I'm going to go out on a limb here.
I'm going to talk about school.
Which I never do.
Well, never about concerns with school.
Something about this school year is different. Actually, lots of things about this school year are different, including new leadership and new teachers.
But something else has changed.
I see posts all the time on Facebook and on blogs where people discuss the recommendations for good, clear, concise communication between parents and the child's teachers. When you have a child with an intellectual disability who is unable to reliably discuss her day, having that window in to her day through her teachers is the only way we, as her parents, can feel comfortable and informed.
For the last few years, ie. Kindergarten and 1st grade, we had a notebook which traveled back and forth to school in Samantha's backpack. It was a 2-way communication vehicle, by which her long-time aide would recount triumphs and concerns and we could either rejoice with Sammi to reinforce her accomplishments, or have appropriate conversations with her to discuss any negative behaviors. Also, for the last few years, ie. Kindergarten and 1st grade, we were able to walk her to and from class each day, thus able to observe her interactions with her peers and with her teacher, and have a few short words with the teacher and her aide, in passing. It doesn't sound like much, but trust me, when you have that, there's a certain sense of reassurance you feel, knowing that your child is smiling as she goes into the room, knowing that the other children are smiling at her, greeting her, the teacher welcoming her.
But this year, the hatches have been battened down, eliminating that face-to-face from the walk to or from class, and the notebook is no more.
I get the new rule about parents not walking through the school - it created a fair amount of chaos, and is far more secure for our children this way. The teachers and administrators have better knowledge of where each child is. I get it. But for a child with an intellectual disability, I think there should be some leeway. Other kids can come home and tell their parents everything. Ours can't.
And I don't get the notebook.
We had one at the beginning of the year, and it was, as before, a huge help in our understanding of Samantha's day. But it was taken from us after a note written home contained some questionable references (nothing terrible, just a situation that was unclear that we requested clarification for), and suddenly the rug got pulled out, the notebook taken, and the promise of a better, more clear method of communication to be substituted.
That better, more clear method of communication turned out to be a few short, scrawly notes on the already pre-existing behavior chart that came home daily anyway.
About as clear as mud.
Let's just say that the communication we now receive, this better, more clear, method of communication, is sporadic, inconsistent in its messaging (don't put a happy sticker on the PE box and then write a note that says she wouldn't participate - what does that mean?), and, frankly, opaque.
And Samantha has been showing increasing resistance to things school-related. Participation, which had been worked on so hard all through Kindy and 1st, which had been written into her IEP and then not included with as much import on the most recent iteration because she had essentially mastered that hurdle, is now non-existent, from what we can tell. But who knows? All I know is that Sammi has refused, on numerous occasions, to get in front of the class to present her projects, something she was excited and proud to do last year.
She's been coming home talking about how her friends don't like her. How they're allergic to her. How someone has made her unhappy, but she refuses to elaborate. I am pretty sure she's not playing with other kids on the playground. How do I know? She told me last night that she wants to be left alone, prefers to play by herself, doesn't want to play with the other kids. At the playground on Sunday, one of her friends was out there with several other kids, and suggested a game of tag. He asked Samantha to join them, but she dug her heels in and refused, despite his and my best efforts.
This is really unlike her, or unlike what she would have done in the past.
She's an only child - her interactions at school are critical to teaching her to function in society, to gain the confidence to participate in activities and social functions, in a job.
Is no one encouraging her or the other children to play together? Is no one seeing her isolate herself? Are other children saying mean things to her? Does she have a problem with a teacher?
If not, we don't know about it.
Is she actually participating and having a great time, behaving appropriately, learning, feeling supported? Is she just making some of this up (totally possible)?
If she is, we sure don't know about it.
Something has to give.
We can't live in the dark like this, and not know what's going on with our child. She's so bright and has such a promising future, but in my mind, we're in a one step forward, two steps back cycle right now.
I hope someone can prove me wrong.
I am pretty sure someone from her school will read this, and that's fine. I haven't said anything bad. I just feel that there's something here that is broken and needs to be fixed. I'm just trying to figure out if we should call a meeting now, or just wait until her IEP meeting which will be some time in the next two months. On Monday, I will put a fresh notebook in her backpack with a note requesting its use.