Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mama's Confession

Jenn here. I know many of you moms had a meltdown when your kids first started kindergarten. I didn't. She had been in preschool and it didn't feel any different dropping her off in kindergarten than it did for preschool. I was fine when she went to elementary. I was fine when she went to intermediate school (5th & 6th).

But Middle School was the kicker!

I knew she wouldn't be coddled and cared for in the same way. She would have to keep up with her class schedule, get to her classes on time without getting lost, remember her locker number, the combo, etc. She has to remember which days she has gym and which days she has her electives. You see, my daughter has special needs and I'm lost right now. I don't know how well the adaptions we and the intermediate school taught her will work with this new challenge of Middle School.

Who am I kidding? Middle School is hard for kids who do NOT have special needs!

I got in the car on that first day and had a major parent (mama) meltdown. Really, I'm not kidding. I didn't have enough Kleenex in the car and resorted to napkins in the glove compartment. I felt like I was throwing my baby out there to the wolves.

My husband wrote on his Facebook page: First day back to school......she was worried, confused, emotional and this was just the least the kid was calm!

The next day we had an early morning meeting (like 6:30 AM) with her homeroom teacher to discuss Celina's IEP (Individualized Education Plan). That made me feel a little better. All I needed to know was that someone there understood my daughter and her needs. 

As for Celina, she breezed through the first day of school and the next two days as calm as could be. I'm still uptight and frazzled. I'm like a mother hen protecting her little chick. Soon I will settle down. My husband keeps telling me she will be fine, but we've been married too long for me not to know he has his own concerns. 

People have been telling me to get involved in a support group for parents with special needs kids. I think I'm ready. I don't know how to squeeze something like that into my already burdened schedule, but I'm going to try. I've made some phone calls to start the process. 

I think it is hard because she doesn't have a learning disability. She has delayed development from her seizure disorder from infancy, so I keep hearing she will outgrow some of her issues. There is that hope, and then you wonder if you're in denial when you see the continuing struggles. 

Will God use us, Celina and I, to minister to other parents and their special needs kids? She has such a heart for babies and little kids. She tells me she doesn't mind talking about it, that her friends will either accept her as she is or they won't and they aren't real friends. As long as she isn't embarrassed or ashamed, I think there is no limit to what God can do with her experience in her life.

What does all of this have to do with writing? Not much, except our personal experiences have a way of mingling with our writing. The heroine in Highland Sanctuary has a seizure disorder in spite of the fact that it is set in 1477 Scotland. I couldn't help myself. She's named after my daughter. 

A wonderful novel that combines two stories of a contemporary romance with an historical romance that includes a school with children with disabilities is Mareen Lang's On Sparrow Hill. If you haven't read this book, it is wonderful and very unique in the way she weaves it and lays it out. 

What are your experiences with special needs children or those with disabilities?


  1. Hey Jenn, your emotional pain squeezes through your words. Oh, I can feel them!

    We've been blessed. 4 babies, all preemies... I never carried one into the ninth month. Yet God breathed life into them and matured their lungs. None stayed longer than 3 wks in NICU. All are healthy to this day. Praise

    In high school, I volunteered at the local Kinsmen Club and learned beautiful brilliant minds hide in a bodies that don't function perfectly.

    And in our local school of 200 kids, one student needed 24/7 care. A 20 yr old quadaplegic with mental disabilities, she attended the school since K. Every recess and lunch break, a student was scheduled to push her wheelchair around the school and grounds. She communicated what she liked and what she didn't! She died 2 yrs ago and the students cried at her memorial service. She taught the students compassion, tolerance and patience.

    The school now has 2 kids with mental disabilities who need their own personal aids. And, we have one paraplegic who is sent to detention for speeding in the halls. He actually does wheelies when he thinks he can get away with it. 

    Regardless of what I dislike about the current educational adm, I like their policy toward handicapped students.

    Great post!

    Anita Mae     

  2. Jenn,

    My own children don't have disabilities, but I'm a teacher of students with disabilities on the high school level (and my brother had a learning disability)so I do understand your fears. Though my experience is to teach them how to move into the world, I also worry about my students, especially those who've chosen a hard path to reach their dreams and goals. But, don't we hall have rocky paths that lead to our own dreams and goals?

    It's hard to let go of your children no matter their physical condition. Pray and trust God that the teachers He puts in Celina's life will care for her and do what's best for her in the school setting. That doesn't mean she'll be treated like home because she's in a place of learning. But the challenges can be presented by those who care, and there are adults who will take care to help her learn to solve her problems, such as teasing and learning.

    My best piece of advice to you would be to take an active part in the school. Volunteer if you can and look for ways to help the teacher, even if it's to send in snacks for a class party. Those parents who are involved make it easier for the teacher to keep in touch and establishes your child's best interest in their classroom.

    If you ever need to blow off steam, you can blow my won't be anything I haven't heard before (probably).

  3. My wife has been a special education teacher for over 30 years. She has had every kind of special needs child. Right now she has 9 autistic children who can explode at any time and go very violent. She must carry a walkie-talkie at all times to alert techs who rush in to control the violence. It is one of the hardest teaching jobs there is. The whole situation is so sad. Often she has nothing left when she gets home and she can’t see how a mother can face the same situation
    situation 24/7 – “they must be saints.”

    Often the special needs child has major family problems. Many of the parents don’t care or have given up. Many are living with grandparents. Many are in fatherless homes. The fathers just couldn’t take it. To have a parent who is there for the child and who cares is a true blessing for the child. She will even have a child call me at work to tell me about something good the child has done in class. Evidently the child had no one at home who would care. The child is so happy to talk to me it’s just heartbreaking. I always ask for a picture.

    It is also a great help for the teacher to know the parents and know that the parents are supportive.

    A support group may be a big help but support groups are like writing critique groups. Some are very good and some are not so good. If a group is not helpful, move on.

    I also think that a strong belief in a loving God is a great help. Acceptance in a youth church group can do wonders. But nothing is better than having loving parents.

    I am looking forward to reading“Highland Sanctuary” now more than ever. But I’m really looking forward to a very heartwarming “A Highland Christmas”. I see it in my mind's eye: a little square hardbound book, 160 pages long, with an injured falcon playing a role in the story. Just wait and see. :


  4. Oh, Jenn, i know it has to be difficult. I would feel the same way. But I'm sure there are wonderful teachers who'll watch out for her and help her.

    I'll tell you what I've learned after having 3 children go through middle school (one is still there)...anyone who works with that age group and stays there for a while really cares about the kids. I think special ed teachers are saints. But I also think regular classroom middle school teachers are as well! I'm sure Celina is in good hands.

  5. Anita,

    Four preemies! That must have been a little scary. Celina tried to come early and I spent three months on bedrest. She was 5lbs 10oz at full term, but then lost down to 4lbs. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Diana, I also have a brother with a learning disability. His choices haven't been great ones. My parents tried, but he was stubborn.

    Is it true that colleges, even community colleges, won't accept an IEP Diploma? Will she still be able to go to a community college if she takes remedial classes?

    I would love to be more involved, but my full-time job is so far away. I've volunteered for some things like to be a parent chaperone on field trips, to speak on career day, to donate extra supplies, etc.

    Thank you for your advice!

  7. Vince,
    I'm so thankful that Celina isn't violent. She's so sweet and calm. If she gets frustrated, she'll just sit and cry--quietly, which happens often during homework.

    My main goal is to build up her self-esteem and confidence. I want to empower her to do things on her own.

    I feel bad for those special needs children who do not have family support. My husband is so good to her. He helps her with homework, takes her swimming, and has days when they will do fun stuff like go to Carowinds, movies, etc. I do the same thing. On July 4th she and I went to Carowinds--just the two of us. I don't have as many days free as my hubby as I work for a company, but one day...

    The church thing has been a huge disappointment. We have visited about 20 churches in our area and she hasn't quite fit in with any youth groups. We thought we would let her mature a bit and try again. In the meantime, we have our family Bible studies at home and and praise and worship together. Like in the old days when families lived too far from a church. When she gets a little older, I want to take her to the Women of Faith Conferences.

  8. Missy,
    I don't know what I would do without you Faith ladies to blow off steam and send panicky emails to. I remember a few years ago when Celina tried to cut her own nails and made her fingers bleed. I was heartbroken for her, but we got past that and she cuts her nails fine. I know in my heart she will be fine in Middle School and High School, but I still have the slight fears (ok bit fears) of what she'll have to endure to get through it.

    I believe it is very hard for parents to let their kids go, but I think it is even harder on parents who have kids with special needs. The challenges (and risks) seem so much greater.

    Bless you all!

  9. Jenn,

    In the state of GA a special education diploma is really like a certificate of attendance. So this diploma is not really a diploma even though the certificate carries that name. Check into the NC law (or ask her counselor/case manager in high school) before agreeing to allow your daughter to pursue this diploma type. The best course of action in high school is to try for the Career Tech diploma and work on getting the credits she needs for that diploma type which will allow her to at least go to a two year school (and later transfer should she want to continue her education)if she is able.

    Going on fieldtrips, donating supplies, and speaking on special days are all perfect ways to help out. It leaves the teacher free to teach, but makes it easier for them to organize those special events for the class. The teacher will remember that you've been there to help and Celina will carry a pride with her that you care enough to volunteer to be there.

  10. Dianna,

    I've never heard of the Career Tech Diploma. Thank you so much for telling me! This info is sort of the kind of thing I was seeking parental support groups for. I need to know available options for stuff like this.

  11. Jenn,

    I'll be glad to answer any questions you have about the public school system if I can. Just email me or call me and we can talk about whatever your fears may be. (Or catch me at the conference. I'm so excited I get to go this year!)