Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Waiting List, Part II

The second installment in how we came to join the throngs on the waiting list:

Part II:

I sent Blink off to kindergarten with a cheery smile affixed to my face, a balloon of fear and hope inflating my chest, causing me to hold my breath.

We made it about a week-and-a-half into the school year before I got a call from Mrs. S., the veteran kindergarten teacher. She was calling, she said, to let me know that Blink was having a little difficulty adjusting to kindergarten and she wondered if I just might have some advice on how to cope with Blink's screaming fits.

And at that very moment, the fairy tale I had carefully constructed in my head— you know, the one in which Blink ran off to school with a smile on his face and we all lived happily ever after — crumbled into a million tiny pieces.

A month later, we had parent teacher conferences. My husband I walked into the bright, orderly kindergarten classroom and sat down on kindergarten-sized chairs, awkwardly trying to assume a composed and dignified position for making pleasantries. Chris started things off, saying, “So do you have a lot of kids like Blink who are a handful?” Mrs. S.’s eyes grew wide. Her hands fell to the table. “Oh, god, no,” she said, “No. I’ve taught kindergarten for twenty years and I’ve never had a child like Blink in my classroom.” She paused and went for the kill, uttering the words that would suck all the air out of the room for me. “It’s not normal,” she said.

I had walked into the parent-teacher conference thinking (well, hoping, for I am nothing if not an optimist) that I would hear what a brilliant child I have. Instead I heard that his screams are so chilling that other teachers have come running into the room to see what terrible emergency was transpiring. Oh, just Blink needing to transition from one activity to another. Or Blink objecting to “Funnercize.” (Though, I have to admit I was with him on that one in spirit).

And thus began the delicate dance with Mrs. S., in which she suggested we take Blink to the pediatrician, being very careful not to actually voice any specific concerns about his development, while I gently pushed back to inquire what her specific concerns were. Alas, we were both skilled dance partners, and got nowhere. So I took a deep breath, summoned up some courage and asked her in a shaky voice, “Do you think we should get the special education department involved?”

“Oh no,” Mrs. S. replied, explaining that, incredibly, nothing was interfering with Blink's academics — he was doing wonderfully with reading and math, after all. Furthermore, the behavior, the very behavior that she had just spent so much time telling me wasn’t normal, wasn’t severe enough to warrant special education involvement. She did pause to add in a foreboding note, “Expectations will get higher in first, second, and third grades. At that point, perhaps special education will be appropriate.”

Blink, blink.

I stared at this woman, not comprehending how someone could blithely tell me that yes, my son was clearly floundering in kindergarten, but no, there was nothing the school wanted to do about it. Maybe Blink just needed to fail miserably every day for a few more years before anyone would actually, oh, I don’t know, do anything about it.

And yet, under my indignation, deep down, part of me was a tad relieved. The fact that I had voiced the dreaded words “special education” and been rebuffed must mean my child was simply highly sensitive and unique, yes, unique. Perhaps he was “gifted.” He would grow out of the screaming. The gulf between his intellectual development and his social emotional development would even out on his own and soon this would be a distant memory.

No comments: