Here it is again, that thick sheaf of paper that comes home in Secondo’s backpack, held together at the top with a paper clip. I forget about it sometimes, when our days are filled with stories, shopping, trips to the park. The paperwork that reminds me that so much of what P and I do with the boys is deliberate, purposeful, reinforced daily by teachers at school, all of us working doggedly to accomplish specific goals, goals that are spelled out in black and white in excruciating detail. The paperwork that reminds me, lest I forget—oh, right!--that my kids are in special education classes. I close my eyes before looking at it, and, as I always do, will myself to remember as many of Secondo’s IEP goals as I can. I do know a lot of them, in general, but every time I open his IEP I am surprised, again, improbably, at the level of detail and the formulaic language. And there are always a couple of goals that I’ve forgotten.
This is Secondo’s progress report, sent home for us to go over before parent-teacher conferences this week. It is peppered with acronyms: ES for emerging skill. Even a few SPs for sufficient progress here and there. The category headers remind me just how different my boys are from other children their age. Social Language. Body Orientation. Acknowledging Glance. Verbal Turn Taking. Use Peer’s Name.
Then there’s my very favorite, Defense of Property, which sounds more like something I’d be likely to hear in court, not in an educational document. Secondo does not consistently show any sort of reaction when a peer takes something from him. He needs physical and verbal cues to react when a peer takes something he is playing with. By such-and-such-a-date, Secondo will use one or more words to express prohibition or cessation of a peer's action (i.e. stop, no, that's mine, etc) with no more than 1 prompt in 4 out of 5 opportunities over 5 consecutive sessions. This freaked out both Primo and Secondo’s evaluators from the very start—the fact that they weren’t too bothered about kids taking things from them. It was a Big Red Flag, apparently, and I watched as one teacher played a game with Primo in which they took a toy from each other over and over again, saying, “Mine!” And I was both kind of incredulous and kind of saddened that all of a sudden I had special ed teachers determined to teach my sons the concept of “mine.” But then I watch kids at the playground, like the boy who threw his entire body over a toy (one the boys had been playing with first but calmly turned over to him) so they wouldn’t play with it, and the other who screamed and screamed about how he WOULD NOT SHARE the instant Secondo showed some interest in the train he was playing with. Normal reactions for kids their age, to be sure. And I must admit I feel a little conflicted about this one—when these things happen, my inclination is to tell the boys to go find something else to do. Maybe I should be teaching them more about not being pushovers, but at the same time, this “normal” preschool behavior is something I’m just as happy not to have to deal with. (Most of the time, anyway—they’re no saints, and we’ve had our share of altercations over toys and the like. But I often suspect we have fewer issues than we would if our kids were typical.)
I’m looking forward to the conferences, even though highlighting your child’s weaknesses is never fun. There will be many, many strengths, too. And I will prepare by reading the progress report, the summary of goals, this document that reminds me of how far there is to go, still. And also of how hard we’ve worked to get where we are.