Momma Bear

Facing Down the Waves (Tofino, British Columbia)

Facing Down the Waves (Tofino, British Columbia)

My mom said that I was a “b!7<%” this weekend.

And she said it in such a way that, well, kind of made me proud.

At first I was a little taken aback (of course). But then I realized what she meant.

See, I’ve been struggling with a person on my children’s educational team. Someone who is amazing in what she does, but isn’t quite understanding a few of the little things that could be done to REALLY help my child bloom – and what the child isn’t getting, especially with the added “stress” of me on bed rest, is adding to anxious behaviors and those are usually reactive and angry (defensive and scared). Those behaviors occur in the classroom, on the playground and at home. This child is being called a bully. This child is acting like a bully to protect the fragile ego that is being slowly crushed with every reprimand in the classroom, and every X on the schoolwork.

My beloved children live with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. This is, in some ways, like a traumatic brain injury (concussion) – that won’t heal. Our best is to provide opportunity (especially as very young children) for neuroplasticity (to help the brain make more connections to fill the gaps where cortisol and alcohol have destroyed their brains). Repetition, visual, physical, experiential and verbal cues for EVERY thing (visual reminders to wipe and flush the toilet, how to wash hands and the order for taking a shower are posted in the bathrooms for example – and those are NOT enough, verbal reminders are usually necessary EVERY time). They need many opportunities to learn something new – they have to have things to block out excess sound or visual stimulation, they NEED to have more physical interactions/big movements than most children (and quite frequently very heavy, pressure filled movements which is why my kids ARE allowed to wrestle and jump down the stairs when it’s rainy outside). My children (even the almost 13 year old) need time explained to them EVERY time that something is expected of them – “can you clear the table before 7:35? That is in 5 minutes, when the long hand is on the 7.”

But the person on my child’s team has too many children with special considerations, and she cannot possibly address all of my child’s needs. EVEN with the SEA (special education assistant) in the classroom, there are NINE children in that classroom who need extra help – and my child is “supposed” to have 10 hours a week (2 hours a day) with the SEA. Obviously that cannot be happening. And when half of the class needs special assistance, well, it’s not very easy to accommodate to one child just because that child has a Momma Bear (aka “b!7<%” mom) requesting on a weekly basis that things change.

I hate seeing my child frustrated and anxious. There were never any hitting or pushing incidents reported to me before, why are they happening NOW? They happened before I got hurt – so CAN it be because of the added stress at home or is there something else triggering it and this just ADDS to the child’s stress? This child has received very poor scores on “tests” and is really crushed by them. I am supposed to tell this child that average is all I expect – but I don’t believe that one bit. I expect my child to be taught HOW to do things to succeed – not to expect to fail. How come when I ask the same types of problems/spelling at home – the answer is correct 90% of the time? Is it because my child needs more time? More explanation of what is expected? Simpler terms for the explanation? I know this child needs more written output time because of DIAGNOSED fine motor issues, so why is this child tested in the classroom with the rest of the class when easily the 4-5 children who also have DIAGNOSED issues could be tested separately so there isn’t a “race” to get done with the mainstream students? Why is my child being given the same expectations to test on tests as the rest of the class and not with the modifications agreed to in the Individual Educational Plan (IEP) with the SEA?

Today the OT (Occupational Therapist) saw my child and reinforced the needs my child has for sensory input. All three children have Sensory Processing Disorders (varying degrees) and they need to find POSITIVE, NON DISRUPTIVE ways to deal with them. I am overjoyed that she was able to assess and verify (as a professional) what I as a parent know. BUT I don’t know what that will mean to the educational team who has to find a way to incorporate these into my child’s day. I’m frustrated. I’m feeling very protective of my child. If I wasn’t bed-ridden, I’d be at the school talking to the “team” daily (and I would be too). I want my child to feel successful, I don’t expect 100% success, because then there isn’t opportunity to grow – but I do not think it’s at all fair to “make” a child who has DIAGNOSED CHRONIC MEDICAL conditions that affect LEARNING, SELF REGULATION, MEMORY and MENTAL HEALTH “fail” to assess where they are at educationally.

SO, that is my current momma bear rant. I’m trying to put myself in the team’s shoes, with limited resources (people) but with the sensory items available or attainable to help an aspect of the child’s ability to learn. And trying to find out why there is only one SEA in a classroom which has an obvious need for more support. I’m feeling very Momma Bear like (aka “b!7<%y”) and I need to find much GRACE before I go forward with my “support team” to advocate fairly WITH the team instead of against them.

PLEASE pray for me in this! I am a Momma Bear for a reason. I was trained in Social Work because God KNEW that my children would need an advocate and a team to raise my children. My first post college job was as a nanny for a child with autism, because God knew I needed to understand sensory processing disorders (SPD) and the ability of someone who has difficulty in some areas – to be BRILLIANT in others. My next jobs were with lots of kids who had ADD/ADHD and then with young children whose families were under MAJOR stress. Then I got sick and had to stop working – decided to go to grad school and study spiritual things – and then became a parent to the children who need every thing I’ve learned in my life to parent them.

I MUST advocate for my children. That IS my JOB! I need to be brave and NOT CARE what people think (to an extent). I really DO care what people think. I want to be grace-filled, I want to be Christ-like, but I also want my children to be treated fairly (and I know that attacking the team who is doing their best will NOT help my child) and with the items he is (gasp) entitled to because of his disabilities.

Pray for grace. For compassion. For kindness. Um, maybe those fruits of the Spirit that we’ve been studying with Abiding Fruit. And that I will be the squeaky wheel that I need to be – but that I will also be a FRIEND to the person who has been frustrating my child and I. So that we CAN work as a team to help my child succeed.

And thank you Mommy for calling me that word. I guess that it isn’t always a bad thing – you want the people who advocate for you to be persistent and powerful, and somehow that is how you made me feel. In the sense that I am SUPPOSED to be that way on behalf of my children. I’m just wondering HOW I can be a nice one…

Thank you!
Momma “Bear” Jen


BTW, if you are reading this and I missed some acronyms, comment here or on facebook./twitter and I’ll define them for you. Eventually I might even find links for them so if you are interested you can read more.


3 responses

  1. I want to thank all of you who have encouraged me with your feedback (in private forums, on facebook, in twitter, in email). I really do appreciate it. I do need to focus MORE on the positive aspects of this incredible teacher and hope that the things I disagree with her on will be less adversarial and that they might start to be implemented in the classroom. I just HATE seeing my little man anxious. He’s a competitive and very sensitive little guy, and every little slight he REALLY feels (I know, I love him to death and I break his heart more than I want to admit with my impatience).

    You are all a great bunch of encouragers! And thank you for letting me vent a bit. It isn’t easy having brilliant kids who don’t always fit into the “accepted and approved” mode.

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