Saturday, June 9, 2012

change in plans

So I had this sense of peace all school year because this summer I didn't have to worry about where Punkin would go for his summer day care; he would just go back to the program he attended last year. I signed him up, gave them my check, and anxiously awaited telling him he would be back with his summer friends. And then through a series of meetings, phone calls, and more meetings, it was determined that Punkin would not be able to attend this year; they simply felt unable to meet his needs. I think they are wrong, and they know that, but it is what it is and I began looking for something else.

I finally settled on sending him to a well-known, national center that provides meals and some field trips. Before actually enrolling him, I wanted to speak with the director to make sure the program would be appropriate. I emailed, I called, I called again. I stopped in. Someone called me back and told me to call a different person. I called that person, who never called me. So I signed him up anyway.

The big day came and I still hadn't received the additional forms I needed for him, like health history and such, so I took him in early to pick them up and help acclimate him to the new routine. His "classroom" was a small, windowless room in the basement set up with tables and one rug to play on. I saw one bookshelf that looked like it was about to crumble under the weight of the wooden blocks it was holding and another piled so haphazardly with books the entire mess would have spilled like a Jenga game if one title was removed. It just didn't even seem clean.

A woman sat at a desk right inside the door and greeted us, but didn't introduce herself. Another woman sat at a table working with a few other children and said nothing at all. I took Punkin over to the carpet to play with some Barbie cars, all three of which were missing wheels.

We stayed for forty minutes and I couldn't tell you even one staff member's name or relay anything any of the staff said to my son directly; I had no idea who was in charge. In that forty minutes, the kids just roamed around freely; there was no structure. And after asking, I learned that this was typical of the entire day.

Punkin tried escaping multiple times. It was time for me to go to work. I didn't know what to do. I knew I didn't want to leave him there. Could he wait until someone picked him up in a little bit? My heart sunk into my stomach. We left. I cried.

Sometimes the stress of it all comes bubbling over, and this was one of those mornings. This was also a morning I felt extremely thankful for friends and family who could take over and watch him (My mom will be with him from now on). Many, many parents are forced to leave their children in places they don't love because they have no support. I'm telling you, as a friend, one of the most precious gifts you can give a family of a child with special needs is a play date. As a teacher, one of the most precious gifts you can give a family is a sense of safety.

So what should teachers do to help families feel more welcome?
1. Return phone calls.
    Or write in notebooks, or send notes home. However you choose to communicate is fine, just do it. 

2. Be Organized. 
    Hey, I work in the world's tiniest classroom. No, really, I do. But it is bright, cheery, clean, and organized -- even without windows. That's a post for another day.
3. Introduce yourself to parents and children. 
    Nothing shows more respect for a child than involving them in conversation.
4. Provide parents with a schedule of your day.
    Maybe you can make up a new student packet with a  handbook, a list of basic supplies, and some classroom information such as your daily schedule and the best ways to contact you.

Read  more of my posts over at PrekandKSharing.


We Can Do All Things said...

I just found your blog from your post at Pre-k. I am so sorry what you recent went through looking for a school situation. My daughter has down syndrome and I have heard my of these heart breaking stories. So happy I found you I am you new follower.

Kristiem10 said...

That is just awful, Erika. I am so glad your mom was able to help. And, We Can Do All Things--you've discovered a treasure trove. The Other Lion is a wonderful blog.

Kristy said...

Hello, I am a teacher assistant for Kinder Support (we include children with special needs into a regular kindergarten classroom and then support them throughout the day) I am so sorry you had a bad experience with trying to find a place for your son. Most of the children that come to us have AU or have symptoms of AU. 2 years ago we had a delightful little boy with Fragile X and this come fall we get his little brother who also has Fragile X. I am excited as he is great and his family is just wonderful. On the other had I know what you are talking about when you say running to the vomit. We will have to be on our toes. lol Both eat with both hands shoving it in as fast as they can and then it all comes back. We are working on slowing down and it with one hand.
Each fall we pretty much get a new set of students and have tours and show the kids and the parents the school. I like to make it a point to not only greet the parent but also hang out with the kids so they can become accustom to us for when they do come to us all day. It makes the transition from parent to teacher so much easier. I hope you can find a place that y'all fill comfortable with.

Faydra said...

Sorry for this experience :-( but great post with great tips. Hear, hear to number #1! Our FX guy turned 3 three weeks before the school year was out and I registered him at his new school and then left message after message after message about meeting staff this year at least once and discussing possible scheduling for in the fall... Still haven't heard from anyone. Grrrrrr. What I really hate is that this may be an awesome program with awesome teachers but because I haven't gotten a returned call I have already formed a bad impression. The "little" things SO matter!