All the talk among my mom friends lately has been preschool. Although LM has technically already started in a two’s program, I don’t know if it can actually be called “school” until he hits the age of three. Plus, the facility he’s currently at is labeled a “preschool alternative,” whatever that means.
So, my Facebook feed is now taken up with questions about preschools, how to select them, which are the “best” and which are recommended by other moms. Some moms are very interested in “curriculum,” others that the kids be allowed enough time for free play. When I read the hilarious satire on the criteria parents look for in preschools, It’s Preschool Open House Season, Motherf**kers, I could help but laugh. (Other moms didn’t seem to find it funny.)
But maybe mine was just jealous laughter. Because LM is deaf/hard of hearing (what exactly am I supposed to call it? That’s a subject for another post), he qualifies for free preschool. FREE, you say? Amazing!
Sort of. Yes, it’s cool we won’t have to pay for preschool (although we did have to shell out thousands for his hearing aids, not to mention his therapists, doctors and audiologists). But we also don’t get much of a choice of where he goes.
This is how it works: As LM transitions out of the early intervention system, we meet with the school district. His EI team makes recommendations for what kind of accommodations are needed for an appropriate learning environment. The school district either says they can meet them or they can’t, in which case they will send LM out of district to a more appropriate school.
Through early intervention, LM has recently started at a school for the deaf, in addition to his “alternative preschool.” I wish this had happened months ago, but again, that’s a subject for another post. This school is awesome. He gets to see and socialize with other kids with hearing aids and cochlear implants. He gets to be taught how to listen, speak and interact with his environment in a setting geared for his needs. His teachers are all specially trained to work with kids who have hearing loss.
The school district’s teachers, on the other hand, aren’t. They lump all the “special ed” kids together in one class. Maybe they have an FM system, in which the teacher wears a microphone so the sound can go directly to LM’s hearing aids. Maybe they consider that sufficient.
But it’s not.
I get why they wouldn’t want to send LM out of district. It costs money. And maybe I’m selling the district short — I haven’t toured their facilities yet so I don’t actually know what they offer. But my initial thought is that LM doesn’t belong in a class with kids who have mental disabilities. LM’s disability is physical. Yes, it affects the way he learns. But I don’t want him lumped in as “special ed.”
I’m not trying to be snobbish about this. I understand that each kid has individual needs and that there is nothing wrong with being considered “special ed.” I just don’t want that for my kid.
So what do I do? I might have a fight ahead of me. I might need to hire an advocate or a lawyer if the district stonewalls me. I might be labeled as the “problem parent” for the rest of his school career, when and if he does mainstream in district.
I just want the best for LM. I want him taught appropriately with other kids who are like him. He’s different, yes, but his disability is one that can be overcome. He will be able to live a full, independent life—if he gets the proper education.
So while other parents are worried about curriculum and picking the best preschool (I’m reminded of that scene from Baby Boom in which a mom is devastated her son didn’t get into one top preschool, and therefore has lost all hope for a good college), my challenges are very different. It’s hard for me, as a competitive person, to take myself out of the race and feel comfortable on another track for my son’s education. But comfortable or not, I don’t have a choice.
It’s Transition to Special Ed Preschool, Motherf**kers.
Do you have any special challenges to face with your children? How do you accept them?