Thursday, March 30, 2006

This is going to sound really petty

We went to visit the class that the school district would like Callum to attend after the Easter break. We were already 99% sure that we were going to disagree with the placement (a special education class with very limited contact with typical peers) but decided that we'd go and have a look anyway just so we could make an informed choice.

We got there for circle time: 6 special needs kids (4 of whom have 1 on 1 aides) and 2 typical peers who come in just for circle and snack time. I liked the teacher and what she was trying to do but half the kids were just not engaged and one spent at least half the time crying. I know some kids have behavioural issues and they have just as much need for an appropriate education but from a selfish standpoint I just can't see Callum in that class. If someone is crying in that way then Callum would not be able to concentrate on the class at all, he has huge amounts of empathy and would be wanting to comfort the other child rather than learn. I just don't see that as being his least restrictive environment.

Now here's the petty part, after circle time is snack time. The kids all wash their hands and then sit at a little table where they can choose 3 things from a snack box. I was astounded at the choices they had - m&m's, chocolate cookies, pringles, Cheetos (for UK people these are cheesy corn crisps that turn your fingers yellow because they have so much colouring), jellybeans, fruit loops (multi coloured kids cereal), some kind of boiled sweet type lollipop thing and other equally unhealthy foods. The one healthy food was popcorn which should be avoided by kids Callum's age because it's a choking hazard. Callum will be occasionally eat chocolate and cookies but they're giving this to the kids every single day! I get that they want to motivate the kids to speak and make choices but for crying out loud you can still offer healthy stuff that tastes good. How can you expect kids to develop healthy eating habits when this is what you offer them.

Needless to say we officially said no to the placement so now we have to wait and see what the next option will be.


Laura said...

healthy choices are always best....BUT then I had a child who would not eat anything by mouth period and learned to let go in order to teach him that food is pleasurable and safe and fun. The hard and fast rule I learned then was let them try anything and everything that they will touch or put near their face without throwing up, or touch with their lips without throwing up, or place in their mouth without gagging and throwing up and then maybe, maybe they will suck the life out of it and spit it back out again or maybe they might be brave and actually swallow without gagging or aspirating.....I learned all of this after I put down the food choices offered in a special needs environment because I knew it was all wrong and then it became my reality.
Just a little food for thought.
But I still believe that healthy choices are always the first and the best choices.
Thanks for visiting.
Good luck with that class.

Kim Ayres said...

Fortunately at our local school at snack time Meg is able to buy a piece of fruit.

As for the learning environment, Maggie and I had a really long talk about what kind of educational system we wanted Meg to go through. Initially I was quite reluctant to consider mainstream schooling and was more drawn to special schools. This was due to my memories of school where the "backward kids" got teased and bullied relentlessly, and there was no way that I would ever consider putting my daughter in that environment.

However, after a lot of reading and consulting, I realised that Meg would always be prone to learned behaviour from those around her (as are we all to various degrees), and if she was surrounded by people with behavioural and learning difficulties then she would be just as likely to adopt them.

So from the start we put Meg through mainstream schooling and she has a support assistant and her own IEP (Individual Education Plan) which means that when she's capable of joining in the main class activity she does, but where she is behind, she has her own activities to do with the SA.

This all means that she's growing up in her her class with her peers and friends, and she is in fact a very popular member of the class.

The Imperfect Christian said...

I fear the day I will have to make these types of decisions. I just want them to stay little forever. Is that too much to ask??

And no, I'm not one of those "let me keep them babies and not encourage them to grow or develop" moms. I'm just saying it's a nice thought on occasion.

(Three Kids And More)

Michelle said...

I don't think you're being petty at all! Especially about the snacs! That would bother me knowing those were the only food choices they got every day! I wonder if the other kids' parents know what they are offered for snacks. I think you made the right decision; you know him best and you know that environment isn't for him. You weren't being petty at all!

Lori said...

Environment is very important. Evan attended a preschool run by our church, which was a good environment. The school district convinced us to place him in their program, a mix of special needs & other kids, so he could get more "assistance". They also were sure that their program was superior to the church-run program he was in. Thinking we would at least try it, we moved him.

His class there was similar to the one you visited. We realized it was time to take Evan out when his teacher remarked that Evan seemed upset by loud noises. We asked what she meant. She said that he covered his ears whenever one child in particular cried loudly. "How much does this child cry?" I asked. "Oh, quite a bit actually" was the response. Uh-huh. I'd cover my ears too! We moved Evan back to the other preschool needless to say.

We really do have to search out the correct place for our individual child, based on their own strengths & challenges. You made the right choice!

Naomi said...

Thanks for all the comments everyone.

Laura - I do understand that some kids have issues with all food and can see that seeing them eat anything, no matter how unhealthy, would be something to cheer about. However that did not see to be the case with this group of kids and the lack of any healthy choices was what really got to me.

Kim - It's good to hear what things are like on the other side of the pond and from a parent of an older child.

CJ - I didn't know that you had another blog! I do know what you mean about the decisions being simpler where they're babies.

Michelle - Thanks for stopping by.

Lori - Again thanks for sharing your experience as a "been there done that" mom. The experience Evan had is what I think would happen with Callum.

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