“Help!”

Lucho has improved incredibly through his rehabilitation since he acquired a traumatic brain injury in 2013. His hyperactivity is his strength because his drive to be mobile exceeds all other tasks he may attempt. He started attending public school this year on a part time basis, allowing him to be counted for attendance and receive his therapies and FAPE (Free Access to Public Education). I drive him to school so that his access to education isn’t taken up in transportation. In his class are other students unique like himself. There are currently nine students in his class when he attends. He started with five classmates. He has one teacher and an assistant in his classroom at all times. Each classmate requires direct attention for feeding, changing, comforting, moving and teaching. His classmates are nonverbal, just like him. If there is a problem, discomfort or seizure, he and his classmates depend upon the attentive eyes of the adults present. There are only two adults present everyday. Occasionally, there are three adults in the room.

Lucho and his classmates use wheelchairs to move around. Many of his classmates can not propel their own chair. Lucho learns and practices propelling his chair according to his immediate wants. Most often he will impulsively move his chair toward his immediate want. Currently, there are nine wheelchairs in a room with a size of 20’x23′. I asked if there is a limit or ratio of teacher to student for the school district. I was told there is not. This means that as more parents with medically fragile students need to work because there isn’t any other means to provide for their child, they will have to enroll their medically fragile child in school. While I am confident in the teacher and her assistant, who has almost thirty years experience, I have concern about the amount of students who may arrive due to economic circumstances and life as it happens.

When I discussed this with friends and family, my husband didn’t seem at all alarmed. He said, “All they have to do is call 911.” I thought on this. Yes, this is true, but given the development of children and my son’s hyperactivity and easy ability toward boredom, this may cause a problem for him and them.

When I picked him up from school the other day, I was informed that he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. He was pinching others. Oooh, I thought. This isn’t good. It’s not fair to the others because they can’t pull away from him. In a regular classroom, he would receive a time out. He did. In a regular classroom, the other children would have moved away from him or told the teacher. His classmates can’t do this.

I have to ask myself is this is fair to anyone? According to ed.gov:

” An “appropriate” component means that this education must be designed to meet the individual educational needs of the student as determined through appropriate evaluation and placement procedures. However, students with disabilities must be educated with students without disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate.” <https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/frontpage/pro-students/issues/dis-issue03.html&gt;

I agree with FAPE and its purpose, however, I wish it were clearer by stating a ratio of  student to teacher. I fear that the natural events of the economy and legislature changes with Medicaid and Social Security will cause these small units to swell beyond what is appropriate. I fear that my son may express himself, which may or may not be appropriate because he will show his frustration regardless of what is considered appropriate student behavior.

My fear and concern is for my son’s teacher, who is given more and more students on her class roster. A person can only push two wheelchairs in the event of a fire alarm or a lock-down. If one teacher is given nine students in wheelchairs and one or two assistants to help with student care and teaching, how many students will be left without someone to take them to safety? And will the door already be open?

I hope that the school district will open another unit, rather than over-crowd an already existing medically fragile unit. It’s not FAPE and it’s not fair to over-crowd a classroom of medically fragile children who are in different stages of rehabilitation. How will annual growth happen to my child if he doesn’t have the academic and personal stimulation of a teacher to help him grow? I hope the school and the district will seek to be proactive toward a situation that will continue to grow. Legislators have a way of affecting others without realizing. I hope there will be more medically fragile classrooms within this school district so that medically fragile students can obtain FAPE without risk of neglect.

Under Title II, they have a rights to communication in ” related aids and services designed to meet the student’s individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met.” <https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/504faq.html&gt;.  While this may mean additional assistants, it should include teachers and communication devices.

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Flashing Memories

He did it. He made the face that sparks of orneriness and playful obstinance. He made the “O” face, as if to say, “Uh-oh, I’ve been caught so I need to play it up with the hope that no one will be mad”.

I haven’t seen that facial expression in almost four years. Then, he pushed himself back from the table using his feet. He’s ready to go. He wants to move on his own with incredible impact. Any attention he recieves, he smiles with great approval. He’s sensitive now. Traumatic Brain Injuries can feel euphoria and tears in the same moment depending upon what is happening around them and the individual’s support system.

My Lucho is lucky to have his family close at hand to assist him with what he is attempting. Although nonverbal and primarily gestural when he wants something, sign language may become a stronger form of communication for him. His consistent drive to move toward independence reminds me of how strong we need to be when our heart leads us toward our desires. He reminds me to persist and will my actions toward improvement and happiness.

Journey

Service dogs are known for their incredible ability to stay focused with incredible self control. In an effort to advocate for my children and bring them the highest quality of life, I’ve answered my eldest son’s request to have a service dog. In my research, I encountered lots of costs regarding the aquisition of such a high caliber canine. It can cost anywhere up to $20,000. This is equal to the purchase of a car. I don’t intend to ride these canines. There must be another way because many programs suggest that the dog be purchased from another state or in another city, where one would have to train then bring the dog home. How does the application of the training work in your home environment if there is a need for different kind of training? Is it possible too, that training might be done closer to home? It occurred to me the sheriff department works with training dogs for service. Perhaps I could search there.

I was in the church thrift store, when my path crossed a service dog trainer. She relocated to help her dad because her mom passed on. She trains privately and has many years of experience. She told me that often the dog will choose you.

God works in strange ways at times, or, rather, God’s way is not man’s way. Becoming owners of two intelligent and energetic puppies was not what I thought was supposed to happen; however, each day has proven to be more and more his way. People are changing. Just the presence of the puppies and how they “naturally” read the needs of those around them shows me their paths were meant to cross ours. The “Furry Godmother”, as she calls herself, was part of God’s way to bring Angel and Daisy to us. Her teachings help to build my confidence in an area that is new to me. This journey I take will bring goodness and confidence to my children. They need the attention only a pup can give, especially after the trauma of our Angel’s accident. This four-legged Angel arrives to help heal. This Daisy comes to calm with her ability to monitor us, watching, making sure we’re together. Thank you Furry Godmother. You are God’s tool toward healing through His angels and daisies.

Moody

Sitting with my 8 year old disabled son on my lap as I listen to the solo performance of Breath of Heaven, I feel the tears fighting their way to the surface. I hold my son because the seizures seem to avoid him if he feels comfort from an embrace of love. The soloist’s voice carries my tears closer to the surface as I identify with the pain, struggle and loneliness of being a caregiver. I adjusted his shirt, his position, searching to slow my breath and keep the tears back.

As she sang, “I have traveled many moonless nights with a babe inside, and I wonder what I’ve done.” The truth broke through my wall of protection.”You’ve chosen me now, to carry (my son). Iam waiting, in a silent prayer, I am frightened by the load I bear. In a world as cold as stone. Must I walk this path alone? Be with me now. Be with me now.Breath of heaven hold me together.Be forever near me….” My tears rushed and broke my walls. I struggled to keep them under control.The words from the soloist’s song were so true. My role in caring for my son gives me the knowledge to know the nativity story at the most personal level.

I sat in the third row, clearly seen by the pastor, yet trying to hide my tears. The journey is so long, ardorous and without rest. My son’s full rehabilitation still not within sight. “Breath of heaven, lighten my darkness, pour over me your holiness. Breath of heaven”.

I continued to listen to the words and know them as my own; “Do you wonder as you watch my face, if a wiser one should have had my place? But I offer all I am for the mercy of your plan. Help me be strong, help me be, help me.” I couldn’t slow the tears because it was all true. The pain, the wonder of my angel’s miracle is real too. He’s almost walking by himself. He wr

My middle son turned to me, seeing the tears and asked me what was wrong. I replied, “I have a headache.” He hugged me. My mood lifted. The soloist sang, “Breath of heaven, hold me together, be forever near me, breath of heaven”. My encouragement taken from the words of a song and my son’s embrace, I stopped the tears.

Not knowing a fellow parishener was watching, she came over to say, “You’re  the best mother, I’ve ever seen. You care for him so well.”