Today marks exactly one week since school started for my now 4th grader, at her very first public elementary school. She attended kindergarten where she went to pre-school, being the oldest group in the building, which was basically a charter school, yet I paid the same tuition. She began 1st Grade at a local parochial school as I resided in a failing school district. 1st grade is when we got the ADHD diagnosis. After a whirlwind of medication craziness, I finally followed my instincts and saw a psychiatrist, who listened to me, who seemed to genuinely like kids, and didn't blame me or her for anything that was going on. He didn't ask me dumb questions like the pediatrician did, making me feel like I didn't feed her enough veggies and this is why we have ADHD. In 1st grade her small school at least had a psychologist on staff who wrote her first 504 Plan, did classroom observations, interacted with her at least once a week and in general made me feel better about where she was. Then she left the staff for personal reasons and she was never replaced. Supposedly there was a "counselor" on staff but when I emailed him with concerns he acted like I was insane. For 2nd grade her plan was never formally reviewed or updated. I continued to get the same notes meeting after meeting, email after email, report card after another. "Abbey is bright but she won't stop chatting. Abbey needs to slow down and listen. Abbey gives me a dirty look when I try to re-direct her. Abbey pouts." (Are you kidding me?!) I began 3rd grade with a new resolve. I consulted with friends and teachers, I did a ridiculous amount of research on ADHD, executive function disorder, classroom adaptations and 504 accommodations. I went in with a revised plan, her test scores. I relayed my concerns in an orderly manner and I did my best. I always followed up, asked questions, resolved everything I could and did my best to help her thrive. All the while thinking that this was just borderline ridiculous. Why am I paying 4K yearly for my child to come home and feel stupid and tell me she isn't smart, because she is constantly reprimanded for her behavior, small little personality ticks that she can't control, that are suppose to be handled in the 504 Plan; (which isn't really a 504 since its not public school and written by me).
We knew we needed to move and we simply resolved to do so in a district that was good. We ultimately found a house just 5 miles away from our old one, but in the neighborhood where several of Abbey's friends live and in the heart of all our activities including dance.
On the first day of school office hours I set up a meeting with the school psychiatrist and her teachers. When I arrived, both teachers on her "team" (they switch classes, have 4 classrooms per grade) the psychiatrist and the assistant principal were ready for the meeting. (The assistant principal!!!) Essentially they let me lead the meeting, expressing my concerns, they all took notes, asked questions about her transcripts, lack of updated 504s and noted my copies looked very different than what the old school sent. I suggested they simply start from scratch with her 504 Plan. I stressed that I still wanted one in place, so that its established for the next year and for junior high, but that I am confident that this new environment might entail items already in her previous plan, that might just be standard protocol here. I have zero experience with public schools, since I last attended and was neuro-typical. All 4 of them were so awesome and reassuring I cried tears of joy and relief when I got back to my car. I did alert them about the issue she had with the child at her summer care program, who is a student at this school. (The issue was they had an altercation and he put his hand down her shorts and underwear, I filed a police report as the facility didn't do anything disciplinary with the kid). She was set to be in the same homeroom with him so they immediately moved her. The assistant principal also noted that if this child touched her in anyway he would be removed from the school. I was elated.
I'm glad they did move her homeroom as she just loves her homeroom teacher. He is a huge superhero nerd, and she was adamant she wear her Wonder Woman tank top to school so she could be "on his super wall." I have emailed him a few times in this past week and he responds immediately and is always very enthusiastic. He told me right away Abbey was doing well (even though I didn't ask) and he thinks this school is a great fit for her an her needs. Again...tears! I had to email this morning as Abbey had a rough time falling asleep, told me she was worried about seeing this boy, because he had tried to talk to her a few times, and they all had a "social skills" lesson about being polite and saying hi to people etc. I reassured her that this didn't apply to him, and she is under no obligation to socialize with him, and she can just walk away and ignore him. And if he seems aggressive she can tell someone right away. Its my understanding that this child was held back at least one year and has a long disciplinary history as it is.
Last night I laid awake questioning if we did the right thing enrolling here here where this boy also goes to school. I wrestle with this so much, ever since it happened. She seemed to have completely forgotten about this incident shortly after it happened, and she was very excited to attend this school with her friends, but then she remembered he was there, and while she was still excited, she started bringing up the incident more often. This happened almost 1.5 years ago at this point. I know that she is 100% safe, its just so hard to calm her anxiety. I spend most of my waking moments filled with anxiety about what could happen to her or me every single moment, its why I take meds. It allows me to listen to my logical calm side instead of my anxieties. In the end, based on my email correspondence with her homeroom teacher this morning, I am sure we are where we should be for Abbey's needs. I just have to keep reassuring her she is safe and she doesn't owe anyone, especially a boy she doesn't like, a "hello" or even a nod.
Enjoy the first day photo shoot pics we took..... It's so hard because I just know in my heart that Josie should be standing next to her, ready to begin her fifth grade year, oldest kids in the school, getting ready for junior high. So many things would be different if Josie were alive and well. Most of the time I try not to think about it but big moments and milestones make it so hard to forget Her shadow is always there, reminding me of a life too short, a sister without her playmate, and a mom of just one.
Planning her 1st Day Outfit
Front Porch Photo Shoot
I am SO glad to read that your mtg went well. It's so important that the school keep open communication and has a plan in place that everyone is following. Yay for an awesome Homeroom Teacher! Sometimes it only takes one teacher to make or break a school experience for both parent and student. I am so living that right now:) It sounds like the school will be very observant of everyone now that they are more aware. Keep checking in with everyone in between those progress report periods (daily/weekly if necessary). I wish you both a great school year and awesome dance recitals!
I am glad that everything is going well for her, and you. I love the sass in the first porch photo shoot picture :)
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