Monday, October 1, 2007

The IEP Meeting at Tommy's School

From the time that I got pregnant with Tommy, I knew he was going to be a different child.

I don't know if it was mother's intuition or what. But when I was carrying him, in the back of my mind I kept thinking, "He's going to be different."

I didn't know what that meant at the time.

When he was born, he was perfect.

And then when he was two he wasn't speaking much.

A speech pathologist started coming to the house. Tommy would rather race around the room, gripping his red string that we named Bing.

"Maybe there's something more that's going on with him," the speech pathologist finally said as Tommy whizzed past her with his string.

I didn't know what she meant at the time.

What did she mean something more going on?

I did my own research.

I typed in "speech delay" and was shocked when most of the responses that came up was autism.

From there on I did a bunch of research on autism. I bought books. Read articles.

He was even tested for autism at three.

But was found that he didn't have it because he was too social.

Tommy started to speak more at four.

At five he added more words.

Today he's still delayed. He probably has the speech of a four-year-old. Some of what he says isn't understood but at least he's trying.

At two, he didn't even seem to care to speak.

It was almost like I already knew what he wanted before he even had to say it.

I knew from his cues when he was hungry or thirsty.

I just knew my boy.

Today was his IEP meeting.

I sat at a round table with his teacher, the nurse, the principal, the speech pathologist, the occupational therapist, the nurse and the school psychologist.

It's always a little startling to see all those people.

Each person spoke, telling me how Tommy was doing.

The first thing each person said was, "Tommy is so happy..."

And then the bomb was dropped.

On each test that Tommy took, he seemed to score below average.

On speech.

On the IQ test.

On the visual motor performance.

On the fine motor performance.

I think the only thing he scored average in was memory.

They were so impressed with his memory. One of the teachers said that she showed Tommy a picture with ten things on it for a few seconds.

He remembered eight of the pictures.

He's always had an excellent memory. I can drive someplace once and he'll know how to get there.

I was told not to fret over his below average scores--that children Tommy's age were hard to test.

But how can I not fret when he scored below average in everything?

A lot of the women said he behaved like a typical kindergartener, to not worry, but again, how can I not?

"He really is so happy," his teacher said. "He does seem to prefer to play alone but if a child wants to play with him, he allows it.."

I was also told that he does the hand flapping when he's excited. Or when he's in the middle of his work, he'll suddenly flap his arms and then go back to what he was doing.

He also walks funny. With his foot turned in.

He still has problems with throwing balls.

They want him to hold the pencil correctly. He grips it wrong.

It was difficult to just sit there and realize that your child has all these problems.

And you can't help but think, "Why me? Why my child?"

And you can't help but think, "What did I do wrong?"

The school psychologist casually mentioned that he has some traits of autism.

The A-word.

"We'll keep an eye on it. It's not definate. But he definately shows some signs. Like the hand flapping."

I wonder if he does have it.

I've always wondered if he possibly had Aspergers.

Or Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

I can't help but wonder how he'll do when school gets harder.

When children get cruel.

I feel like I'm dealing with this on my own.

Tom is either at work or sleeping.

And when I bring it up, he looks uncomfortable and says that Tommy'll be okay, to not worry.

I know part of the reason is because he was teased in school. A lot.

In fact in first grade his teacher placed him behind this large box because she was tired of all the other children teasing Tom. So she figured if she pushed Tom out of the way, then her problem would be solved.

Tom never had a speech problem. But he does have a slight stutter and I believe he has ADD. It's hard for him to stay on task. Even his flight chief has had to reprimand him to stay on task.

I never had problems with school. But I do believe I had signs of sensory processing disorder. I could never wear jeans until I was in eighth grade. I swore they'd squeeze my waist too hard. I could never wear a turtleneck. I swore it choked me.

I wish I had a partner in this.

All the books I've read on children with learning disabilities it always seems to be the mother that deals with it.

And that bothers me.

It's almost like the men don't want to admit that something might be wrong with their child.

I worry about Tommy all the time. I wonder if he'll do well in school. If he'll get married.

And then I wonder if he'll always have to live with us. Will he be able to live on his own?

Then I feel selfish for worrying about something like that. For not wanting my kid to always live with me.

I left the meeting in a daze. They handed me a huge folder of Tommy's tests results and I left holding the papers to my chest and balancing Natalie in my other arm.

When I returned home Tom was sleeping.

I wanted to wake him but I didn't.

I know when he wakes up he won't even ask about the meeting.

I don't understand why.

If I knew that Tom was going to a school meeting I'd jump all over him, demanding to know everything.

Tom never asks.

I always have to tell him.

It's not that Tom is a bad father. He loves his children. He plays with them. But it seems like the minute things get hard, the minute things get tough, he retreats into the background.

He doesn't seem to understand that children aren't just for fun.

That they're work too.

When I got home I put Natalie down for her nap and flipped through the paperwork.

At times, Tommy gets excited and tends to open and close his hands repeatedly and fixates on an object; he is able to be redirected easily from this...

Tommy tends to walk on his toes and the insides of his feet most of the time...

Tommy had difficulty...

Tommy had difficulty...

Tommy had difficulty...

Tears poured down my cheeks.

"Please," I whispered. "Mr. M****, please help your grandson.."

I always talk to Tom's Dad who passed away five years ago. I know he's watching over the children. I feel a presence sometimes.

I always ask him to watch over the children.

To please help Tommy.

"Let him have friends, let him not be teased, please..." I whispered.

I wanted to lay down on the bathroom floor like Izzie did when Denny died.

But none of our bathrooms are large enough.

I'd have to curl up in a fetal position with my cheek jammed against the bath tub.

Instead I just laid on the couch until I eventually drifted off for a quick nap.

I know my kid is smart.

He knows how to spell his name. His last name. The. An. Am. He knows all his shapes and colors. Most of the letters.

He can learn.

I don't see a child who has difficulties.

I see a child who is this brilliant being, who will be someone great.


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