High school and Autumn are in full swing and, I am happy to report, my awful cold/ flu-y thing is on the wane. Two packages of Hall’s Cough Drops down and I need to buy one more to get me over longish meetings.
Julia is still in high spirits about high school. There have been small fires almost every day for two weeks for me to put out–no bus, late bus, no homework (Julia needs homework!), near misses on social events, Julia being put on the bus when I am picking her up, problems with Google Classroom on Julia’s iPad which meant no access to her biology text or notes at home, etc., etc.
A dilemma which continues is about clubs. Many extracurricular clubs meet during an extended lunch time to allow more students to belong to clubs while still being able to get home or to a job right after school. When I asked which clubs were inclusive during a last spring meeting with the case manager (which we no longer have), I was told that special ed students were welcomed in everything. However, apparently I asked the wrong question. They may be welcomed if and when they get there, and there is no availability of help to get them to where the clubs are. Right now, Julia needs someone to help her navigate the school building. During lunch, the aides eat in shifts, half eating and half helping kids eat. There are no extra bodies to shuffle kids around to the different class rooms that clubs are held in. The only club that special ed kids can participate in is the Peer Partner club during which typical kids are paired with special ed kids. The entire special ed department goes to this one and so Julia can go to this one.
Just what does “inclusive” mean if the means to arrive safely are not present?
The cultivation of independence, which most high school kids long for anyway, is a slow process for someone like Julia. To be a less than proactive parent would mean that Julia would probably miss the experience. And so, I lobby for support for her to attend dances. I don’t wait for her to “find” a circle of friends to do things with. Waiting would certainly mean missing the two dance parties that have happened so far and possibly doing very little socially during 9th grade. And Julia wanted to go to both dances and going, had a wonderful time.
Julia still needs a strong advocate of a mother, even during this time when most parents are being advised to back off, stand down and let their kid flounder a bit to find her own feet. No feet yet in this house. I feel that criticism is in the air at times. Not from those who have walked this walk but from others with shy typical kids, others who are too busy experts, others who have not had to nourish potential as if they were trying to get a yearly bloom on their poinsettia.
With those curmudgeonly thoughts aired, these last two weeks have had joys.
Julia was able to go to the Freshman party last week. At the last minute, the mother of a classmate since 4th grade read the last entry, checked with her daughter and texted me about whether Julia could go to the party with her daughter and two other girls, who were kids Julia knew from either elementary or middle school. I held my breath, said yes, and got Julia to her classmate’s house. She walked to the high school with these girls, danced “all night” and walked home with them. These girls are kind and sweet and very giving. I am grateful for every one of them.
This past week was homecoming and Julia remembered on two separate days that it was “necessary” to dress according to the spirit day “regulation.” This remembering was great and unusual. Friday, there was a homecoming parade. Next year I have to go and see it. The high school parades by groups and clubs a few blocks from their school to the grammar school and back again. Julia loved the parade when she saw it from the grammar school. She loves doing it. She brought pom-poms from home, wore close to the right colors, put on a West tee shirt, and had blue and gold hearts on her cheeks. And no, I didn’t take a picture — missed opportunity!
On Saturday evening, she went to the homecoming dance with Kati, her grammar school art teacher who has been one of her respite providers ever since grammar school. I felt fortunate to have Kati go with her. Kati was able to see and sense how Julia was doing. Her conclusion was that Julia really didn’t need Kati there. Julia danced the entire night, found other kids to dance with and was not inappropriate in any way. Kati also observed that the kids were kinder than she remember high schoolers, and that very few of them rebuffed Julia’s social bids. While we did not have a good idea of what was appropriate to wear to homecoming, Julia’s not really fancy new dress served.
My effort to find a group of parents who might take turns chaperoning kids to school events has not met with success so far. From an email sent by Julia’s case manager to the families on his case load, I got one quick response and another from a mom I met this summer who said her son was not interested in the social life at school. I was grateful for her reply. I went around last week, saying and thinking that Julia could not be the only kid in special ed who wants to be social and wondering out loud why there was not some support already set up. Right now, I am wondering if Julia desire to socialize is unique.
It was good to hear that Julia needed someone to be with her — Julia admitted to Kati that she wanted her at the dance because she was a little afraid — but not to intervene. The possibility that I could volunteer to help at the dance and just be available to Julia without monitoring each social interaction is promising.
Yesterday, Julia and I took a late afternoon walk at Olbrick Gardens. Fall garden beds are so blousy, so overgrown, so messy and overabundant. I love them.
Our own front garden beds are not quite as magnificent but they are home.
And a new week begins. Julia dons one of her new-to-her skirts and heads off to school. I don my uckiest clothes to work on the refinishing of a very old kitchen cabinet, hopefully to be housed one day in the dining room.