Special Education And Parents Who Give A Damn

Many years ago when my husband was stationed in Savannah, Georgia I worked at a school. The school was a very good school which educated some of Savannah’s richest families. I didn’t understand the politics involved in education until I started working in the Special Education department. It would become a stark lesson in life about inequality inside the classroom because of status.

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It would be my first lesson in social status division and my first lesson in how schools viewed children with special needs. My oldest daughter at the time was in the third grade. She was invited to two parties within the same week about halfway into the school year. One of the parties was being help at a child’s house in the Landings and the other was being held at a house at a mobile home community.

I remember asking the teacher who worked over me about both areas. I didn’t know anything about the Landings and I didn’t know anything about the mobile home park due to the fact that I liked to keep on base as much as possible. She informed me that the Landing’s party was the party I needed to let child attend. She giggled about the VIP invite and then started laughing about the mobile home invite. She insisted on keeping my child away from the child who stayed in the mobile homes because they were basically trashy.

Time came for the two parties which were held days apart. I decided against letting my daughter attend both parties due to the fact that I didn’t know the parents. I like to know parents before I say yes. However, due to the response of the teacher, I have always looked on schools with a bit of skepticism. I remember the importance the teachers held on children who were in Special Education with parents who had good jobs and the lack of importance they held for children from poor areas.

It really put me on a mission to make sure that each child knew of their importance no matter their parent’s status. I will never forget the time when I was told by a teacher that she would rather have a classroom of ghetto children than teach children under the Special Education umbrella. The sad fact is that parents do not have any idea of how some educators view their children if they have special needs. It is important perhaps more important for parents of children with special needs to stay involved with the schools and to monitor their children’s interactions due to these issues.

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Years later my daughter would get service from under the umbrella because of her ADHD and her ADD. However, those two issues weren’t the issues that would cause her to retreat inside herself, it would be a bullying attack that would hinder her from being able to interact socially. I find myself blessed with the inside knowledge of two things because of my occupational travels. I understand how certain children are regarded due to their disability and I understand how schools do not tell you about the obstacles these children face inside and outside the classroom.

So this brings me to my conversation with my daughter before we went to bed. Last night my daughter entered the room and gave me this very meaningful speech as I gazed out the window.

“Mom, I do not want you to worry about me being placed in another theater class because at the end of the day, I know you believe in me. I know dad believes in me and I believe in me. I don’t need a teacher to give me the green light when I have you guys. If she doesn’t want me in her class, I don’t want to be in it. I’ll just do my best in the new class and prove her wrong.-Ariana

I guess that is the point of it all. It is my support that will protect and propel her. Schools are set on default educations which means they do not always give what each and every kid needs. No matter how much we want to elevate the idea of teachers, there will always be those teachers who aren’t encouraging to all children. So, as parents we must lift our children up when the world tries to bring them down and remember it is our support that gives them wings.

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Schools Are Still Not Getting The Point.

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Our daughter came home last night and told us about a female student who was clearly showing signs of distress. My husband and I both informed her that she needed to talk to her school counselor about the student in question. After we picked her up today from school, we asked her if she talked to the counselor and her reply with unfortunate.

“Mom, I really don’ t think they care. When I talked to the counselor, she didn’t really seem to want to hear it.”

We both stated that she had done her job and now it was time for the school to do their job and follow up with the report. Right now children are looking and they are paying attention, more than ever. If you work in a school and see problematic behavior, you must act. If you think your role isn’t important, think again. You are a lifeline, a lifeguard and even the it factor in some of the children’s lives.

About four year ago, I got the chance to go to a conference and see Kevin Hines as one of the main speakers. It was an eye opening experience in how we should all be dealing with people who show signs of distress. You don’t wait, you check it out.

Our Children And Our Reaction To Bullying

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My daughter was a potential threat to herself and others until we took action. Sometimes parents have to do the unthinkable so they can prevent the unforgivable. At some random school this morning, a child is hiding in the bathroom because he or she is too afraid to walk the halls due to bullying. I know it to be true because it was my daughter’s life for over a year before she was finally attacked. I’m going to try to tread very carefully while I write this, but I’m also going to be very honest. So, I warn you now, this might piss you off, but it has to be said.

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School shootings do not happen by accident. Guns do not walk into the class and fire without a person pulling the trigger. Show me a school that has death due to school shootings/suicide, I’m willing to bet that school has also dealt with a problem in regards to bullying. Bullying has lasting effects, it not only hurts the students that the harmful words are aimed at, but it also hurts people caught in the environment of the issue. I can tell you this because I know it to be true. It has taken my own daughter years to overcome the words and pain associated with bullying.

My daughter’s attack happened on a playground with nearly a dozen children surrounding her. She was rolled up in a ball and kicked over and over. The children then tried to impale her head on a steel pike. At the time of her attack four teachers were on the playground. A boy stepped in and saved her. He took her to the office and I was called. That week after we got her home she tried to commit suicide twice. After weeks or so she started acting out violently. She pushed my oldest daughter in the street and then tried to push her down stairs.

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I remember grabbing her and putting her in the car asking what was she thinking. She told me she knew it was wrong, but that she just wanted power. She said she felt so powerless and it made her feel powerful to be able to do finally stand up for herself. Needless to say, this scared the crap out of me. We talked about her feelings and the outcome of harming others because of the pain she felt for at least 6 to 8 months after the incident. We even had to commit her for a little until we could get her to calm down.

Today, I’m glad to report that she no longer has those same anger issues, but it wasn’t easy dealing with those issues that came after the attack. After one of the school shootings we were talking and she added that she felt torn in some of the cases. She said she felt horrible about the people who died, but that she also felt bad for the person who was bullied. As a parent that watched my daughter go through so many different emotions in regards to her incident, I think it gives me a unique outlook.

My daughter didn’t shoot up a school, yet she did try to hurt her sister. Luckily, I worked in mental health, I knew the warning signs, I knew the right people, and I was able to focus entirely on her healing.

However, I do not know what I would have done, if I didn’t know some of the things that I knew at that time. Ariana was dealing with a range of emotions that we knew nothing of and most importantly we couldn’t relate to her on those levels. So, it was a lot of redirecting negative behavior and replacing negative feelings with her love for cooking. I think we went broke that year! We have to do something about bullying because it produces rage. I wasn’t going to let that rage take over my child. My daughter is now almost 18 and I can tell you that we haven’t had an episode in about three years. She has been able to make a few friends, and she’s now being a normal kid.

She told me recently that she still can’t help but think about that day from time to time, but that she’s not mad about it anymore. I know we want to make these issues about gun control, but it’s about so much more. The true weapon is bullying and it can cause mass causalities or a single fatality. We are seeing too many children commit suicide and harm each other over the feelings associated with bullying. It’s time to have real conversations about the need to revamp how schools keep records in regards to bullying.

Ariana today.

We need to hold the schools more accountable and in some cases the parents as well. After Ariana was attacked, I didn’t hear from not one of the children’s parents which is even sadder. We can do so much better.

The Dangers Of Keeping A Child In A Volatile Situation

Often times we divorce our spouses if the situation becomes too volatile. However, how many of us move our children away from bullying situations when they become volatile? As a mother of a child who suffered from extreme bullying, I would warn you about keeping that child in the same school. Right after my daughter’s attack we moved her away from the school, but when she started middle school the next school year the girls all filtered into that school. The counselors at the school were a complete joke. They told me that my daughter was no longer getting bothered and that they even called the children into the office to see if anyone was talking to her.

One morning I watched Ariana from the corner of my eye silently cry as we drove her to school. Something just told me to not go home so I waited. After a few minutes I drove around and then I found her hiding in between two buildings with her books pressed up against her chest. She was in a tight spot crying and scared to move. I got her attention and told her to come here. She walked to the car with tears still running down her cheek and talked about being sorry. She said she just couldn’t face anyone it was too much. I nodded and told her to get back into the car and we drove around the school and then I enrolled her out. I enrolled her in a private school a few miles down the street. She was loved at the school and did really well. She was a favorite in her French class and was well liked by many of her teachers, but there was the issue of interacting with children that still needed to be dealt with.

We still lived in Garland, so running into those children was an issue. Every time we thought we were doing better an encounter with one of them would send her crashing once more. Soon her Freshman year of high school was calling. She wanted to go to her home high school which meant she would be around those girls again. I wasn’t for it, but I finally decided if she felt ready, I would let her try once more. She was scared out of her mind her first day of school. She had started second guessing the idea of going to the high school, but she wanted to try it out.

She came home that day with this corky smile on her face. She had discovered she was a magnet for boys. She also said one of the girls that used to bully her, came up and said hi. She talked about being blown away and she didn’t know how to take it at first. In the common weeks she would talk to numerous people and even stand up to bullying against others, she was no longer the target. She was still known as the one who was attacked, but it wasn’t something that the children often talked about. She didn’t get invited anywhere so her nights were pretty much always lonely. She was still having a really hard time making friends, so we all decided that perhaps we just needed a new beginning.

We moved two maybe three hours away from that area. She was finally able to do things like go to games with people, go to eateries, and even to the movies. Ariana was able to have a life because we got her out of that broken environment. You see bullying is very mental and I think keeping the children in the environment hurts them more than we know. We still deal with social interaction issues, but she’s no longer constantly by herself. We have to make sure our children aren’t isolating. In many of the incidents with bullied children turning to violence or committing suicide they often isolate and target certain children. We have to make sure that we are doing all we can to repair the damage that has been done by the bullying. As parents, we can’t take the position that it will make them stronger to make them stay.

In Ariana’s medical record it had chest contusion, aggravated assault, leg injury, but it never had a broken spirit. We were ready for the physical stuff, but it was the mental stuff that nearly shattered my daughter into pieces. Talk about it with your children and truly ask how they are doing. Take notice of behaviors that could be problematic and above all else, tell them you love them.

Is It Gun Violence Or Bullying That Creates The Problem

A lot of people talk about gun violence as being a top worry in today’s America. We talk about school shootings and the need to place stronger restrictions on guns. I’m here to tell you that we wouldn’t have so many school shootings if we would tackle the issue of bullying the right way. Meet Ariana prior to a bullying incident which would change her whole outlook on life. She was your normal happy kid. She loved ice cream and she was friendly.

A few years later Ariana would start a new school and become the targets of bullies. They jumped my daughter and beat on her while she was curled up in a little ball. Picture 11 kids around you, and four teachers nearby. A boy came up and saved her before they were able to do more damage.

After the attack took place Ariana tried to kill herself twice in one week. She suffered from PTSD for a while and had a hard time establishing relationships. She was so fearful of people and there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t take away those feelings and I couldn’t wipe the event from her memory.

It took years before Ariana could learn how to trust people again. It took a while until we saw this smile come back, but it took us moving away from Garland and those memories before she was able to just be Ariana and not the girl who was jumped. She was mob jumped so those girls were in her school, malls, movies, and it became a constant rehabilitating issue when she would run across one. My husband said that on one occasion he and my other two daughters went out for ice cream with Ariana. One of those girls involved in the attack walked by and my daughter tried to hide in her seat.

We are no longer in that area and she no longer has to worry about seeing those children, but I know she still thinks about them from time to time. She’s able to make friends now, but we are still working on keeping them. So, I guess the point is, my daughter could have died three times because of the incident on April 4th. All three didn’t have a gun present, so talk to your children about the way they treat each other. Those actions often give birth to more pain.