Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Son the SPED

I have had mixed success with grounding Velvet. He's barely had any friends over, and when he has, they've been a well behaved bunch. It's been pretty quiet, as a matter of fact, except for Cupcake.

Friday morning I knocked on Velvet's door before I went to work. He said, "Yeah, Mom?"
I opened the door a crack and Cupcake was hiding under the sheets. I shut the door without a word, but two days of argufying ensued the minute I got home. I'm not sure what was worse. Cupcake in the bed or the hickey on his neck. Hickeys are just dumb, if you ask me.

At first, he couldn't understand how I could be such a hard ass about Cupcake when I was relaxed about weed. Velvet thought it was a leap and twist of logic to say that by permitting Cupcake to sleep over in his bed, I might as well go ahead and buy a crib. Once I listed all the women my age he knows who have had abortions because of failed birth control methods, he started to understand.

I also reminded him that my original policy about weed, put forth during his senior year of high school, was that as long as he made good grades and stayed out of trouble, I wouldn't give him a hard time about smoking weed. To date, he has failed over half the classes he took at college, turned my kitchen into a marijuana brownie factory and gotten arrested for swiping letters off a frat house. Not to mention the photo he posted on facebook where he was wearing a gas mask bong.

If I don't take a hard line about Cupcake in the bed - when is he going to start picking up random chicks in Central Park and expecting me to make coffee?

On most levels, I'm happy for Velvet. He has loved Cupcake ever since last year when they went to the prom together, but she continued to insist that she didn't like him "that way." She seems to thrive on drama, but I can't hold that against her since I have similar tendencies. After a suitable amount of drama, she and Velvet are now officially Together.

Cupcake and Velvet at the Prom, 2009

What I can't understand is how this situation can possibly be okay with her parents - unless, of course, they are looking to marry her off. She's fully nineteen years old, after all.

To his credit, he has told Cupcake that she has to stop with the hickeys since he will soon be working, and hickeys are unprofessional. Apparently, he is not a complete moron.

With all his foolishness, it's easy to forget Velvet is profoundly ADHD. We have several evaluations to prove it. If Velvet had been to a large, mainstream high school, he would have developed compensatory skills by now - but Velvet has been in a self-contained special education environment since he was in second grade.

The students primarily had language based learning disabilities that manifested in a variety of constellations. Velvet is dyslexic with ADHD and other non-specified language based issues. With roughly 400 students K - 12, there are 12 kids in a classroom with two teachers, one of whom has always been Mastered in Special Ed. They break into smaller groups for reading and math. The entire faculty is trained in multimodal teaching techniques so that they can present the material in a variety of ways in order to complement various learning styles.

The kids show that they have comprehended the lessons not only by passing quizzes and writing essays, but also by making sculptures, films and presentations. My favorite project of theirs was back in 8th Grade when Apple came into the school and taught the kids how to make silent films for their book reports. The films were then shown at the screening room at the Apple store down in Soho. A reception followed. Velvet played the kid in The Ransom of Red Chief.

It's not like that at Tree Hugger. It may not be like that anywhere in college. Velvet scored in the 98th percentile on the ACT, he did quite well on his SATs although they weren't outstanding. He also made superior scores on the NY State Regents exams - that's how he got into engineering school in the first place. It's just that once he went to class, he couldn't process the information at all what so ever. In fact, he had a hard time finding the damn classroom.

It would be easy to get all bent out of shape at Velvet for being a partying fool and a fuck up - except that I remember how Velvet choked in first grade when the curriculum began to focus more formally on academics. We hoped that Velvet could stay in the mainstream with medication, tutoring and other supports. Then one day he dove into a pile of stuffed animals, covered his ears and pleaded for the other children to be quiet. The teacher was kind and dried his tears, and we were lucky to get him into a self-contained, special education setting.

A special ed lawyer who worked on a sliding scale guided us through the system, and a team of experts determined that the public schools did not have appropriate facilities to support Velvet's learning needs. According to the Board's Special Education team, Velvet's intensive educational needs could not be met in a public school program so he needed a state approved non-public school. Board of Ed picked up the tab or else we could never have afforded it. I believe the tuition is around $36,000/year these days, and there are typically 500 applicants for each spot. Most kids in his school get the funding because their families have the resources and the stamina to navigate the system.

Until recently, it only went up to 8th grade, but a few years ago, they added high school. I think Velvet's class was the fifth to graduate - and we're all still learning what happens when these kids get to college.

Tomorrow, I'm calling the head of school to ask for help advocating for Velvet and with arranging appropriate supports up at Tree Hugger. The good news is that Tree Hugger genuinely wants to see their students succeed, and they already have all kinds of support in place - it's just that they are designed for students who have been to mainstream high schools. As it happens, the Big Beautiful Private University that shares campus and services with Tree Hugger has a graduate program in Inclusionary Special Education for grades 7 - 12, so I'm betting we can hire a grad student to help Velvet with organizational issues.

I'm grateful to have the resources and skills to be able to manage this task - and am hoping that Velvet is taking it all as seriously as he occasionally seems to be. It's nearly impossible to use the word "seriously" when that photo of him in the gas mask bong is permanently embedded in my head - but I'm doing my best for my kid, even though he's a dip shit.

A while back, Mel Levine founded the All Kinds of Minds Institute whose mission statement says:
. . . we believe once teachers understand how students learn and put that into practice—every day, with every student—achievement gaps will close, disengaged students will decrease in number and the chronic underperformance of students in our schools will diminish.
Until college, Velvet went to a school that embraced and advocated for these beliefs. We must continue to advocate for our kids - and kids everywhere because the fact is that educational equity should not be reserved for a few privileged SPEDs.


Blogger Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Hickeys aren't so bad, as long as they are in places no one can see them.

May 16, 2010 at 7:37 PM  
Blogger PENolan said...

Sadly, these three are clearly visible. Hickeys on the neck seem like marking your territory.

May 16, 2010 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger intelliwench said...

Even though there is plenty of research to show that the current one-size-fits-all higher education model doesn't fit all, EduBusiness is painfully slow putting that research into practice. Most campuses do have learning assistance centers of some sort; after all, universities are harder pressed these days to retain customers. I mean, students.

In any case, the freshman year is undoubtedly the hardest, and I wish you all good luck with finding the programs & services that will help Velvet succeed!

May 16, 2010 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger PENolan said...

Intelli, I have confidence that it's going to work out, but it's still hard to go out on a limb to appeal the suspension of somebody who argued with you about taking down a picture of himself in a bong gas mask from facebook.

May 16, 2010 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger Life As I Know It Now said...

Have you read about or seen the newest research that links pesticide use with increased learning disabilities in children? I believe it! Why else should there be such a dramatic increase in learning disabilities in our children? There have been smaller studies which have pointed to a link between chemicals used and learning problems but this is the first large scale study to confirm these results.

May 17, 2010 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger lisahgolden said...

Okay. I mean this sincerely. Bless your heart. This parenting thing is more job than I realized. Even as young adults they still need us. (I'm looking at Chloe who has been flat on her back on front of the t.v. for half the day. Thank goodness she works tomorrow.)

May 17, 2010 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger PENolan said...

Thanks Lisa. Like everything else in life, it never stops. Today we're celebrating though because he got a 2.25 for the semester and may not even get suspended for his grades. Yippee. He starts bus boy training on Wednesday.

Liberality - I googled the research and learned that the pesticide they were looking at was developed as a neurotoxin for military use. Never used it (that we know of) as a weapon, so we ate it instead. Sheesh!

I wonder if there is a connection between pesticide ingestion and holy rolling teabaggers.

May 17, 2010 at 8:33 PM  

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