Here I am, several days later, still thinking about Olivia’s IEP and her placement in a self-contained class for first grade.
At home, none of us think of Olivia as special needs. She’s just Olivia. She flips, she runs, she sings at the top of her lungs. She dances, she asks for her hair to be worn in the Elsa braid.
She reads, she eats, she talks. That’s the thing. She talks to us. She speaks her mind, she tells us when she needs or wants something. We don’t get weird looks when we’re out in public, she comes across as shy but not necessarily as a child with special needs.
See all that above? It lets me live in a little bubble of denial. At home, we are not a family living with special needs. Well, I guess we are, but it doesn’t feel like we are. But that little bubble always bursts when I attend and IEP meeting to discuss accommodations to help Olivia succeed in school.
The main item on her IEP is for her to voice her wants and needs to her teachers in an audible voice.
She doesn’t do that at school. She sometimes just sits there, even when asked a direct question. She just blinks at the questioner, as if she doesn’t even hear them. We’ve had that child’s hearing tests, she hears just fine.
They just don’t see her the way we do. She doesn’t let them. And I get that. I know that most kids are different at home versus at school. But the version I read about in the IEP report is so different from the child I have in my home.
Olivia is receiving services as a child with autism. Yes, she has a genetic diagnosis but because it is so rare, the school prefers to state that she shows symptoms similar to autism and give her services based on that. I’m okay with that. She’s getting the services she needs and that’s what counts.
But at home, she’s so vivacious, so smart, so vocal. I guess it’s easy for me to pretend that she’s fine.
So when I go to these meetings and read things like, “Won’t speak to Mrs. F, even when asked a direction question.” Or “Sometimes she flaps her hands during small group discussions, is given a ball to hold to keep her from doing this.” Or even, “Refused to answer questions during testing, could not record results.” These things burst my little bubble and make me accept that my child is different, she learns differently, she has needs that her peers do not have.
I know all this, in my head. I do.
But my heart says she’s awesome just the way she is and I love her so, so much. I look at her and she’s so perfectly beautiful, so charming and funny and delightful.
I just wish she’d show the rest of the world what she shows me. Then maybe they’d understand why this is so hard for me, even though I realize, in the end, it isn’t about me. And because I know that, I will get over myself and embrace how great this is going to be for Olivia. She’s going to thrive in a class with Mrs. A and all that attention. She’ll also thrive because there won’t be as many distractions and perhaps, as Julie mentioned in the comments on the last IEP post, being in a much smaller class, Olivia will grow socially because there won’t be as many other first graders competing for the teachers’ attention.
The positives, people, I’m working on finding the positives here.