Head Exploding in 3 2 1...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

This is a rant in which I come off like a raging bitch from crazytown.  But I am angry enough that anxiety-ridden, image conscience me is still putting it out there.

I held off writing about this because I try not to be one of those people who pass judgment on things they don't actually know about (ya know, like those zealous nutballs who held Harry Potter book burnings claiming the novels promote witchcraft and satanism... but had never actually read them.)

I try to live by this, which is why I kept this particular outburst to myself even though its roots go back to Bear's November 18th IEP meeting. I resolved to wait until I'd experienced it for myself and could form an educated opinion about the situation. Because maybe my imagination was blowing it out of proportion. So I suppressed my gut reaction, which was to decline the service and pay for private.

So, I waited and I experienced. And it was even worse than I'd imagined it would be.

Here's the scoop...

Bear's group therapy through EI was great. They are wonderful and competent and have a lovely facility. I didn't bat an eye leaving him there. And while they offer a comfortable waiting area, they encourage parents to run errands during the hour the children are in session. Every single mom in his group cherished those 45 free minutes.

Even better, on the days I didn't have errands to run his OT allowed me access to wifi and to set up my laptop in the conference room so I could work. Beyond awesome.

So. After Bear's IEP meeting, they told me that the group speech/OT session is held in Mobile #2. Our school district is overcrowded and mobiles are common. So, not great, but no big shocker (though still annoying, because they had shown me their large motor sensory classroom previously and given me impression that's where it would be).

However, the rest of the story is that the parents are required to wait in the hallway of the school across from the mobiles. Because - I am not making this up - the mobile facilities have no running water, and therefor no restroom facilities. So the parents must wait in the school in case one of our children needs to use the bathroom. 

I was speechless. I was literally reduced to an incoherent whaaa...?! and just barely managed to bite back the colorful flurry of expletives that comes a little too naturally for someone with my countrified redneck upbringing.

Over the course of several phone calls I repeatedly questioned this, and that is their pat answer - we have to wait in case they need to use the bathroom.  See, I thought maybe it was an insurance thing or something, so I clarified all I really wanted to do was go to the school track (about 50 yards from the mobile, still district property) and run laps.  Ya know, use the time wisely.  The broken record droned on... cannot leave the building, must wait...

This is ridiculous from both sides of the equation. Let's review the highlights...

From Bear's Perspective
Let's just play along and assume my neurologically challenged, refuses to cooperate with potty training, doesn't do well in groups and has trouble communicating his needs to anyone but me child ACTUALLY broke his attention from whatever fun thing the group was doing to inform a speech teacher that he needed to use the restroom.

(I should note for perspective here that it's January in the upper freaking Midwest. It was so miserable this morning Bear clung to me with his head buried in my chest, sobbing "It's too cold outside, mommy! It's too cold outside!" while I carried him into the school.)

Here's what would have to happen:
1) They would send someone across the parking lot to the "waiting area" (you'll understand the quotes in a moment) to notify me.
2) I have to get myself together (coat, etc) and go out to the mobile.
3) Get him out of group, put his coat on, get him across the parking lot.
4) Wait for the main office on other side of building (or hopefully a nearby student or waiting parent) to buzz us in or otherwise let us into the school, because at this point we are locked out.
5) Get him (quietly!?) down long hall full of in-session elementary classrooms to bathroom.
6) Get him out of coat, pants, shoes, etc (he insists on getting at least half naked to sit on potty)
7) Convince him to sit on a strange potty. (Or carry our potty seat with me at all times?!)
8) Get him back into pants and coat and shoes. (Can't overstress the impossibility of just this line item).
9) Navigate hallway again (which, I learned today, is sometimes full of students for him to get lost in. My thanks to the teacher who caught him for me.).
10) Get back across parking lot to mobile (short term: snow. sometimes as high as him.)
11) Get him back out of coat (this can be so hard it's not unusual for him to nap in the darn thing).
12) Get him reintegrated into the group.
13) Get back across the parking lot and once again wait for someone to let me back into the locked school.

Personally, I lost count of the transitions after about 5.  Because even if Bear told the teacher as soon as the hour session started, it is seriously doubtful we could accomplish this process inside of an hour without him, at some point, being carried while screaming.

And then there's the parents' perspective...

1) The mobiles are in a parking lot, but we're not allowed to park in it.  That would be too convenient for us and less stressful for the kids.  We have to park on the street, drag them through the school's main office (which is so chaotic first thing in the morning that just that starts getting to Bear) to sign in as a visitor.

2) We are supposed to put on stupid little visitor name tag stickers (Really?! Putting on a new visitor sticker twice an effing week, when we've got a stack of documentation taller than our kid that proves why we're there?!)

3) We are supposed to quietly navigate the halls of the school (in session) to get to the exit closest to the mobiles (which is so tricky that today Bear and I ended up locked outside the school, trapped inside a playground with a padlocked fence. No way in or out. In 10 degree weather.  We could see the mobile, but couldn't get to it. Thankfully a teacher saw us through a window and came to our rescue.)

4) After depositing our kids in the group area, which is a spot on the floor of a makeshift office space in a trailer, we are supposed to go to the "waiting area."

5) The school is locked, so we have to be buzzed in from the cold.  Then we are expected to sit in chairs in the hallway of the school.  Classes are in session and we are right outside several classrooms.

6) The chairs are next to the doorway, so it's freezing cold.  Plus, there are classes periodically going through to the outside (so, door held open for extended periods of time 3 feet from us).

7) If you have other children and do not have the luxury of having someone to watch them from 8:45 to 9:45 Tues and Thurs mornings, they have to suffer the same "waiting area."  One poor mom was trying to wrangle a 15 month old in these conditions.

I tried REALLY. HARD. to make the best of it.

I brought work, but hello?!  I'm a web writer.  Not much work I can do without a computer. Or internet access.  And the other parents were chatty and ignored my obvious attempts to tune them out and focus on my documents.

- I can't realistically bring a laptop.  There's nowhere to put it, and no wifi even if I decided that it was worth it to lug my laptop in and sit on the floor twice a week.

- I can't realistically talk on the phone to clients. It's obvious we are expected to wait quietly, and when we did talk in a normal tone of voice the closest teachers pointedly slammed their classroom door.

- I can't risk pissing off these other parents so soon.  This is a small town and their kids will be Bear's classmates for a long time coming.  So, I can't completely ignore them or be rude about working when they're trying to engage me in conversation.

The only bright spot is that one of the moms has a son with SPD, and she's trying really hard to educate herself but lacks information.  I really feel like she's someone I could hang with someday and am genuinely happy to do whatever I can to help her find resources.

Beyond that... I'm dreading Thursday.  And the Tuesday after that.

The only reason I was able to swallow the inconvenient schedule for this therapy session was the 'at least I can run errands during that time' factor.   So for that to be taken away from me is brutal. Plus, I've got professional concerns.  For starters, the chamber of commerce tech committee I'm on already changed their meeting time once based on Bear's daycare schedule (which also got turned on its ear for this).  Now I have to go back to ask them to completely inconvenience themselves on our behalf AGAIN?!  Before we found out about this, my wonderful husband had even offered to be late to work on my meeting days and drop him off so I could attend, and then I'd pick him up (leaving it a few minutes early).  But this won't work if they require you to sit there.
And I'm sick of people telling me that I'm over reacting.  Because ya know what?  I'm not.  I don't have time for this bullshit.  I'm barely hanging on over here.

I've got a business to run, and what little I make tends to be "hey, we can afford an extra piece of therapy equipment" or "maybe we can get some private OT" money.  I've already sacrificed a huge chunk of my business in order to give more attention to Bear.  Which he deserves, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.  But the fact remains that I've given up exercising and walking the dog and eating right and cooking nice meals for my family and noticing I still have a husband and cleaning the house and eating or showering or sleeping on a regular basis.

Pretty much, they can bite my giant ass.  If it were a great program I'd put up with it, but I don't see that they're going to do all that much for him AND I still have to look for private OT anyway so he can get what he really needs.  Right now I feel like I need ditch the school to save my sanity.

At the bare minimum, I feel like I need to find him someone who realizes a 13 step potty process is not productive use of a 3 year old's therapy time.