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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Feeling angry

Summer school is still making Janey happy, and I am happy with her teacher and aides. What I am not happy with is the way the school system is allocating resources to the children.

Janey's class now has about 9 kids. You might say---9 kids, a teacher and 2 aides---fine. Well, these are nine kids with quite severe special needs. I don't know everyone's story, and it's not my place to, but I suspect most of them are somewhere on the autistic spectrum. They are all about 5-6 years old. That means---they can do little for themselves. Even regular kids that age can't, but kids that are only somewhat if at all verbal, that are not inclined to follow directions, that need guidance and help every step of the way, to say nothing of desperately needing extra teaching---there is no way anyone can do that with 9 kids. I stayed today for breakfast---only one aide was there, the rest were getting more kids at the bus. She had 5 kids to take care of and give breakfast to. She is wonderful, but that is too many kids. All of them needed food opened, needed reminding to use utensil, to keep their hands to themselves, to not take off their shoes and throw them (Janey). One little boy told me in a tiny voice he didn't feel good, that he was scared. Another was very upset I opened his milk in a way he didn't like---I'm sure he has a routine for everything. Some ate, some didn't eat. One boy ate so eagerly the whole room was covered with spills, as well as all his clothes. And that was only a part of the class. I felt awful leaving when all the teachers got there, but that is why I am sending Janey---to get a little break.

And the room itself? Terrible. Broken tables, dirty floors, a hallway outside the door that is insanely unsafe, stairwells from some hellish dream. These are not elementary school rooms. They came with no toys, no books. The teacher brought some and I have brought in some. I saw after a few days the toys were like the Toy Story 3 toys---kids go through toys fast, and autistic kids even faster---they bit toys. Why shouldn't these kids have a class in any of the 50 or more elementary schools in the city? Why shouldn't they have a basic set of books and toys aimed at their needs? Why do we give them the dregs?

And there is money being spent like crazy on this program---money for about 20 buses, all with monitors, money for a huge amount of staff, money for air conditioning, breakfasts, lunches. There must be a better way. They could take that money and divide it up and let every child attend some kind of specialized camp---one already set up with toys and books and workers. They could provide respite care for parents to be able to have their kids at home in the summer and not go insane. They could buy every kid an iPad. They could do a lot of things. I'm sure I don't understand all the regulations, the restrictions, the rules. But I look at what the teachers and aides are given to work with, and I feel for them.

So, Janey is happy there. She likes noise, confusion, activity. She likes to be out of the house. She likes the nice cold air conditioning. And I think she likes being among other kids that are a little like herself. I don't know how much she understands, but she must sense at school that she is not like most of the other kids. She must spend a lot of the day confused by what is being done. Here, I think she gets it. She gets kids with their own issues. She likes it that she's not the only one running around, jumping up and down, making odd noises. And that too is making me think a lot. Her inclusion school has millions of books, toys and materials. Would it have less if the kids were all special needs kids? Kids that are sent to school on the bus because perhaps their parents don't have cars? Kids that aren't going to go home and complain, because they don't have the words to do so? I would like to hope that has nothing to do with it, but I am not so sure.


cbgmtl said...

I feel for your situation...good luc

Catherine Wier said...

My cousin Christopher goes to a similar program and i am more like his big sister i understand the fustration and i am shocked to see this is a trend in many schools for the au. you seem like a strong wonderful mother keep your head up !