Saturday, February 23, 2013

Anna, if you're out there...

Anna, if you're out there, please come home.

Anna, if you're out there, please call someone just to let them know that you're ok.

Anna, if you're out there, don't be afraid to come back.

Anna, if you're out there, know that your family and friends are worried sick.

Anna, if you're out there, don't do anything that cannot be undone.

Anna, if you're out there, know that life is worth living.

Anna, if you're out there, realize that you have talents and gifts that the world needs.

Anna, if you're out there, you have so many people who care about you, and just want to help.

Anna, if you're out there, know that there is nothing so bad that you cannot get over it or move on.

Anna, if you're out there, know that your family, friends, acquaintances and total strangers are praying for you.

Anna, if you're out there, realize that we all feel helpless right now.

Anna, if you're out there, we're all afraid you're already gone.

Anna, if you're out there, please come home.

If you know where Anna may be, please read this.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Perfect Valentine

Even though I may not come across this way (like with a lead-in statement like that), I have low self-esteem. I seem to be in need of constant affirmation. Frankly, it's probably part of why I write this blog. It's really not healthy, and I'm not sure why I seek the attention.  So, one would think that in a life partner or spouse, I would pick someone who swoons all over me, is constantly showering me with attention and lavish gifts and puts me on a pedestal.  Right?  Nope, wrong.  My husband of eleven years is the opposite.  He is not overly complementary.  Or even outwardly complementary. And, if I ask him, "Does this make me look fat?"  his answer is usually yes.  And to clarify, it's usually because, if I'm asking him in the first place, then I know it does not look good, and he is honest.  The best response I can usually get out of him is "Meh, looks fine."  (Oh dear lord, how I hate the word fine!)

Sometimes, I wish my husband made grand, sweeping, romantic gestures.  But that is not who he is.  And I know that.  But, every so often, I find myself day dreaming, and then I get all pissed off at him for not living up to my over-inflated expectations.  It would be like him getting pissed that he's not coming home to Donna Reed or Martha Stewart or Adriana Lima.  I'm not them, either.

After all these years, I still feel bah-humbuggy on Valentine's Day.  I've given up the romantic dreams, and tried to minimize disappointment about my husband not going over the top for me by not going over the top for him.  This year, all I got him was a card and a small box of chocolate turtles (one of his favorites).  I give up chocolate for Lent, and, as being the primary grocery shopper, may not buy a whole lot of chocolate in the next 6 weeks, so I figure this gives him a little stash.  When he asked me what I wanted, I told him I just wanted a gesture, to know he was thinking about me.  Oh, and Valentine's Day is after Lent starts, so no chocolate.

When I got home from work today, there was a small vase of pink roses (my favorite!), dove chocolates and a box of Andes Candies (also one of my favorites) on the table next to my box for him.  Part of me sighed, because he didn't listen when I told him that I would not be eating chocolate.  But the more I thought about it, I realized that he did think about me, and the things I like, which is what I asked him for.  I called him and asked what he thought about dinner, and told him the most romantic thing I could think of would be for him to pick up dinner.  He agreed, and we decided on Chinese.  This was about 4 pm.  He said he'd call when he was ready to leave work.

Fast forward 2 hours.  I'm hungry.  I'm happy I let the kids have snacks, otherwise they'd be miserable right now.  I call Pat's ring and then right to voice mail.  I wait 8 minutes, and call back, and he answers the phone, but it's apparent he's still at work.  When he calls back, he agrees to get the Chinese food, but tells me he lost his credit card.

An aside about my husband...he's relatively disorganized.  He's pretty much the absent-minded professor, with a really poor memory to boot.  My memory is the polar opposite.  I question him a little about last use of the card, and the best I can do is last Saturday.  As I'm preparing to call that store, I remember that he talked about needing to use his card to pay at a parking garage on Monday.  The card is most likely in his car, which is the antithesis of clean.  I called him back to confirm the food order, and to tell him my latest thoughts on the missing card.

Although the card is not actually located, it made me feel exorbitantly proud that I was able to think this through and problem solve for him.  And that's when it hit husband does make me feel really good about myself.  It's not by gushing compliments or treating me like a fragile princess.  It is through needing me to help him.  His weaknesses are complimented by my strengths and that gives me a chance to shine, and do what I'm really good at.  Likewise, my weaknesses (assuming there may be one or two minor ones) are bolstered by his strengths.  In this respect, we are the perfect partners for each other.

Realizing that, is the best gift he could have given me.  That, and dinner, because I'm pretty hungry right now.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What's in a name?

One of the first things we learn to do as children is to label things.  To name things.  This continues throughout our entire lives, as we label, and categorize, separate and organize.  Labeling helps us to prioritize and to give special attention.  Labeling quickly tells our brains what category something belongs to, and allows us to quickly decide what action needs to be taken.  Labeling serves a very useful purpose in our lives.

So, why then, is it so difficult to label a child?  I have numerous conversations with people where a parent's defense for not wanting their child classified under special education services is that they do not want their child "labeled."  I bite my tongue.  For a child to receive formal, structured educational support through specialized teaching, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and counselling, along with modifications to the general education curriculum, he or she must be classified as having an educational disability.   This classification allows for the generation of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), in which a specific plan, with modifications, accommodations, and specific supports is developed, based on thorough evaluations.  Specific, target goals are developed to help measure a child's progress.  But, once a child is classified (labeled), he or she then falls under the special education umbrella.

And that is what trips so many parents up.

There is most definitely still a stigma attached to special education.  But, in my experience, those with the bias are not the children but the parents and the grandparents.  For a very long time, I hated to admit that my son received special education services.  Some have proposed changing the name of special education.  Why?  It is special education.  The child's needs are not or cannot be met by the regular education curriculum.  The curriculum is adapted in some way or another.  It is specialized.  And, as the "I" in IEP implies, it is individualized to the student.  What's not to like about that?

Being brutally honest, there are still children who cannot ride the regular school bus to is too big, or too loud....or there are too many students.  These children ride a short bus.  There are children who are significantly delayed, with little hope of becoming "typically" functioning.  That being said, each and every child deserves an education to help he or she become the best person possible.  There are children in self-contained classrooms, and that is an appropriate placement for the most severely impaired.

However, there are a lot of children who receive special education services who sit right in class with all the other kids.  Some are easily identifiable.  Some, not so much.

Parents argue that if their child is labeled as "special ed,"  they will not be invited to birthday parties, and will not have friends.  The label means nothing.  A child who receives (or should receive) special education services often has behavioral or social difficulties.  This is what may be off-putting to peers and parents.  Peers do not care that a child goes off with a special teacher.  They care that the kid is annoying or picks his nose or cannot respect personal space.  The sooner the team can get into help the child, the more quickly the socially inappropriate behaviors can be dealt with, and hopefully gotten rid of.

Parents and teachers can help raise our children to respect others for their differences.  Sometimes, being able to explain why a child acts different can help others tolerate differences more.  A child is not going to say, "I don't like Johnny because he's autistic."  He's going to say, "I don't like Johnny because he stands to close to me and always talks about trains."  But, as a parent, when you can educate your child and tell them that Johnny has difficulty knowing what to say, or needs to be reminded to take a step back, it gives our children a new level of acceptance and tolerance.

In each and every one of us, there are things that come easily and things that are more of a struggle.  Sometimes, this is more apparent than in other cases.  In children who receive special education and have developmental disabilities, it is usually pretty apparent.  Sometimes it is caused by a specific injury or a genetic mutation or disease.  Sometimes, it just is.  Whatever the cause, our job as parents and educators is to help the child make the most of what he or she has and help with the areas that may be more difficult.  And, sometimes, to best figure out how or where something fits, the first thing we need to do is to label it.