Surreality Bites

(I can show you the teeth marks)

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Wednesday – Boys of Summer
Lots of little things have been going on in recent weeks. School let out. Sweet Pea has attended birthday parties and done well at them. Things with the babysitter are going well. On a personal level, my father is not doing well and I am not sure how much longer I will have him. And then there is the cruise in July that I should be looking forward to but am dreading. I have plenty to write about, just no time. I’ll start with the end of Kindergarten. I’ll try to take up the other topics in the coming days.

Kindergarten began with a scream (or rather, knockdown, drag out tantrums that resulted in overturned furniture and bite marks) but ended calmly. He did good at all the farewell festivities. No one has been bit for months now (I can’t recall – since Christmas?), and it’s been awhile since he punched anyone in the stomach for “bothering him.” He has attended two birthday parties in the last 2 months, one a month before school let out and one two weeks after, and did well at both of them. These parties were for the two other boys in his class who have “issues,” Jack and Christian. They live in the same neighborhood as each other, which is a few miles and a whole different world away from our own neighborhood.

My neighborhood is not shabby. It has nice houses on large lots. Some are two storied houses, most are one, but they are pleasant and attractive. We have lots of trees and a duck pond and a playground. There are worse places to live. And there are far better ones, I've discovered, just a few short miles away.

Seeing the houses in the gated subdivision these children live in helped me understand why my son’s school is able to fund the outstanding special education program they have been able to provide: there is a very good tax base in some of these gated subdivisions that I had previously only seen from the outside of the gate. The lots each of these houses were on would hold half a dozen houses in most subdivisions. The houses were beautiful. When I put my purse down next to the purses of the other moms, it became very obvious to me that I bought my purse at Target and it looks like it came from Target, too. I don’t know where their bags came from because I am not a fashion junkie, but they looked very expensive and well-made next to my $26 bag. I've got to start shopping the sales at better stores.

No wonder these families could afford to pay a specialist out of pocket to get autism spectrum diagnoses for their sons, whereas the not-so-impressive expert I could see for a $30 co pay told me my child is just plain nuts. Okay, so she didn’t use the words “nuts,” she just recommended we try anti-psychotic drugs (which are used to treat people who are mentally ill).

Christian’s diagnosis is PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified). I can see his autism pretty clearly. His eyes tend to focus on the whole room at once, and because he sees everything he may as well see nothing. He has trouble moderating the sound of his voice due to auditory processing issues. He is noticeably different than his peers.

Jack’s diagnosis is Asperger’s Syndrome, and his behaviors are almost an exact parallel to Sweet Pea’s. Talking to Jack’s mother, I was astounded at how much our sons have in common, with two big exceptions: Jack does not have Sweet Pea’s “rule rigidity,” where everything must be just so or else there is going to be major freakoutage, and Jack forms attachments to other children whereas Sweet Pea does not. My son is a little island unto himself; he likes to be where other children are playing, but he usally doesn't want to play with them. On the occasion when he does, he comes on a bit too strong and gets angry if they reject him. Jack likes Sweet Pea and talks about him at home all the time (I guess he is drawn to this kindred spirit so like himself). Sweet Pea, on the other hand, claims to have friends but rarely talks about another child by name. He does not form bonds with other children. When other kids solicit him for friendship and play, he does not seem to read their signals.Jack freaks him out, because Jack “does things he shouldn’t.” Jack screams and runs around the room and doesn’t sit still at circle time – in short, he acts like Sweet Pea. Apparently my son is the sort of guy who does not want to belong to any club that would accept him as a member.

Jack and Sweet Pea are supposed to have the same first grade teacher next year. I hope that Sweet Pea will eventually accept the friendship that Jack is offering him. I think it would do them both a lot of good. It would do me some good to see him form a bond with another child, too. It would nice if that child, like Jack, has a mother that can accept my son's behaviors with a shrug because her child does the same thing. What a relief it was to be at the homes of such mothers, even if their purses were a lot nicer than my own.

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Jack sounds like a mini version of favoriteson. Sadly, favoriteson is too old for any benefit from a diagnosis of Aspergers to help him in any way, as it is not like being diabetic or even bipolar, as things like that are conditions where there is a specific medication to control the symptoms.

If the Autism spectrum was rated on a scale of 0 to 10, with zero being a typical child and 10 being the child who sits in the corner and rocks all day, I would put Jack and Sweet Pea both at a 1 or a 2. Or I would put Jack at a 1 and Sweet Pea at a 2. There is just a whisper of something different about them. My own kid brother (who would also be classified as Aspergers if he were still a child and who self identifies as Aspergers) I would put at a 4 or a 5.

Jack and Sweet Pea are almost asymptomatic at home; they make eye contact with people they know but not strangers. I think they will adapt and become functional adults; it's just that the social skills that come naturally to most children are an acquired skill for these boys.

"Apparently my son is the sort of guy who does not want to belong to any club that would accept him as a member."

ROTFLOL! I think that particular trait is genetic.

Just that our family likes to bitch about each other for much the same reasons across the board. NONE of us would join a club that would have any of us as members... and most tend to shun family gatherings for much the same reason. The funny thing is, compared with a lot of other families, the Hardings are actually pretty functional and well-adjusted... which says an awful lot about society today.

Points, questions and observations
Does the funding for special ed come from your specific district or the state? A lot of it is federally funded so I am surprised that the tax base in a specific district would made a difference in sp ed programs. Personally I think a lot of the differences come from how enlightened the superintendent is to have innovative programs.

There are lots of good experts at all price points. Find someone else that will give you more insight. On the other hand, what difference does it really make? Really? Sweet Pea is sweet pea and if his school program is good, and it sounds like it is, than he will get the benefit of the latest methods.

Jack and Christian and Sweet Pea will all be functioning adults. The problem is they have to get through childhood, with all the labels, attitudes and social stages and changes. Ugh. Keep your eye on the prize.

If you want a nicer purse, than by all means shop the sales. If you want to carry a purse from target, then by all means do that.

I was surprised to find out this year that the per-student spending in our district is some of the highest in the region; schools are funded out of property taxes here. Poor neighborhoods = crappy schools. Even with the so-called "Robin Hood bill" that was passed some 20 years ago under the late, great Anne Richards, this is still pretty much the case.

Even worse, Texas is trying to starve it's schools right now because tax revenues are down. Funding is being cut across the board. Our district is not laying off any teachers (this year, at least), but most of the districts around me are. Lot of them. Class sizes are increasing in the Fall. And if money gets any tighter, the first kids who are going to suffer are the ones who need extra help. Para educators are expensive. Having a team of people to remove a volatile child from the classroom until he calms down is more expensive than calling him a discipline problem and sending him home. I don't want to have to start dragging around a copy of section 504 of the No Child Left Behind Act when I visit the school, which is exactly what a friend of my stepmother had to do in a district 20 miles to the East of me when the school there refused to provide services for her severely autistic grandson. Money talks in most places; in Texas, it shouts.

Usually I don't care that my purse comes from Target; it's just a bag that I put stuff in; a stuff-holder with a shoulder strap. I only get self-conscious when I set it down somewhere and see that it is literally surrounded by purses that cost as much as my car. o_O

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