Friday, January 17, 2014

The first week of homeschooling

I have homeschooled my older girls, Gabbi, 20, now studying for her BSN at Franciscan University and Bella, 16 who is at Marianapolis Prepartory School. They enjoyed homeschooling and parent led cooperatives until around high school, when they yearned for a brick and mortar type school. With Christina, its the opposite. I had Early Intervention, special ed pre-school and then, moved to Connecticut in time to start Kindergarten in our local public school. I had attended many conferences touting the advantages of inclusive education and wanted the best for my little girl.

All went well for the first three years as I document in "A Special Mother is Born" but then we discovered Christina has a congenital anomaly in her cervical spine and had to remove her from the playscape at recess. I realized that it was her primary source of socialization, and slowly, she began to lose interest in school. Then her pediatrician and I decided she needed more intensive personal instruction as she was losing her language skills and I had a PPT meeting and opted for non-inclusive self contained classroom placement. The Special Ed Director encouraged me to enroll her in an Applied Behavioral Analysis program they were starting in the Elementary school in September 2011 and I agreed.

It was a BIG mistake.

To say the next two years were an educational disaster is an understatement. I detail it here, so there is no need to belabor the point, but it led to my decision to once again become a home educating mother this December just before Christmas. I was anxious as Christina through all the struggles with the ABA or really the autism program, had become adverse to attending school and once at home, was very isolated, wanting only to see DVDs in her room. I feared she would remain up there, refusing to learn. But a report card from school convinced me that, as difficult as it looked, I could do no worse than they had. Christina received all zeros in every subject except Computers (95) and Art (100). I certainly could do better than that mockery of a report card. Educational tesing with three outside psychologists revealed a 50 point drop in IQ scores since Christina has been in school and described her as 'non verbal'. She has lost the ability to speak and read, so I knew it was time to go.

And, in the coup de gras,  I was informed by a member of the community, that Christina had been refused a library book by her aide, saying she would rip it. In eleven years of taking out books, both in our local library and at school, my daughter has only torn one book, and it was an accident. I see that as a clear sign that there was discrimination against her in school, and when I gave the staff a chance to explain what happened, they lied. So I knew I could no longer trust them to either be competent, fair or honest.

During Christmas vacation, her sisters and I made a daily schedule with her help, and she said, "School" which gave me hope that she would come to understand that school can happen at home.

Now in our daily routine, which is slowly moving from part time to full time, we do warm up swings as part of a sensory diet, do counting with manipulatives (see photo) , and are following a Downs Education International reading program designed specifically for students with Down syndrome, and, as a reward on Friday evenings,  we are attending Special Olympics swimming. So far Christina has been very cooperative and enthusiastic. I will document her progress here and welcome your input.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Showers of Joy

She looked harried when I drove up to the clubhouse of her apartment complex yesterday. The heavily pregnant woman in a parka ran back and forth, trying to find the super to open the room where we were holding her baby shower, he was not to be found. I tried to comfort her as I dialed his number, hoping that the two dozen women I had invited would find a warm room to come out of the raw January wind. Soon he appeared, opened the door and the women, many of whom had never met this 38 year old single mother, flooded in, bearing gifts and food. Within ten minutes the room was decorated in baby blue and festooned with balloons and flowers, and an appetizing snack table set up. The Baby Shower I started in desperation to save a baby in danger was coming together at the last minute.

I met Carol five months ago, after she confided to a mutual friend that she was considering aborting her unborn baby boy because he had just be prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome. She was recently divorced,battling her ex over child custody, and the baby's father had abandoned her and found a new girlfriend. She was being told by her doctor and every nurse she had contact with that abortion was her best option, that she was not capable of raising a little boy with an extra chromosome.  In fact, Carol had an abortion in a similar situation a few months ago and it did not improve her situation at all. She felt alone in the world and her self-confidence was at an all time low.

Our friend introduced us to have me share my thoughts on what life has been like for me as the mother of an eleven year old girl with Down syndrome. We met several times at my home, where her lovely six year old daughter and mine began to get acquainted, and she saw with her own eyes, the happy life of my Christina. Thanks to this, counseling at CareNet and Birthright, and many prayers from hundreds of my friends on Facebook, Carol chose life for her son, whom she named Elijah, and today we who loved her and her son, were celebrating with her.

We oohed and aahed over the tiny socks, the decorative onesies, the cuddly pjs, and the array of homemade knit caps and warm quilts. We talked about the joy of mothering a newborn and Carol began to smile. She was surrounded by love and support, with many women taking her contact information and promising to visit her and baby Elijah when he was expected in less than two months. She is no longer alone in her special mothering journey.

 I will take her to meet other mothers and children with Down syndrome, and attend conferences with her to help her best meet Elijah's complex needs. However, the child with Down syndrome does not need a PhD for a mother, the one thing he needs most is a mother who loves him and who feels loved herself. Thanks to an army of good-hearted women, Carol has been blessed with that gift which she can share with her new son.

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