluations I had no idea either.

The severe speech delays made us slip 'easily' into the system because that element is recognised by everyone.

Maybe we're here to help other people understand too.

Perhaps when DSMIV is rehashed it may provide a better chance.
Best wishes

Leightongirl said...

That's shameful.

Stimey said...

This makes me so angry. I'm sorry.

Ange said...

I am so sorry. Even my 7-year-old, who has a PDD-NOS Dx and is missing his corpus collosum, is on an IEP and we STILL just hear "he knows better" "he can do it if he tries" "he knows what's expected of him" "he needs too much reassurance" I get so tired of this with every new teacher. I feel like they force me to exploit my son's weaknesses to get the accomodations and modifications he needs. And then I feel guilty because half of them are things that many 'typical' kids in his classroom would benefit from. It should just be "natural."

little.birdy said...

...wait, what? Cannot accomodate...Andy being 3? Wha...
I am so confused. What is the big issue here that is making preschools not want him?

abfh said...

Great post! I started to write a comment, but it would have been too long, so I wrote a post instead:

The Meaning of the Word

Lili Marlene said...

I want sensory hypersensitivity to be recognized and seriously studied by the medical and scientific communities as a real neurological condition related to the autism spectrum, and possibly also related to intellectual giftedness (indeed I believe there is some scientific evidence that supports the idea of intellectual giftedness as a biological syndrome or condition). I don't believe any of these conditions belong in the DSM, or should be diagnosed or treated by psychiatrists, they should be regarded as the "property" of neurologists, psychologists, education professionals or members of a new profession that is specifically devoted to the study of autism. Of course, I don't expect that any of this stuff will ever happen.

There is no way that any of our kids would qualify for an autism spectrum diagnosis, but sensory issues have caused a number of different problems for one of our kids in a range of different situations. I believe that this sensory condition has even delayed the diagnosis of a life-threatening medical condition in one of our kids, because the subjective symptoms reported by the child were so different from what is typically reported by people with that illness as symptoms. I believe that sensory hypersensitivity may have caused significant problems with the medical treatment of a serious physical illness in an adult (closet) autistic that I know. Doctors need to know about this sensory hypersensitivity syndrome, and know how to respond to it in their child and adult patients.

Ettina said...

Certainly giftedness should warrant a child special accomodation, as should talents in lower-IQ kids (eg, my brother has an IQ of 120, not high enough to be called gifted, but he scores in the profoundly gifted range in vocabulary and verbal reasoning and that talent should be properly accomodated).

Marla said...

We tried Montessori for a few years and at first it went well. In time though their beliefs left my daughter way behind. They just kept telling me that in her own time she would learn to read. Ignoring that she needed to learn in a bit "different" sort of way. After seeing her spinning in the room and being repeatedly ignored we pulled her out and it was a good decision. They talked big and did nothing to engage believing the child would engageg if she wanted to.