A New Pre-School for Ben

I’d like to say all ended well with Ben’s preschool. That we were able to work it out and that he and the teacher are best buds. But in the end, it did not turn out that way.

After I posted the blog on my meeting with Ben’s school’s team of therapists, I took him out of school for a few days. I was still under the misguided impression that we were all working together to integrate Ben into the system. For two days everything was a lesson. A trip to the store was a lesson in staying where you were suppose to be while walking somewhere (as Ben running out of line was a concern for them).

All day we sat at home and talked about gentle hands, no throwing, following directions.

The days I took him out of school I left messages for the school conflict manager who called the meeting in the first place. As I mentioned before she didn’t get back to me for two days. When she did, she explained that her voicemail was down for two days but is up and running and she was able to retrieve her old voice messages. I told her all the concerns I had, basically all the stuff I wrote in the blog. She listened. She told me they do not, under any circumstance, switch classrooms for kids. She said I could do an observation, along with the head of the Montessori program for 30 minutes the next school day – Monday. I accepted.

She called back with the time. Then, as we were about to hang up she said, “And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t blog about it.”

Wow, I thought. That’s really out of line. “Did you have issue with anything I wrote in the blog?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “I just feel it’s counterproductive to the process. It doesn’t seem like you are working with us.”

I hung up. I was angry. Uh, can anyone say first amendment?

And what was this mysterious process that we kept talking about? I kept thinking back to that weird meeting. How I was asked there to talk about how we could all help Ben, but no one was offering any sort of helpful solutions. My mind went back to other things that were said, like when the head of the Montessori program told the other therapists in the room that she was worried that Ben didn’t show the proper remorse when he bit the teacher, looking pointedly at the therapists in the room. And the blank stares when I tried to come up with some solutions, like potty training, for Ben.

Then it hit me. No one there was there to try to work together to get Ben’s behavior in line. They were here to build a case against him.

On Monday I told the councilor we decided to pull him out. She asked if we wanted to revoke our consent for a special education evaluation.

SPECIAL EDUCATION?! Ben? That word was not mentioned once in our first meeting, when they asked if I wanted to sign Ben up for more observation from the therapists in the room.

I realized at that point that this school and I had a fundamental difference. They thought my son was abnormal. I did not.

I didn’t know what their end game was. But I figured the best case scenario was that Ben does some time with some therapist. I didn’t think more time away from the classroom would help him conform to the teacher’s set up, but maybe having more time would give him a chance to normalize. The worst case scenario was that they were building a case against him that would follow him all the way through his entire stint with CPS schools. It’s possible some subjective test that a therapist did, fueled by an over zealous teacher, could have negative results that would be put on his record forever.

Adam called Jack’s old preschool. There was one slot left. It was expensive, but we knew and loved the teachers. And the teachers knew and loved Ben.

Both assistant teachers from Jack’s old preschool had nanny positions over the summer and I was lucky enough to see them sometimes. I remember one incident where Jack was acting odd in the park. The assistant turned to me and said with a giggle, “Oh Jack is in one of his moods. We just let him sit under the table until he felt better when he was like that at school.”

I loved them for that. For treating the students like the sticky, disheveled, tantrum throwing, confusing mess that they are. You could get upset about it and take it personally or you could laugh and shake it off.

I was sure that they could handle Ben in a loving, caring way. That they would treat him like a 3 year old, and realize that sometimes kids stick stuff in their mouth, sometimes they have potty accidents, and sometimes they don’t follow instructions. You learn through practice, and repetition. And that takes time.

At Ben’s old preschool I could never get him to talk about his day. I’m not sure he understood what was going on while he was there. At his new preschool he comes home and sings songs like “BINGO”, recites the days of the week, and can tell me what book they read. I can tell he’s connecting much more to the environment.

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