Friday, May 30, 2008

Mama Bear's Cubs and the Fate of Invaders

From the article about the police report on teh Alex Barton incident:

"...Portillo and children in the class said Alex was pushing a table up with his feet while he was under the table. She got the school resource officer to remove Alex from the classroom. It was the second discipline referral for Alex that day, the report said.

Portillo told the officer after he left the classroom with Alex, she talked with the other children.

“Portillo said she explained to them that the students in class were all her priority and she would protect them like a ‘bear defending her cubs,’” the report said.

When Alex returned to the class, Portillo said she and the class were not ready for him to return.

Portillo told the officer she asked Alex to join her at the front of the class. ..."

This makes it so crystal clear to me, the whole crux of this situation. Wendy Portillo's class children were her priority, and she was willing to protect her kids like a mama bear... except Alex. He didn't count. He was an outsider, an invader, an interloper. Knowing full well that he was in the process of being placed into special education with a pervasive developmental disability, instead of protecting him, she threw him out. Instead of talking to her children about inclusiveness, tolerance, and support for a classmate who was clearly having a hard time, she had them tell him to his face what they thought of him, and threw him out.

The students in her class were not "all her priority." Only the ones she thought deserved to be. Those others, though assigned to her classroom, are aliens. Disturbances.


Many of us are working hard to get our kids included, and so this strikes a hot nerve. Will our kids be supported and accepted into the community, or forever ostracized as "other"? Will they count as one of the students, or be thrown own to fend for themselves? Incidents such as these point to an alarming, heart-wrenching answer. As long as these kinds of incidents continue- often more subtle than the case of Alex Barton- we fear for our kids, and know the road ahead is long.

Alex Barton Cards

Want to cheer up a child who is feeling excluded?

Send a card to Alex Barton. It will make his day.

The Megan Pledge

I invite you all to take the Megan Pledge and check out the STOP cyberbullying website.

➢ I agree to take a stand against cyberbullying, including sharing this pledge with others and asking them to take it, too.
➢ I agree not to use technology as a weapon to hurt others.
➢ I agree to “Think Before I Click.”
➢ I agree to think about the person on the other side.
➢ I agree to support others being cyberbullied and report cyberbullying whenever I find it.
➢ I agree not to join in cyberbullying tactics or be used by cyberbullies to hurt others.
➢ I agree to “Stop, Block, and Tell” when I am being targeted by a cyberbully and to “Take 5!” to help me calm down and walk away from the computer.
➢ I agree to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Oh, and here's the latest on Alex Barton: Wendy Portillo's side of the story. No surprise, she didn't see anything wrong with what she did, or in taking a vote of student to toss Alex from the class (even just for the day). I recommend reading the article, we need all sides of the story we can get!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Crazy Season

Yes, IEPs are upon us. Thank GOD ours is over, and went smooth as glass. We'll keep our eyes open and be our usual little IEP-Meeting-Calling owls all year, but for now, the Big One is done. For a lot of folks, it is about to begin.

And so I offer here my Helpful Guide to IEP Season. Please just add your own tips in the comments- what helped you?

1. Know your child. Most years, we have actually put together a Powerpoint presentation outlining who Joey is, our big picture long-term goals, strengths, weaknesses, and our suggestions for goals. We stud it with pictures and movie clips, so that Joey is not just a name on a piece of paper being shuffled around a table. He becomes a real person, and the focus remains on his needs and success. Yes, the staff will groan when you show up with your laptop and presentation. Show it. Do it first.

2. Read From Emotions to Advocacy. If you haven't done that, and you have an IEP coming, go do that now. Really. Step away from the computer and go read it.

3. Get your stuff together. Since you did your homework and read From Emotions to Advocacy, you know to go out an buy a big binder, and put everything in it. Get a few binders. You may need a new one each year. Lots of paper is pushed in special ed.

4. Know what you want. This is probably the hardest, because who comes into this an expert on their kid's disability? It is worth becoming one. Short on time? If you have an autistic child, I recommend looking into physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Know what these fields do, and how they might benefit your child. Next, look up teaching strategies, such as ABA, floortime, TEACCH, pivotal response training, etc. and consider how they might (and might not) help your child. Ask if the teachers are familiar with these strategies. Then, look up sensory integration and sensory perception, and ask about sensory integration, sensory diet, and sensory accommodations. Are the staff trained to deal with sensory issues? What accommodations can they recommend?

5. Take someone with you. I have found having private therapists at the meeting makes a big difference- you have folks there on your side, paid to look after the interests of your child, with professional expertise to make educated and appropriate suggestions. Other people like other parents, or even hire professional advocates. Stack the team in favor of your child. If you have any inklng of doubt that your school personnel are not going to be batting for your child, get the room full of people whose only concern is your child's success and wellbeing.

6. Bring a tape or digital recorder. Record the entire meeting. Most districts require written notice that you will be doing this. Dear Sir/Madam: I am writing to inform you that I will be audiorecording the meeting on (date) in order to have a full record of (child)'s educational planning process. Yours, (You).

7. Don't panic. You don't have to sign the IEP the day of the meeting- take it home, look it over, take it to your private team. No worries. Even if you sign it, you can call a new meeting and change it.

Thats my advice to our new and near-new parents. I'm not too far from newbie-dom myself, so as I said before, comments are open. Advice is greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Circus!

Alex Barton update 2

Today's latest on Alex Barton.

And it is definitely worth going over and seeing what Mom-NOS has to say.

A Day at the Doctor's

Some folks go to spas to get away from the kids. I hear cruises are nice breaks. Maybe an afternoon at the beach. Not me. I go to the cardiologist.

We checked out the PVCs today. An EEG and a nuke stress test. It was actually very nice, except for the IV (but the phlebotomist was fabulous, got in the first time!) and the running on the treadmill (they were having a hard time getting my rate to go up, because I've been going to the gym). We won't have official word on what the tests say until the 6th, but the initial outlook is...

Drum roll, please...

You know what's coming, right?


Yeah, you knew it, smarty. The nurse practitioner was a stitch. She's looking at the read outs as they are coming out of the machine and the monitors and stuff, and telling me its probably not a blockage (yay!), and then starts asking me if I drink coffee. Or tea. Or eat a lot of chocolate. Do I smoke? No. No. No. (I told her I've been drinking more Diet Coke lately, but she said you have to drink a LOT of diet coke to consume enough caffeine to cause this- though she did say "It wouldn't hurt to knock it off, anyway! It's not good for you.") So then she smiles knowingly, cocks her head, and says, "Soooooo.... tell me about the stress in your life." A quick rundown of a typical day at my house is quite enough. The fact that we haven't been having a lot of "typical" days, but a whole lot of other emergencies and incidents and events, and... well, stress is a funny thing.

We'll see what the doctor says next Friday.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Alex Barton Update

Just the latest on Alex Barton- they "reassigned" his teacher. It will take two weeks for the district to "complete its investigation" by which I hope they mean "put together the paperwork we need to fire her butt." But we'll see.


When I was young, my mom did lots of things to make sure my brother and I were raised, instead of just growing up. She got up and made us breakfast every day. She made dinners. Every day, the floors were vacuumed and mopped, the furniture dusted, and often the bathrooms scrubbed. I remember being sick from school, watching her work. On top of that, she did other jobs during the day, running errands, fixing things, needful projects. And she volunteered for school. As I got older, she volunteered elsewhere, too. She took us to the Smithsonian on weekends (when I was very little, we lived in PG County. When we got older, we kept going, just not as often.) She had watercolor paints, or playdough, or clay, or other projects for us to do. We spent a lot of time in the kitchen when I was the age of my boys. When we got older, we spent a lot of time out in the woods.

I wish I was more like my mom. My kids eat an awful lot of hot dogs and not enough pot roast (even with my crockpot, which my mom didn't have). My house? Disaster city. I have lots of materials for projects. They spend a lot of time in boxes or plastic bins. I have a "to do" of needful projects a mile long. My vacuum cleaner spends weeks in silence in the back hall (not even the closet where it belongs).

But I do my best. And one thing my mom taught me is that if you have the opportunity to try something new, try it. If an elephant presents itself, climb on its back. I think Joey is picking up on the lesson quite well- and trying new things is a great strength to have.

Thanks, Mom.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Come into my garden!

I have set up a new blog for pictures of the garden. So if you'd like a view of my roses, feel free to check it out.