Vocational

April 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

I have worked in a variety of settings which allowed me to learn in a very in-depth way about pre-vocational, vocational, and sheltered workshop opportunities for adults with disabilities.

Pre-vocational skills are not happening enough across schools. I firmly believe that in conjunction with academics ALL students should be learning what it is like to develop useful skills and it should start with very simple responsibilities. I believe for ALL kids we are not preparing them enough for the real world. The basics are being overlooked and with technology soaring kids need to be taught the proper way to do things. For instance when writing to a teacher or coach to request a letter of recommendation for a summer job remembering that texting language is not “O.K.” – letter U does not replace the word you.

With another colleague years ago we researched a variety of vocational and pre-vocational programs, then together devised one of our own. I became a job coach and went into the community to search for jobs to match kids skills. I went to trainings and learned that most of these jobs are short lived. I must have done something right because my students stayed at theirs for years. The key was I matched the job to their “super power” (a term coined by my favorite educator Katy Shamitz of Skills for Living and The Chapman School). I had a student who knew everything about movies and actors and of course I got him a job at Block Buster and he rocked it. All of the students placed need training and practice. They needed to be taught to look in the mirror and check their clothes for neatness before work, crash courses on public vs private behavior and what it means to get a pay check.

We expect our typical kids to just do these things but they are no better skilled at doing them than those with disabilities.

We have removed classes like home economics and shop from most schools where students can learn to follow non-academic directions. We want them to be prepared for real life yet we only teach them a lot of useless information that if they wanted to know, they could use Google. Is it really important that my fourth grader or any fourth grader memorizes the capital city of each state? Could that time be better spent?

For certain we will be exploring pre-vocational and vocational training for my daughter through high school years. For my son, who probably needs it even more than she does because he is the classic “book smart” kid – well, we’ve already begun training with volunteer situations which is a natural first step.

Maybe this sounds like a rant…oh well.
I just want educators to think outside the lines of the common core curriculum and think about what they are teaching and how it relates to real-life skills. How can learning be made more meaningful for ALL students?

Vacation?

April 24, 2014 § 1 Comment

Our family took three days to “get out of dodge.” We went up to the mountains for some R&R. We are a tight family and thoroughly enjoy being together. We brought comfy clothes, snacks, meds, iPads and noise canceling headphones. Everyone was a bit tired from Easter but happy to be going away.

We had a wonderful time! We saw deer and bears! We ate and shopped and in the pictures posted on Facebook it looks down right perfect.
And to us it was – to another family who is not used to traveling with a person with slight medical issues, anxiety and a sensory processing disorder – it would have been…..strained…..to say the least.

All of those issues come with you on vacation and the flexibility and patience of the family is really the deciding factor on how the trip will go.

We have taken much bigger trips that have gone smoother than this one. I am most impressed with my son who continually rebounded from several minor disappointments and changes in plans that he was looking forward to. He has learned to be über flexible and understanding. I am also impressed with my daughter who despite all of these issues did the best she could to challenge herself to “keep going” even when it was hard for her – perseverance! At times the anxiety, medical and sensory needs won but that’s ok.

As parents we all have moments of grandeur because of our excitement of sharing the goodness of life with our kids. We have moments where we forget about the disability, we don’t plan for the anxiety and sensory needs and become disappointed about how things turn out. Flexibility and acceptance are the key here!

TEACHERS – I bet this happens to you in the classroom too. It’s easy to “forget” when your excited to share something that is really cool and our kids end up having a hard time. Please don’t stop trying! Our kids remember your excitement and that is a gift – seeing someone else excited about learning is GOOD! But just remember to be flexible and understanding in the moment – this is how it goes, ups and downs, peaks and valleys. Everyone learns to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and keep moving forward.

Anything for the kids ….no matter what!

April 12, 2014 § 4 Comments

Recently my school had a lock down that was real. There was a period of about 30 minutes that I had children with me but had no idea what was happening. During this time I was afraid. I had no idea what was lurking outside my office. In those 30 minutes I had to psych myself up to be mentally prepared to protect my students from whatever or whomever it was. I had to mentally prepare myself to give up my life for theirs. I knew in the moment that I would do that, no doubts! I also had the thought cross my mind that “I don’t get paid enough for this.”

I was relieved to find out there was no immediate danger. Thank God for cell phones! The next 3 hours were long, boring and still a little scary at times but I made it the best I could for my students, fed them my lunch, watched movies on the iPad (with almost no volume) and hugged them when they got nervous. I love my students.

Parents – love the teachers, most of us will do anything we can to keep your kids happy and safe and we won’t think twice about the personal cost.

Hard work pays off??

April 12, 2014 § 4 Comments

A big motto in our house is “hardwork pays off.” We actually say this often.

What about when it doesn’t? What about when your kid goes to school and works hard everyday but none of that is reflected in her report card? My daughter works as hard as other kids. Sometimes harder! But when it’s report card time she gets a report card full of 1s (4 is the highest grade) because she is in special education. I have NEVER been able to share my daughters report card with her. I have never been able to put it on the fridge and feel proud by the hard work represented, instead I quickly stash it away in hopes that she will never see it or ask for an explanation. It effects my son as well. I hide his report card too. I praise him privately but I never want to rub it in her face.

When I’ve discussed this with the school their response is “Well Mrs Gallagher, the progress note from special education is her report card.” OMG – equal treatment ? NO! This is a case of different treatment.

There has got to be a better way!

I know not all towns are like mine. I know that at the school I work at report cards are carefully crafted with long narratives as well as numerical grades for each child. I like that!

In Between the Sheets

April 10, 2014 § 2 Comments

I was with a group of friends last weekend. They asked about this blog. I was proud of my work but I always feel the need to explain to everyone that I blog from my iPhone in bed each night. They laughed and said the title of my next blog should be “in between the sheets.” I like a catchy title so this one is for the folks who made me laugh last weekend 🙂

What I want you to know about this blog is that it’s tricky to write. It’s tricky because so many people believe I am writing about them personally when I use general phrases like, therapists or classroom teachers. Here’s the thing I am probably not writing about you. If you are seeing a reflection of yourself, positively or negatively, in my writing that’s your own projection. I have 20 years of experience that I am writing about as a special educator and 10 years as a special needs mom. Believe me there are so many things that I would love to write about but cannot because they are tied to closely to my current job and could be misconstrued.

I also understand I have strong opinions about many educational issues but they are nothing more than that – “opinions.” I actually like when people offer opposing views, I love discussion and I am not a rigid thinker,
so I am open to listening to others point of view.

Spelling and autocorrect – yes this is a pitfall of typing lengthy passages from an iPhone, in between the sheets, when I am almost ready to go to sleep. It happens – I am imperfect. Oh well.

So to those who have been feeling like you think I’m writing about you – I’m probably not. I apologize for my autocorrects and sometimes poor typing as I’m doing it with my thumbs.

I am blessed you continue to read and share your own stories and insights with me. I hope I can bring comfort and knowledge to readers.

Thank you for reading and “listening.”

Sweet dreams for now ! ❤️

Blindside

April 9, 2014 § 1 Comment

So we had a very busy day full of appointments for Arianna.

My husband and I didn’t go to work so we had a chance to sit and talk before our appointments. One of the things we talked about was that we needed to “stay on our toes” and prepare for the blindside.

As special needs parents we have been in situations we weren’t anticipating many times. When we don’t emotionally prepare ourselves for these moments and they happen it feels as if we’ve gotten sucker punched in the stomach. We are savy now though and we have become survival based realists who are always anticipating what could go wrong. When I say survival I mean emotionally because there is nothing like the blindside to send us into an emotional black hole. This goes for medical and educational settings – we have had “situations” in both settings.

Our appointments today went well, I guess you could say they were “unremarkable”. The appointment at the school seemed good. I was just happy there wasn’t any blindsides. The medical appointment
was pretty enjoyable actually, we love seeing this Doctor and she was able to help us make some decisions today so I always feel blessed when we leave.

So we had a blindside free day. That’s a good day!

Teachers – you can’t imagine how often parents with needs are blindsided by bad news. It can be as simple as finding out your child is being bullied, not receiving services or are unhappy at school. It can be as major as an unexpected bad medical news. When it is school related It ruins our trust with the school because it’s almost always something that could have been communicated sooner. If we don’t seem excited by your enthusiasm it is because we are waiting for the blindside. It’s sad but true. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million more times – communicate! Communicate! Communicate regularly! When the school and teachers are transparent with everything we trust you more, you will prevent the blindside and keep our trust.

A glass of wine when we get home

April 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

Today we are going to see the programs they are willing to offer us at the middle school for my daughter.

It’s certainly anxiety provoking. I am unsure of exactly what questions to ask. We scheduled this appointment about one month ago and at 5:00PM last night the director called me and tried to cancel. She was double booked. I told her that we could not that both my husband and I had to work hard to get the day off and we coordinated specifically for this day when we booked this appointment because Ari has another appointment later in the day. She said she would meet with us in-between her other appointments.

After our visit this morning we will head to the geneticist at MGH. We are blessed to have an amazing doctor there who guides us through all processes.

So needless to say I will need a glass of wine when I get home tonight. I am praying for a good visit at the Middle School and a easy doctors appointment.

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