Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Is inclusion always "appropriate"?

Saw this article in our local paper this morning, and I guess it should have made me mad at the bad, bad school district who allowed this girl to graduate without actually educating her, but you know what? Instead, it made me mad at the family that pushed so hard for inclusion. It just seems to bring up so many of the significant and hard-to-manage problems that come with the enthusiastic embrace of inclusion for severely disabled kids, most especially of all: What does "appropriate" mean? Insisting on FAPE -- a Free and Appropriate Public Education -- is all well and good, but who's going to judge what "appropriate" means? For me, an "appropriate" education for my son with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder can only take place in the controlled, regimented confines of a self-contained classroom; inclusion, I think, would be massively inappropriate for him. Clearly, the parents of the young woman in the story felt the only appropriate place for their daughter was an inclusion classroom, and is now complaining that the school district didn't make that work for her.

Throwing kids into inclusion programs without the necessary support is a huge problem. Figuring out how to provide the necessary support in a less-than-ideal setting is another. I can't even begin to imagine how our district could make inclusion work for my son -- it would for sure take a lot of money and time and personnel, and in the end I think he would not get as good an education as he would in that smaller environment. I wonder if the same is true of the girl in the story -- whether she could have gotten the assistance and education she needed in a dedicated class for people with disabilities, and benefited more from that than from the nominal inclusion she received. I know, this is anathema for a lot of people. But isn't it possible that for some students, what's "appropriate" is a specialized program? And that mainstream services are specifically not "appropriate"? And that spending millions to try to make something work that is not ideal for anybody is the most inappropriate thing of all?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Playing IEP games, in a good way

Yes, I know, we're all fierce advocates for our children and take their rights and our responsibilities very seriously ... but sheesh, that doesn't mean we can't have a little fun now and then, right? I pumped up the "fun" quotient on my About site last week with the addition of a couple of IEP-related goodies: an IEP Meeting Alert Levels chart for gauging your risk of deception and stonewalling, and an IEP Matching Game that recreates the feeling you get when everything you ask for gets an answer of NO! (The difference is, of course, that with the game, if you play long enough, you'll win.) These join the Love Notes Matching Game, Alphabet Soup Quiz and Weekly Quiz in bringing a little fun and games to the work of special-needs parenting. Go ahead, play along, we'll be all serious again later, I promise.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Kathy Griffin is on my Z-List

I'm not someone who usually gets up in arms about non-reverential treatments of adoption. I don't protest when people talk about adopting dogs or highways or whatnot. I'm not really offended by Cabbage Patch dolls and their adopton certificates. A little annoyed, maybe, but there are bigger battles to fight, and I try to keep my perspective. But honestly, I gotta tell you, Kathy Griffin is really getting on my nerves. I watch a lot of Bravo for West Wing re-runs, and every commercial break, there's another appeal by Griffin to help her get off the D-List. She's asking viewers to help her pick which of four celebrity-enhancing moves she should make, and one of them is "Adopt a baby from Namibia." If enough people vote for it, she'll do it! Honest!

And sure, celebrities who adopt are easy targets, and I've been guilty of wondering about their motivations and unlikely home study success, but is this what we've come to? Adoption as stunt? I know, I know, she's kidding, it's a joke, get a sense of humor, get a life. And yet, it rankles me. It is, at the very least, a bad joke, and not even a necessary one -- clearly, the way to make the A-list is not to adopt but to have a baby with an A-lister. Look what it's done for those girls from Dawson's Creek!

Monday, May 22, 2006

You don't get what you pay for

I've been mumbling and grumbling for some time over the increase in product packaging that makes it harder to open a product than it was to earn the money to buy it. Most of my wrath has been aimed at the cars and multi-part toys my son buys that are tied into their packaging with so many plastic loops and threads and screws that by the time I free the playthings, he's already lost interest in them. We're talking about, like, a $10 traffic set; does it need to be secured as though it was made out of gold ingots rather than cheap metal and plastic? An article in Wired News today takes on another packaging nightmare, those impenetrable plastic "clamshells" that enclose electronics -- mostly the cheaper stuff that hangs on bars at Best Buy or Target. People have gone to the emergency room for injuries sustained trying to bust open the darn things, the article reveals. Some injuries have required orthopedic surgery. That plastic certainly doesn't cut easily, and manufacturers are only now getting the idea that they ought to give the consumer some idea as to how to get the product they paid for out of the package. The idea behind the tough casing is to keep shoplifters from slipping the goodies out of the box and spiriting them away, but when your precautions to foil thieves end up injuring your paying customers, it might be time for a re-think. And record companies, those CD wrappers that open with great difficulty only to reveal that every openable surface on the box is taped shut? Totally drove me to iTunes, dudes.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Music night musings

A few notes on the middle-school music program concert I went to last night:

+ When did it become okay for parents to just show up for the part of the show their particular child is in and then leave, often going in and out as other groups are actually performing? The lights in the auditorium were on the whole time, and I'm not sure if that encourages people to roam around, or if school administrators did it because people were roaming around anyway. But seriously, parents: Having a child in the music program means you go to concerts and sit there and listen to everybody perform. It's good manners, at the very least. Isn't it? Maybe people were that rude back when I was in school, and I just didn't notice it because I was onstage. But I don't think so.

+ So sure, "Tequila" is a great band song, and the sixth-grade band sounded great playing it, but there's something kinda disturbing about hearing 11- and 12-year-olds shout out "Tequila!" with such great enthusiasm.

+ Likewise, "In the Mood." The Madrigals sang it very nicely, but yikes, the lyrics, they are a bit racy for middle-school kids, no? Yes, I know, I'm just old. Okay.

+ I know what she was getting at, but when the orchestra leader said something like "90 percent of the kids in the group are on the Honor Roll, so you know the kids involved in music are the best kids," I couldn't help but bristle. Yes, my daughter's in music, and I do think kids in the music program are good kids, but not because they're on the honor roll. What about kids like my daughter who work hard and are conscientious and miss the honor roll due to learning differences? Are they just bringing the average down? Are they in the music program on a "mediocre-kid scholarship"? Too much emphasis on honor-roll all around, I think.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Photo op

My son's special-needs baseball team is being honored tonight by our City Council. The whole team will be there in uniform to get certificates and probably a handshake from the council members during a locally televised meeting. And in a way, you know, it's really nice. These are kids who don't always get a chance at recognition in ways that other kids do. How cool is it for them to be applauded for ... for ...

Hmmm. For what now? They haven't won a tournament or anything -- this is an everybody-wins kind of league. They're not at the end of their season, or the beginning. I'm all for celebrating kids' different abilities, but I have the sinking feeling, especially since we're dealing with local politicians here, that they're being recognized for having special needs, and for making a nice photo op. Fortunately, my son's disabilities keep him from being cynical and jaded like his old lady. I just hope those politicians don't notice him sucking his fingers until they're shaking that very wet hand.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Missions and mottos

There's an interesting post in the Special Education Law Blog on the difference between the high-flying mission statements schools create to trumpet their commitment to regular-ed students and the shoddy "doesn't have to be the best, merely appropriate" standard they stake out for special education. Can you imagine a school board member trying to get elected on that platform? "We think our schools should be just okay, the very minimum the law allows!"

Thinking about the inequity in mission statements, though, makes me think of the peppy mottos many schools have, and that in turn makes me think about how nonsensical they usually are. At my kids' elementary school, every day I walked by a sign -- something nicely carved and paid for, obviously without aid of a proofreader -- that read, "Today's Children Are Tomorrow's Future." And every day, in my head, I said, "No, they're not!" They're tomorrow's adults, tomorrow's leaders, tomorrow's taxpayers, but they're not tomorrow's future, unless you're talking about tomorrow as the day after today, and then they're today's "future" just as much. Like a note from the teacher full of grammar and spelling mistakes, that sign reminded me every darn day that the people educating my child could not see the ridiculousness of the future's future before they paid money for a sign. Hey, maybe the regular-ed kids aren't actually getting "the best" either.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

How sad am I, mourning a TV show

I'm getting all weepy and nostalgic about the upcoming final episode of "The West Wing" on Sunday, going so far as to put a ticker on my computer to mark the passing days until the last idealistic politicians will float off my TV screen. I know, though, that while I will be mourning on Sunday, my family will be celebrating, because I will no longer be sequestering myself in my bedroom at 8 p.m. on Sundays, a time when we are usually just about to eat dinner. I've been eating alone in my room, with kids forbidden to enter or talk lest I miss these last few precious bon mots. Bad mom, I know. The least I could do is get a working VCR and watch it at a post-bedtime hour. But I'm kind of liking having one inviolable TV hour a week, just one, when once I had so very many. Maybe I'm mourning the end of that a little, too.

Of course, the end of a beloved series has been made a little less tragic these days by the fact that there are DVDs of past seasons to play over and over again. Don't suppose the family'd let me get away with watching them at 8 p.m. on Sundays, though. It's back to being family hour.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Products we never really asked for

This cracks me up. When I first saw a blog item on Play-Doh perfume, I thought it might be a joke -- but nope, there it is on Hasbro's Play-Doh site, part of the merchandising effort for the product's 50th birthday. Play-Doh perfume. Uh-huh. It's supposedly for "highly creative people who seek a whimsical scent reminiscent of their childhood." Now, I recognize those words, because I was once a copy-writer for marketing departments and had to find some cute way to sell whatever boneheaded product they'd come up with. I applaud the effort of whatever poor scribe got handed this project. But really ... Play-Doh perfume? We're to believe that creative types want to smell like Play-Doh? Oh, my.

So should we look forward to Eau de Baby-Poop for Pamper's corporate anniversary? They're discussing it in a board meeting somewhere right now, I promise you.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A mom can dream

What do you want for Mother's Day? I'm in a card-giving family, so I don't expect much more than Hallmark's finest. In the good old days, when my kids were in elementary school, I could at least count on some little artsy project coming home, but in middle school, now, not so much. It's not like I'm in significant need of jewelry or flowers or chocolates -- especially not chocolates, alas -- and my children will always be the best Mother's Day present I ever had. That doesn't mean I can 't dream a little about other perfect presents. Check out the sarcastic little wish list on my site.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Torn between two buddies

It stinks when your friends don't get along, doesn't it? That's the challenge my daughter faces every time she gets all her buddies together. It's not like she has a huge number of close pals, and although she can sometimes arrange separate get-togethers, for things like her birthday party, really, everybody just needs to come and get along. That's hard enough for adults, I guess, and pretty near impossible for teen guys.

My daughter has two good guy friends who just Do Not Like Each Other, whether due to temperamental differences or territorialism or the law of new friends vs. old. One guy she sees all the time, the other has moved away but visits when invited, and they can barely be in the same room with each other. Each has a "second" who sides with him, so there's a nice factional feel to the proceedings. One group always splits off, leaving my daughter to either neglect some of her guests or figure out how to split herself in two.

I've tried to talk some sense into the boys, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it just is. Makes me feel bad, though -- my girl has enough problem learning the rules of social game-playing with kids who aren't her friends. With her friends, shouldn't it be easier?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Only a phone call away

I'm not a big fan of cell phones for young teens, but I have to admit they came in fairly handy at my daughter's birthday party the other day. She and her friends wanted to walk around our neighborhood unescorted, and while I know that's a fairly reasonable request for a bunch of 8th-graders, it's hard for me to flip out of constant vigilance mode. To help, three of the party guests took out their cell phones, gave me their numbers, and assured me they'd all be within easy reach. I did tail them their first time out, pretending to walk the dog. But after that, as they went out again and again, I comforted myself with those phone numbers. I guess a little roaming doesn't hurt.