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Monday, September 23, 2013

Big Hearts On Little Sleeves.

There isn't a speech pathologist at Kiedis' new school.

Apparently the district is short quite a few across the board and they're "hiring" but there's no postings on the statewide education job board and interviews aren't being conducted, according to the teachers we're still friends with.

So, Kiedis isn't getting the main service dictated in his IEP and the downtown office is brushing it off. And while we've been assured that "the hours will be made up" that assertion can only be made at his next IEP meeting, which is in March.


I already have reservations about the new school that he's at. Despite it's location, last minute the excellent teacher we'd been told to place him with left for another district and his new teacher barely had the weekend before school started to get his bearings. The sense of chaos lingers, to me.

Because I have to drop Tova off and pick her up, I'm far more involved in her day to day experiences than I ever was with Kiedis, and I realize how kind of blindly trusting that is. However, I know now that the staff around him that year and a half were exceptional (still are, as they help educate Tova) and I'm actually a bit ashamed that I didn't come around often at all.

But this new school, in our neighborhood, feels completely different. I met the principal, who knows Kyle well, and she stared at me without a modicum of emotion. I feel like I trigger some sort of performance anxiety in his teacher, and I can't quite peg the aide, though I'm told Kiedis loves her.

I haven't seen a worksheet or art project yet for him, while Tova has a handful a week.

The demographics are different at each school -- the school up the street feels rougher, more obviously an inner city school in a working class (at best) part of town, whereas Tova's current school is incredibly diverse, welcoming, supportive. The principal at her school and most of the teachers in the PreK wing know my kids' names because they ... want to? And have nothing but glowing things to say about them both in a way that I couldn't dream of challenging their authenticity.

I get eyeballed at Kiedis' school suspiciously, as if I'm not supposed to want to be involved in his education.

As you may guess, this means I have some heavy reservations about placing him there, a call that in the end, was mine to make.

And all of the anxious guilt.

All of it came to a head at Target.

I went with the kids to run some errands and, as you do, I went into the dollar section to see what was there. I found a plethora of Little Mermaid socks for $1 a pair and snatched one of each style up for Tova because obviously. I scanned the shelves for the "boy" equivalent, so to not leave Kiedis out, and found myself at an impasse.

There were two options: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Avengers.

I hemmed and hawed over which ones to get. In the past couple of weeks, Kiedis' knowledge of extraordinary people who sometimes wear capes went from the Super Readers of SuperWhy! to suddenly, every traditional superhero out there. He doesn't call them by name -- the closest he gets is calling Spiderman "Spiders" -- but his elation at seeing the Superman insignia or the Iron Man logo is blatantly apparent. I knew they would excite him, but they felt cheaper, like dollar section socks as opposed to the Ariel and TMNT ones which felt surprisingly nice.

But, he had some TMNT toys from McDonald's (SHUT UP) and loved them, so after spending way more time than should ever be necessary in a dollar section, I went for the Turtles. Admittedly it was probably rooted in a bit of my own nostalgia in my brother's love of the Ninja Turtles as a kid, but I also liked the colorways better.

Upon reaching home and dispersing the bargain Ariel goodies to Tova, I turned to Kiedis with one hand in the Target bag, searching for the three pairs in my hand.

His eyes went wide with hope.

"Superheroes?" he almost pleaded, and my heart sank.

I pulled out the Turtle socks. "Nah, buddy, Ninja Turtles! See how cool?"

I knew I had already lost the battle.

He wailed noooo, suuuuperheeeerooooeeeessss and threw himself on the ground, his cry not his usual one of angst and frustration, but one of genuine sadness and heartbreak.

My mind raced back to the day I brought Kiedis his first packed lunch after (finally) getting a lunch schedule and realizing there was no way on the green earth he was going to eat the school lunch that day, which was the birthday of another little boy in his class. The boy, another child of a DPS employee who placed their child in this class for the teacher no longer there, was proudly showing off his Iron Man lunch box to three or four other little boys in the class -- all appropriately verbal and seemingly normal kids -- while Kiedis quietly watched from his spot at the far end of the table, turning to me and smiling at my presence when he remembered I was there.

My heart ached as I remembered that want, that need to belong and be included and the absolute certainty that the right things with the right logos and labels would get me there.

Which lead me to wonder if Kiedis had friends at school, or if his challenges (which he's not currently getting services for though he should be!) mark him as different and not worthy of their attention.

My heart shattered at the thought.

The aide told me that he did have a friend -- a little boy who, also being special, ended up being moved to none other than Tova's classroom (however not the same class as her) because he needed "more kindness and attention" than he was able to get in Kiedis' class.

My sweet boy has slowly been coming out of his shell as he masters his language and we adapt and roll with the punches to create a place where he feels safe and loved and allowed to be himself. He has shown how truly gentle is spirit is and how obviously he wears his giant heart on his little sleeve.

I know that with socialization outside of the home, heartbreak will happen. But the behaviors and phrases he's begun to use in earnest, things we don't say or do here at home, are indicative of his pattern of understanding (thanks to his two sociologist parents) -- observation and imitation.

And I don't like anything I'm seeing. My sweet boy is starting to clam up again, lash out again, and every fiber of my being goes on pins and needles whenever I dare to even think the word regression.

I'm so terrified that irreparable damage is in the process of being done by simply attempting to make the best choices for him.

And I'm at a loss at to what I can even do to stop it.