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Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

Special Childcare Needs.

The back-to-school craziness has started to die down. Routines are established. Kids are used to their schedules. Parents finally have the drop-off and pick-up responsibilities straightened out. Everything seems to have fallen in place. But then the phone rings. It is your child’s school. Most likely, that call will be about lice, or the flu. But what if the call was to pick up your child and never return?

 

Mommy Tracked columnist Vicki Larson [0] explained how glad she is that she no longer has to worry when her kids come home sick since they are now old enough to be alone. For parents of kids who require supervision, that call from the school office brings an otherwise productive day to a screeching halt. Imagine if that call from school effectively ended your career.

 

I've received such a call twice.

 

The first came when my son was two and a half. Less than an hour before preschool was to begin for the day, the Director called to inform me my son was no longer welcome at her school. We had already been kicked out of our local moms' club playgroup. I didn't want the gap in my developmentally-delayed son’s social skills to widen. It was nearly a year later that I finally found a school willing to take him. In the meantime, I participated in a babysitting co-op, but ended up watching many kids whereas the other parents weren't willing to watch my son.

 

As for work? Well, you can’t work outside the home if there isn’t a place for your child to stay during the day.

 

Three years prior, I did the typical Type-A Newly Pregnant Mom research into daycare, nannies, and preschools. The expectation was that I would have a choice as to where my son would attend. I was going to make the decision by evaluating them. Instead, it was the other way around.

 

During that year after my son’s preschool expulsion, we were essentially home-bound. The community doesn't want to hear a screaming child in the post office, or see a child face-down in the cereal aisle rolling back and forth. We were lucky that my son's eventual preschool worked well, save for some comments like "Why haven't you gotten him help?" (We had been trying for years; there is no "magic cure") or "You know he'll really have trouble in Kindergarten" (Yes, we're panicking; don't rub it in.)

 

The second call-of-doom arrived a mere two weeks after my son began Kindergarten at a private school that boasts that its particular curriculum and philosophy is excellent for kids on the autistic spectrum. They misrepresented themselves to say the least. The call ordered me to come to the headmaster's office immediately. A curt "Your son has been expelled" later and I collected my confused son outside his former classroom.

 

A smirking parent held his hand.

 

That very parent had complained about his behavior.

Again, I didn't know where he could go, so he stayed home with me. Finding a new school became my new career. I had to learn about individualized education plans (IEPs) and various "disability law." While I was relieved to discover that Kindergarten is considered "optional" in California, I desperately wanted him to get the academic and social instruction that he needed so that first grade wouldn't turn out to be a disaster. It was frustratingly ironic that I wanted him to be in school to improve his social skills, but it was his lack of said skills that prevented him from attending.

 

Thankfully – after two moves, endless paperwork, and lots of stress - my son is now in the third grade at an excellent school, but reading Kerry Rivera’s piece fretting over Kindergarten [0] brought it all back. Corporate strategy talks about “catastrophic expectations.” What is the worst that can happen? Typically the exercise is that everyone laughs: That won’t happen!

 

In my son’s case, our greatest fear was that he wouldn’t acclimate in school. We worried that he would be kicked out. And he was.

 

No disrespect to Kerry, but I doubt her son is going to be kicked out of Kindergarten. Whichever school he attends, he has a school. Some parents fear “red-shirting” but at least their child has a place to attend school, even if it is repeating a second year of Kindergarten. But my son was told to leave outright. Our eventual solution was to physically move our family to a school district that could accommodate him. Yes, this was during the recession, so our old house still hasn’t sold.

 

Unfortunately, just last week I received a call that my son is one "strike" away from triggering a behavioral analysis [1] that might jeopardize his current school placement.

 

With owning two homes, and the out-of-pocket cost of various therapies (since our health insurance does not cover treatment [2] for those on the autistic spectrum) it is no surprise that I work. Many parents of those on the spectrum cannot work, though, because of the time involved in caring for the child, shuttling him to various therapies, and attending the endless evaluations.

 

Plus, if nobody will take your child, you certainly cannot work outside the home.

 

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I wrote this to give another side to the typical “working parents” story. There are real concerns with finding the “right place” for your child in terms of childcare or school. These concerns are amplified when the child has special needs. We aren’t lazy parents. We aren’t “stupid” because we might need to take a break from the workforce. We’re just parents trying to find the best place for our kids. I blog at The Karianna Spectum [3].

 

Next up: Special Work Needs
[3]


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