Monday, August 27, 2012

Back to School, Special Ed Version

In this country, our disabled children have a truncated vacation compared to the non-disabled (2 weeks). 

Nevertheless, showering C. at home during that period has been debilitating. Normally she has hydrotherapy at school 3x/week which means showers-at-school on those days.

I was excited to learn that C.'s class will have a new teacher. The one we have endured for the last 2 years was way beyond a disappointment. She was often out of the classroom, was aloof from the children, dressed in party clothes for work and seemed intent on keeping herself  
“dolled up” right  through to the last minute of her shift.

She did have one forte – I’m not entirely clear on how this benefited her students, though. She was an avid SMSer. Parents received warm texted greetings before every single festival.

I brought C. to school later and later every day as the last year progressed. It had become nothing but a babysitting service.

I am the only parent in the school who brings her child (we live a 3 minute's walk away; everybody else arrives by school bus. Some children are on the road for three hours/day.) 

Nevertheless, the teacher never found the time or inclination to discuss my daughter with me when we met. Nor did she call me even once during the last 2 years.

So it was understandably uplifting to receive a phone call from the new teacher. He is young and eager and invited me to describe C. He is also utterly inexperienced with the profoundly disabled. I took the liberty of discussing with him the distinction between C and the other children in the class - who are severe, but not profound.

By the way, are any of you as frustrated as I am over the rampant professional ignorance of the unique needs of the profoundly disabled as distinct from the "merely" severely-affected children?

For instance, I pointed out to the new teacher that group activities are an utter waste of time for C. She needs intensive one-on-one work. And repetition to the umpteenth degree. Needless to say, the budgetary constraints here don't permit that. But it's the only way to reach my child, and, I presume, other profoundly disabled children.

The new teacher informed me of a reshuffling of the students. Since three of C’s current classmates are leaving (don’t know to where), three others will be transferred in from her old class. They are all as profoundly affected as C. I’m not really sure whether this is a plus or minus for us but it certainly increases the new teacher’s hurdles. I warned him that he’s in for a “challenging” year. How’s that for a gentle euphemism? And wished him lots of strength. 

Today was the first day of school for everybody in this country. In past years, children with disabilities began school earlier than the rest but opening day for the non-disabled has been pushed up from September 1.

The new teacher was as warm and involved in person as he sounded on the phone. The occupational therapist who will be working with C. was also in the room when I arrived. I was impressed with her inquisitiveness about C and her eagerness to combine forces with me.  It was like landing on another planet – a disabled-friendly one.

Oh, and another happy surprise: C. received hydrotherapy! What a pleasure to see that look of bliss that engulfs her the moment she hits the water.

Lest you and your child were also blessed with an easy return to school, here is a NYTimes article that should jolt you back to harsh reality.


Assault: Children With Disabilities Are More Likely to Be Victims of Violence, Analysis Shows

July 16, 2012 | By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.

Children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to be victims of violence than other children, according to a new report commissioned by the World Health Organization.

The report, published in The Lancet on Thursday, found that disabled children were 3.6 times more likely to be physically assaulted and 2.9 times more likely to be sexually assaulted. The most common victims of sexual assault were those with mental illness or retardation, and institutionalized children were attacked more often than those living at home.

Last week’s report was a meta-analysis of 17 other studies that collectively gathered evidence on 18,374 children, all of them living in wealthy countries, from the United States to Europe to Israel. About 3 percent of children in rich countries and up to 6 percent in poor ones have disabilities. “Physical violence” included threats and spanking that left marks on the skin. A study published about 10 years ago estimated that 53,000 children under age 18 are murdered each year.

Dr. Etienne Krug, the director of the W.H.O. department of violence and injury prevention, said that strategies that have proven to protect other children should be studied for the disabled. Among these are training for violence-prone parents and home visits by nurses to children at risk.

An accompanying editorial also touched on mentally ill adults, saying public fear of them should be redirected to “increased awareness of, and compassion towards, these individuals as victims of violence.”

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