Category Archives: education

A Special Education

Dr. V. wore a pinstripe collar shirt and a light gray tie with small brown dogs printed all over it. It matched his personality. During my son’s assessment, he laughed at his jokes and answered every one of his questions, even the silly ones.

Dr. V. spent the last 45 minutes explaining to me in depth the results of my son’s vision evaluation. Not be confused with his eyesight examination. His eyesight was fine. He didn’t need glasses. If only.

The vision evaluation unearthed some concerns. While Dr. V. described oculomotor dysfunction, loss of fixation, accommodative level and facility, exophoria, convergence insufficiency, and visual perception, my mind raced into the future.

I knew where we were headed, because we’d been there before. Vision therapy. We would spend the next six months (or more) – including the summer vacation – doing twice weekly vision therapy, and it would break my son’s heart.

“Do you have any questions?” Dr. V. asked.

How is it fair that one kid has to deal with all this crap? Do you know how many doctors, therapists, and tutors he has? He’s 10! There aren’t enough hours in the day! Will it even help? Should I just let him be? Am I ruining his childhood? Will he like reading when it’s all done? Will his handwriting be neater and his homework be less unbearable? How do I know when I’m pushing him too hard or not hard enough? Does he know how smart, kind, intuitive, brave, and imaginative he is? Will he live a happy life? Does he resent me for insisting on these interventions? Does he begrudge me for not doing more? Will it get worse or better as he ages? Is it affecting his self-esteem? Is it my fault? Why do I have to be an OT, ST, VT, SPD, ADD, IEP expert? Why can’t I just be his mom?

“Why is this so hard?” I blurted out.

Dr. V. chuckled. “No one teaches us about this stuff before we have kids,” he said. “Being a parent is a special education, isn’t it?”

Indeed.

Dr. V. looked about my dad’s age. His kids must’ve been grown. He’d been through the hard bits. He was incredibly patient and had a comforting vibe that gave me hope that, in the long run, everything would be okay.

Still, I wanted to climb across his desk and inhabit his body. I was desperate to see my journey from his vantage point. I ached for my future self to tell my present self  that everything would be okay.

But, just as I knew I had to persevere and do the hard work to get to the other side of vision therapy, I also understood I had to persist and do the heart-filling (and heartbreaking) work of raising my boy.

Someday, I would be on the other side. Someday, I would understand the meaning of everything’s going to be okay, but it wasn’t my turn yet. I thanked Dr. V. for his time, put my son’s name on the vision therapy waiting list, and headed home.

 

Welcome to Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from special needs bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about having a special needs kiddo — from Sensory Processing Disorder to ADHD, from Autism to Dyslexia! Want to join in on next month’s Voices of Special Needs Hop? Click here!

CLICK ON THIS ADORABLE LITTLE FROG TO READ MORE AMAZING STORIES IN THE MARCH 2017 SPECIAL NEEDS BLOG HOP…

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Filed under education, therapy

I have a vagina, and it’s private.

Did I get your attention?  Good.   Now it’s your turn.  Say it loud, say it proud, and say it to your kids.  Often.  Educate them about all of their body parts, and make sure they know their private parts are private.  Period.

I had the privilege of hearing Stacey Honowitz, a prosecutor of sex crimes for the Florida State Attorney’s Office for more than twenty years, speak at my preschool PTO meeting yesterday.  She’s prosecuted every heinous sex crime imaginable – from a rabbi who molested his four daughters, to a volunteer who fondled autistic children at school (and lied about his two previous out-of-sate sex crime convictions on his volunteer application), and to a small town gymnastics coach who molested his aspiring female gymnists.  She’s convicted men who ejaculate on kids in public bathrooms and janitors who take advantage of kids in schools.  She regularly interviews four and five-year-old kids in her office who have been touched, molested, or raped.  She’s prosecuted kids and she’s even prosecuted an 84-year-old man.  She had one adult victim who committed suicide as a consequence of the statute of limitations (which has since been changed) that made it impossible to charge the perpetrator who molested him as a child.  She’s seen it all.  She’s also the Mama of young girl who most definitely knows she has a vagina and that it’s 100% private.

Ms. Honowitz is a strong, feisty, and candid woman with an impressive potty mouth (I mean that as a compliment), and you should feel good about the fact that she’s out there putting bad guys in prison.  The stories she told us at the PTO meeting were horrific enough to make me never want let my kids leave the house…let alone ride a bike to school, play on a team sport, use a public bathroom on their own, sleep over a friend’s house, or go to summer camp.  (I could go on and on here.)

Hearing Ms. Honowitz speak, I couldn’t help but think (a) she’s a bad ass, and (2) evil lurks around every corner.  But, here’s the nugget of truth she revealed that made me unclench my fists and my jaw (a little bit): We can’t stop pedophilia from happening.  It happens, it can happen to anyone, and it can happen anywhere.  It. Happens.  But, we can educate our kids about their bodies and we can empower them to speak up if anyone ever touches them (because it does happen).

How do we do that?  By talking honestly about our private parts at home and doing so without embarrassment or fear. We need to make sure our sons and daughters know the anatomically correct names of all of their body parts, including their penises or vaginas.  We need to make sure they know their penises or vaginas are private and no one has the right to see or touch them. (There are always a few exceptions to this, so figure out what works for you and take into consideration the age and maturity level of your child.  I happen to like what my pediatrician says before he examines my boys: “Never let anyone touch you – even a doctor like me – unless Mommy or Daddy is in the room with you.”)  We need to empower our kids to tell the truth, speak up, and never be afraid of telling us if something happens…no matter what.

Do you wish there was a book out there to help you find the right words to broach this topic with your kids?  There is!  Ms. Honowitz has written two of them: “My Private Parts Are Private” (for girls) and “Genius With A Penis, Don’t Touch” (for boys).

Giggle if you need to, but then get to work.  These books are age appropriate for young kids and they use fun rhymes and kid-friendly illustrations to gradually and carefully disseminate the message.  Both books are available on amazon.com.

There’s so much in the world for us to be afraid of, including talking about all of this taboo stuff with our kids.  At the end of the PTO meeting, Ms. Honowitz put it all in perspective when she said, “Wouldn’t you rather spend ten minutes talking to your kids now than end up in my office talking to me?”

You got that right.

Use these books or find others.  There are plenty of resources out there to help you educate your kids (and without scaring them).  And remember, the “stranger danger” talk is important, but it’s only part of the problem because sexual perpetrators are often people we know and trust.  The sad reality is that pedophiles exist, but the glimmer of hope is that we, as parents, have the power to empower our kids to be safe.

I have a vagina, and it’s private.  How about you?

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Filed under books, education, parenting

I Quit…Sort Of

I went to Riley’s teacher conference at school today.  There’s a whole checklist of cognitive, physical, social/emotional, language and arts/music/movement items that they either check off or not.  Examples are: waits for turn, holds crayon age appropriately, walks up/down stairs appropriately, follows directions and communicates using words.   Unless there’s something going on with your two-year-old, it’s mostly an opportunity for the teacher to tell you how cute your kid is.

Riley pretty much aced his checklist, except for knowing his colors (I’m not worried), jumping (he tries so hard but just can’t get both feet off the ground at the same time!) and going to the bathroom by himself (this Mama is happy to hold off on potty training – and her sanity – for a while longer).  His teachers told me he’s wonderful, nice, sweet, caring…everything Mamas like to hear.  

She said if she absolutely had to critique Riley in any way, it would be that he doesn’t have the initiative to clean up after himself.  For example, after he finishes eating lunch, he says “I’m done” over and over again until she clears his trash or helps him do it.  I was immediately reminded of one of Dylan’s teacher conferences last year when his teacher said something eerily similar…that Dylan would sit in his seat after lunch and wait (while pouting) for someone to clear his mess.

This realization produced a big, huge ah-ha moment for me (or more accurately, an oh-crap moment).  I spoil my kids.  I’m not in denial.  They know the difference between right and wrong (almost) but they have no idea what to do with a Swiffer except play tug of war until I take it away.  Dylan is definitely learning independence (dressing himself, squeezing his own toothpaste and, God willing, washing his hands after going to the bathroom, etc.), but I don’t make the boys do anything around the house.  They make messes wherever they go, and I follow them with toy bins, laundry baskets, wipes and a dust buster.

Around Mother’s Day this year, Lisa Belkin published a piece on her Motherlode blog called “Why Moms Should Quit.”  The piece, with insight from syndicated radio host and author Mel Robbins, suggested that putting school-aged kids to work at home is good for them now and will make them better off in the long run.  Modern motherhood shouldn’t require mothers to bear the full burden of housework, and kids (and husbands, especially ones who always leave their dirty socks on the floor in the family room…just sayin’) could learn a lot from realizing how capable they are of doing all kinds of things around the house. 

I thought the piece was interesting when I read it, but I admit I also thought it was absolute crazy talk!  Who would know the difference between Dylan’s socks (little) and Riley’s socks (really little)?  Who would line up the milk and yogurt from oldest (front) to newest (back) in the refrigerator?  Who would load the mountains of BPA-free plastic just right on the top rack of the dishwasher?  There is no question my house would sink into the ground and I would end up at my own feelings doctor if I weren’t there to take care of (and complain about) every little chore.

Well, as of…right now…I’m changing my tune.   My boys are a little young to let loose with detergent in the laundry room or with a hot pan on the stove, but they’re not too young to put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket, bring their plates to the sink when they’re done eating and put their %$#&@ toys away before they go to sleep!  (Sorry, the toy thing is sensitive for me.)  And I could certainly benefit from letting go of the obsessive-compulsive ways I demand everything be done (see previous paragraph).  I’m a nut case!

I hereby declare I’m quitting…sort of.  I can’t relinquish all of the housework to the boys (and men).  They are young still, and child protective services (and possibly a divorce attorney) would knock on my door within a week.  I can start small, though, and give them some chores and, of course, a chore chart with stickers.   (Dylan has already happily requested construction truck stickers.  I don’t think he realizes yet what he’s so enthusiastically getting into).

Effective immediately (May 16, 2011), Dylan and Riley are responsible for the following daily chores:

·      Putting their dirty clothes in the laundry basket

·      Bringing their plates, cups and bowls to the kitchen sink/counter when meals are over

·      Putting ALL toys away before bedtime (Argh!)

I’ll post a picture of the new “chore chart” once the masterpiece is complete.  This is an excellent new art project for Obsessive Compulsive Mama!  By the time I have the boys’ teacher conferences in the fall, I hope to hear good things about their new cleaning-up skills.  Oh yeah, and all that other academic stuff, too. 

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Filed under aha moment, chore chart, education, Obsessive Compulsive Mama, school