He Can’t Include Me In His School Day — 5 Minutes for Special Needs

He Can’t Include Me In His School Day

by Gina



                               

Our school is inclusive. Every child has a place in a mainstream classroom, with assistance if needed. J is one of those kiddos. He has an assigned a teacher, participates in nonacademic activities and projects, and has ‘specials’ like art, music and PE with his typical peers, all with the help of a one-on-one para. Now in the 2nd grade, J has worked hard to give himself 15 minutes at a time in the mainstream classroom before coping with the activities becomes too much for him. However, one of the experiences that’s missing from J’s school week is having a parent come in to volunteer.

You see, parents are welcome to volunteer at varying times and days in a typical classroom, but it’s different for the SSN (Severe and Significant Needs) room since it can be so disruptive to the students. J being one of those students, we are just now able to walk him to his classroom in the morning and leave without it creating an entire day’s worth of meltdowns. Coming in at any time besides morning drop off results in catastrophe. Even feeling as though his SSN room is more of his classroom than the “assigned” classroom, I have been unable to volunteer. Me being in the school, in his classroom where I don’t “belong” makes no sense to him. So I haven’t. Until this past Friday.

It was decided that I would come in just before school ended for the day, on a Friday, before spring break. I came in with the purpose of making a craft with the kiddos. An easy enough craft, achievable for all the ability levels of his classroom to complete with minimal assistance. I brought all materials and looked forward to seeing all the kiddos in his classroom that I’ve already gotten to know. This was our craft l (thank you to whomever tweeted link).

One excited boy did all that he could before making his way to a swing for comfort. Another boy made it all the way through, enjoying the project and doing an amazing job. Other kiddos were off enjoying the end of the day doing other activities in other rooms. J melted.

The instant he saw me, he broke down. The best inquiries he could make were about a train he believed I should have brought him, fresh and new from a store, or where the blue dragon was. There was no interest in the project which held two of his favorite things, rainbows and things that flutter in the breeze.

The melting lasted for the 40 minutes I was there. The walk to the car. A drive to try to calm him. While picking up his siblings and making our way home. He melted for 2 hours….because I came into his classroom…at a time where I didn’t ‘belong’ there…to do a project…without a train or dragon.

I think we still have work to do.

(Photo By: LexnGer / Flickr)

Email Author    |    Website About Gina

Gina St. Aubin is a mother of 3, one diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, PDD-NOS, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Landau-Kleffner Syndrome (a rare epileptic disorder causing verbal aphasia) . A former Victim's Advocate turned advocate for those with intellectual and physical challenges, Gina believes being a 'Special Parent' means to discover, embrace, educate, advocate, encourage, treasure and laugh.

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1 KDL March 22, 2011 at 4:50 pm

This is a tough one. My daughter was the same way until this year. I think for her it was confusing because she wasn’t sure who was “in charge” if both teacher and Mommy were in the room. Things started changing last year. I don’t know if it was because she started noticing that other kids’ parents were there helping or what, but she started to want me to be there. This year I am able to volunteer once a week for about an hour in her class. It is a very behind the scenes job, still, but one that I enjoy and it lets me see how she is handling everything at school, though obviously “tweaked” a little since I am there, but usually in a good way. I hope eventually your son will also understand and enjoy you being there. I wonder if a social story could help?

2 Amanda Daybyday March 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm

My daughter does the same thing. If I’m at the school and her class walks down the hallway, I have to hide.

3 Gina March 23, 2011 at 12:17 pm

LOL. I remember making quick dashes for the other hallway.

4 Tammie March 22, 2011 at 8:32 pm

My son is visually impaired. But knew i was there even if I didn’t talk. I’d have to try to be very quiet or hide out in the back. Try not to interupt his day. There was a time, when I was looking for a job, and I was up for a position at his school. I wasn’t sure how that would work out. Because I couldn’t sub in his class & during play time with other classrooms, that’d be rough for him too. His head would whip around if he heard anything from me or if he knew i was there, but taking to long to get him. sort of humorous but sort of sad too. would have loved a “spy glass wall” to watch the happenings in the class. But now we homeschool, so I’m sure if we ever had to return to school…that would confuse the heck out of him now. Hang in there, you never know the difference some time will make. Changes happen, but not always over night.

5 Gina March 28, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Thanks for sharing Tammie. So warming that he knew you were there even when you were trying to be sneaky.

6 Laurie March 23, 2011 at 2:33 am

Girl, that’s tough. I feel rejected emotionally, because mentally I know the truth in those moments. Is there some way you can feel a part of his education without being seen by him? I have a daughter who had that same kind of rigidity with huge meltdowns due to change. So thankful she has grown out of it and her medications are stabilized more now!

7 Gina March 28, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Laurie~ Good idea. I wonder if I can be… but at the same time, he’ll likely have to get used to it as his younger siblings will come into the school soon and I’d like to be able to come in and participate with them.

8 Janet March 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm

One of the things one of our middle schools has done so parents can observe their children in the special ed environment is to set up Skype. The parent sits in a principals office (w/ a principal) and they are able to observe their child and the class is not disturbed.

9 Gina March 28, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Janet~ REALLY?!?!? What a GREAT idea. I think I’ll have to run that one by the school. Thank you!

10 Janet March 29, 2011 at 10:21 am

YES! 🙂

Let us know if it works out.

11 Coral Bentley March 23, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I volunteer in the library, putting away books for an hour a week. If I’m near my kids, they don’t look to anyone else for their socialization, just me – and that means they’re not practicing social skills, not practicing speech, not learning more about how to cope in the classroom. So, I just go somewhere else to do my volunteering, and I’m still in a fair place to hear occasional gossip. The other thing I do is volunteer to cut paper and such for the teacher. It’s not in the school, but the teacher at least knows I’m putting in effort for her.

12 Gina March 28, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Coral~ Thank you. The teacher doesn’t necessarily want me to do things like that… I don’t think. Very odd in a way, but I take it as she’s self-sufficient and quite honestly, comes from another state where parents (apparently) are not quite as involved? The gossip part is so important. Without your child’s voice, not being able to know anything that’s going on in the school is difficult. I may try volunteering elsewhere.

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