Archive for the ‘High School’ Category

IT’S DIFFERENT FOR GIRLS (Joe Jackson)
September 28, 2018

I was not an innocent young thing when I was in high school.  I snuck out to go see bands play in Hollywood, went to parties as often as I could, and kissed a lot of boys.  I had a group of close girlfriends, what would now be called my squad, who I spent most of my free time with, sometimes including some of our guy friends in the mix, or meeting up with them wherever we would land.  We all experimented with drinking, some drug use and boys.  Not all of us left high school virgins, but some did. We weren’t wild or reckless.  We were actually considered “nice” girls.  We were pretty typical teens in the early 1980’s.

I met my first boyfriend when I was 15, and was 16.  I was in 10thgrade and he was in 11th.  We dated and hung out for quite a while before he became my first. I had it in my head that I should wait until I was 16 to have sex.  I don’t know where that notion came from but wait we did.  Despite having a caring relationship, we broke up when I cut my long blonde hair short as I got more into punk rock.  So much for young love!

Your first time is supposed to be the cherished memory you carry with you.  The general sweetness of the nerves and fumbling and genuine belief that you are in love and this is the next, natural expression of that young love. At the time, it was all of that…plus in all honesty, it was fun.

I didn’t have a boyfriend for a while after that first relationship.  I kissed a few boys at parties (kissing was probably one of my favorite activities – I know I’ve written about my love of kissing before) but I didn’t have my second boyfriend for quite a while.  However, my opinion of sex was forever changed not long after the breakup.

One Friday, we all found ourselves at a post football game house party. A fairly usual occurrence. To this day I remember what I was wearing (A black mock turtle next sweater that was my mom’s when she was in high school, a wool pencil skirt, fishnets and black pointy toe pumps) and I can picture the front entrance of the house, double doors, with the garage and driveway to the right, with a large BMW sedan parked in the driveway, close to the garage door. There were shrubs that lines the walkway to the right of the door that led to the driveway.  There wasn’t a light on the garage, but the porch light glowed brightly.

We arrived late.  The party was already in full swing.  Music was playing and kids were spilling through the sliding glass doors in the living room out into the lit up back yard. A guy I liked was there and though he didn’t often show me any attention or regard, he came up and started talking to me.  He gave me a beer and we continued to talk about bands we’d seen.  It was loud and he took my hand and led me out to the front yard.  No one was out there.

He kissed me and I kissed him back, thinking, wow he likes me.  He moved me over to the driveway, backing me up against the garage door, still sort of kissing me. Then he moved his hands to my shoulders and started sliding me down the door until I was on the cement driveway behind the car.  I felt uncomfortable and nervous and suggested we go back inside.  I started worrying about what was going to happen next and yet I couldn’t quite escape him.  He still had me pinned down and was sort of squatted over me.

He pulled my skirt up and reached down and ripped my fishnet stockings open as I squirmed and tried to get away.  Then he pushed inside me.  No fanfare, no utterances of care.  It was over quickly, though it felt like ages laying there in the dark, on a cement driveway, pinned between a garage door and BMW, while my friends and lots of other people were inside having fun.  All the while he acted like it was a normal thing.

No one worried that I wasn’t inside the party because my friends knew that I thought he was cute. They figured we were making out.  They were probably happy for me that he had shown interest in me.

He actually extended a hand to help me up after, though he smugly went back inside alone, while I attempted to pull myself together and get my clothes back in order.  Eventually I went back in, found a drink and shook.  I couldn’t understand why that had happened and I kept replaying it, wondering what I did to make him think that it was what I wanted or that it was okay.  I doubted myself.  I blamed myself.  I didn’t understand.

Date rape wasn’t defined for at least another decade after that experience.  Those kind of experiences were brushed off as boys getting carried away or girls leading them on.  You know, you can’t get a guy all lathered up and not let him get off.   Peers weren’t supportive and parents were fairly useless.  You were not believed, you were judged.  You learned to just live with it and carry on.  If you were lucky, you didn’t get pregnant (because this was early 1981 and AIDS was just emerging so condoms were not readily used). If you were lucky, no one found out and you weren’t branded a slut.  If you were lucky, this wouldn’t have happened to you.

Sadly, it seems that today, almost forty years later, it’s not that different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOREVER YOUNG (Eddie Vedder)
September 20, 2018

Cole’s turning seventeen today.  Yes, that’s right, the boy is seventeen years old.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been riding the wave of his life for seventeen years.  When we became parents to Cole in particular, our own lives ceased to be our own lives.  I think it’s a reality of parents with 24/7 children in a way that is vastly different from parents of typical children.  In many ways, kids like mine are forever young.

Cole’s at an age where most his peers are wildly independent.  They’re staying home on their own, managing much of their social lives and school activities, and many of them are driving.  They’re all starting to contemplate the move from high school to college and hunkering down with their studies to ensure they have top grades, interesting community service in place, and strong SAT scores.

Seventeen looks very different in our family.  In some ways it doesn’t look much different than sixteen, or fifteen or fourteen, which in all honesty breaks my heart, because I know eighteen will likely feel the same.  Cole has delays in his development and will likely never pass the four foot mark.  In many ways he’s neurologically on track, but in other ways his comfort is still found in the same things that brought him comfort and joy when he was little.  His needs remain high, though to us fairly simple and second nature.  We struggle with the same obstacles – encouraging him to want independence, to use his voice (his Tobii – an eyegaze voice output device), and to develop new age appropriate interests.

Yet, he seems content with his life.  He loves high school and has made some good friends who he sees outside of school too, while still maintaining some of his life-long friendships, and he does well in his classes, excepting his lack of interest in using his Tobii has proven to be a frustration to his teachers and peers as well.  Outside of school he’s still happily participating in iDance and enjoying playing in his Champions baseball league.

He’s developed an interest in photography thanks to his summer spent hanging with Nelson.  Art has always been something he enjoys dabbling in but the interest in photography is new and we’re hoping to help him to expand it.  We bought him a camera that he can operate using an iPad/iPhone as both the viewer and button or a switch to take the shot and are keen to see where this hobby takes him. In typical teen fashion, any curiosity we show in his photography is met with eyes rolling and the shut down…

Ebbing on seventeen has also broadened his willingness to expand his musical repertoire and his TV viewing.  There are still times where only the music of Ralph’s World or Sesame Street or endless Holiday music will satisfy him but there are other times, more frequent times, when I can introduce new bands or playlists to him and he’s pleased.  I’ve been having the success with his TV down time. I’m not willing to watch endless hours of Little Bill or even The Barefoot Contessa, so constantly try new things and movies and lately, as he neared seventeen, he’s been a willing viewer. It gives me hope.

I’d love it if he’d show an interest in books.  I feel like resources like Audible could give him some independence and off screen time but still engage and entertain him but he’s not quite there yet.  I love to fall into a good book and so does my husband. To have Cole develop the love of a good book would please me to no end.  Oh the places, people and adventures he could explore…

Turning seventeen brings him a year closer to being an adult and having more adult feelings and curiosities. He has always been very fond of girls and has had crushes here and there over the years but this summer he fell hard.  It’s unchartered waters for us and I don’t really know what romance looks like for him.  I feel like it needs to be treated differently than the way I facilitate or manage friendships, but I don’t know exactly what that means.

I am keenly aware that much of my mixed feelings about Cole aging, or not, are just that, my mixed feelings.  Feeling blessed to have my son in my life, and loving him more than I can possibly convey can live with me sometimes mourning the loss of typical experiences both he and I would have had if things were different.  I don’t know if he considers “what if” in his own mind, and I avoid it when I can, but I’m human and I sometimes can’t help but wonder, or be sad.

IMG_1768My boy is seventeen today. Yes, seventeen years old!  He’s remarkable and brings grace to every day of my life.  I celebrate him today and everyday and hope that he’ll remain forever young…

TALK TO ME (Chris Isaak)
September 15, 2018

Cole’s first junior year report card arrived yesterday.  Straight A’s. He’s fairly consistently receiving A’s and a very occasional B on his high school report cards and always with E’s, and is always proud of himself when the grades are revealed.  We are proud too, of course.  For Cole, the grades are both a mix of subjective grading, his effort, and his understanding of the given subject.  He has modified work and the benefit of one on one class time with his Special Ed (SpEd) teacher.  It doesn’t diminish the grades and is certainly reflective of the attention he puts forth in class.  He takes a fair amount of pride in maintaining his grades and in the attention he receives for doing so.

I just wish he put forth the same interest and effort in developing some of his communication skills and independence at home.  He would gain so much by engaging in conversation with people outside of school, including me and his dad.  He has friends who desperately want him to use his Tobii (eye gaze generated voice output device) to talk with them.  Teens, even understanding, kind hearted teems, don’t always welcome the parent invasion when they’re hanging out.  Having time with friends, independent of a parent or even of a support adult to help facilitate conversation, would be so incredible for him.  It’s such a valuable facet of friendship.

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I’ve gone so far as to suggest to some friends that they tell him that they won’t chat with him until he starts chatting with them using his Tobii.  His friends are too sweet to listen to me and continue to talk to him despite his aversion to the Tobii.  He met a girl this summer who is very similar to him in diagnosis and also uses a Tobii, though she is happily reliant upon it and uses it well and often. I’m told she pressed him to use it during summer school and he was slightly more receptive, which makes me hopeful that he with the right motivation he’ll warm to it.

I understand part of his reluctance, or disdain, for the device.  Cole’s a people person.  He’s very keen on eye contact and adept at communicating some of his needs and reactions through small sounds and various facial expressions and smiles.  The Tobii obstructs his direct view of people he’s “talking” with.  It’s also taxing to use, both physically and mentally, so an element of laziness factors in too, especially if he’s asked to use Tobii with his dad and I.  We’ve developed a strong understanding of him, but even with us there’s so much left to our interpretation.  He’s often just not bothered enough to be frustrated or care. I really wish he were.

I just want him to use his voice…to express his thoughts, opinions, and needs.  I want him to deepen his friendships by opening them up through mutual communication and the intimacy that comes from friends sharing. I want him to engage new people in conversation or to initiate conversation. I want him to show interest in other people by asking questions or simply saying “Hello” aloud.  I want him to expand upon his education by using his voice to express his knowledge and understanding.  I want all of these things for him…

If only he did…

MANIC MONDAY
October 9, 2017

Generally I don’t have anything against Mondays. I view Monday as the beginning of the week and I tend to like beginnings, as opposed to endings. The start of things, days, events, have an optimism and hope that aren’t as certain to be carried through to the ending.manic-monday

This morning the boy struggled to wake and was grumpy. Granted, I’m not keen on our 5:30 wake-up time either and I find as he matures into his teens, it’s harder and harder for him. Don’t get me wrong he’ll never be the sleep until noon kind of teen, sleeping in to him is more like 6:30am or, gasp, 7:00am! I think he’s just a point where his preference is not be awakened, but to wake naturally, even it were to be at 5:30am, which is what happens often on weekends, when he can actually sleep in! Then, he wakes happily, wanting nothing more than to lounge in bed, watching something mindless, or snuggling.

This morning though, he was a bit of a bear. My solution? Loud music and crazy dancing. First laying next to him, helping to move his arms and waving my hands and legs in the air like an upturned beetle, then me dancing around the room while he shook off his morning blues and eventually laughed, and laughed. On occasion, I can be hilarious! It worked though and to my mind, a quick bit of dancing is a nice way to get the day started.

With that in mind, I haven’t shared the songs that make up my post titles for quite a while because I’ve been so terrible about posting so I thought I’d use this post to do so. Since the last time I shared, here are the songs and artists of recent blog titles:

Manic Monday (The Bangles)
Don’t Stop Believing (Journey)
Swimming Lesson (The Eels)
Sixteen Forever (The Dictators)
Just Like Starting Over (John Lennon)
Changes (David Bowie)
Lean on Me (Bill Withers)
Sharp Dressed Man (ZZ Top)
Summeritme Blues (Eddie Cochran)
Sound of Your Voice (Bare Naked Ladies)
Speechless (Michael Jackson)
Making Plans for Nigel (XTC)

Looking forward to a cheerier Tuesday…

 

 

 

HAPPY
July 17, 2017

Just found this unposted blog…Sort of relates to the one I just posted…

We’re now almost a month in and dare I say, high school is going well.  There were big bumps leading up to the first day, and a small one on the actual first day – the aide who was supposed to ride the bus with him didn’t show up in the morning so he rode alone with the driver until they picked up the next kid.  Apparently, not legal so we made the wrong decision in allowing him to go, but the aide did eventually catch up to him on the route and he arrived safely for his first day.

His schedule got sorted out and he even has a close friend from CHIME in one of his general education classes.  I think it’s helpful because having a typical, cute, volleyball team, girl chatting with you and laughing with you goes along way to inspiring other kids, kids who have not previously attended school with someone like you, to talk to you too.  He’s making friends, slowly, but it’s happening.

School friends…not necessarily the friends you do stuff with on the weekends.  That seems harder to navigate in high school, where parents are interacting in the same way and the community itself if much larger.  At this age, kids generally start to take charge of their social lives so for a kid like Cole, that becomes a bit more challenging without parental support and intervention.  We’ll see.

Overall, the school has shown a great interest in making sure he’s supported, challenged and engaged.  He really likes his main teacher, his special education teacher, who he has for several classes, and the general education teachers likewise are making efforts to ensure that he’s participating and part of their classroom community.  It’s really quite impressive.

All that said, and I’m really not complaining, but it’s still not exactly what was promised.  The LAUSD high school system is very different in terms of how it approaches kids like mine.  Inclusion is not a concept that is implemented at the high school level.  They mainstream, which is more a sink or swim concept, and where I’m thankful he’s at a school where the administration has more than a passing interest in inclusion more so than mainstreaming.

At the end of the day, this month has gone well.  He comes home tired, but happy.  He’s adjusting to the crazy schedule – being picked up at 6:10 am by the bus and returned to our door sometime before 5 pm at the end of each day.  Him happy, it’s all that matters.  The other stuff can work itself out.

 

 

 

 

Summertime Blues
July 17, 2017

I’m baaacccckkkk…

For better or worse, it’s been nearly a year since I added new posts to I Love Your Brain. I think about it often and I miss writing but these months have been charged with all sorts of new stresses and joys.

The most notable event of the “lost months” is that Cole started high school. He’s actually now successfully and happily completed his freshman year at a public LAUSD high school. He did well, enjoyed school, made friends (even had a girlfriend) and is now contentedly enjoying four weeks of summer school.

Filling nearly ten weeks of summer with two working parents is challenging, so we take activity where we can! Thankfully, he still loves school so summer school is a good, free option for part of summer.

The relief I feel about Cole liking his new high school and adapting to the new environment, teachers, schedule and transportation can’t be measured. The stress leading up to finding what we hoped would be the right school was immense for all of us. We’d been spoiled by CHIME. Cole had only known inclusion. How would this work at the high school level, in a school district that doesn’t practice inclusion at the high school level?

Interestingly enough, his school was open to allowing him to take some classes under general ed and some, including his home room under special ed. At first he really liked having his day split between the two, and he did well in all of his classes. He had support for the general ed classes through his special ed teacher and made some friends outside of the special ed class.

But somewhere midway through the year, he started to prefer his special education classes to the general education classes. He made more friends in that class and felt more comfortable and confident there. For the first time in his fifteen years he’s starting to identify more with kids who have disabilities or are more similarly abled to him. One hand it seems like a natural trend. High school is where most teens start to regroup and find their peeps.

On the other hand, it’s been harder for my husband and I to accept. We both recognize that it’s Cole’s choice and that his happiness is most important but in that way that most special needs parents have to let go of their own notions of what their child’s experience is supposed to look like and adapt to what it does look like, we have had to let go of the idea that having an inclusive education at this level is what’s best for Cole. It’s hard.

Despite the successful school year he’s had, it’s also come with a fair amount of loneliness. He’s made a lot of friends at school, kids he spends every school day with and some riding the bus to and from and school with (so spending roughly from 6:15am until 5pm together), but he doesn’t see these kids outside of school, except one movie date night earlier this summer.

Nor does he see much of his old friends. There are some kids who he was really close to at CHIME who he hasn’t seen since leaving CHIME. I understand it’s the ways things naturally go at this stage in their young lives, but I’m not sure how much he does. The reality is that there’s little intervention that I as a parent can offer. It breaks my heart.

Right now, I’m just hoping the rest of summer will pass quickly and that we can get back to routine of sophomore year, full school days. We’re in the process of building a swimming pool so next summer Cole will be able to enjoy his favorite activity any time he wants…swimming – in his own swimming pool in his own backyard! Hopefully it will provide some social opportunities for him too!

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MAKING PLANS FOR NIGEL
September 19, 2016

My current conundrum is navigating the teenage social life, without appearing to be doing so.

Cole’s at an age where most of his peers are managing their own social lives, with parents providing only transportation input be it, actually driving, or providing access to an Uber or Lyft account, and setting some general boundaries like curfews. Kids text each other to initiate an outing, activity, get-together, and to make arrangements.

Cole doesn’t text, or talk, and doesn’t receive many texts, and never texts inviting him to hang out. He might enjoy doing so but since he’s not part of that very prevalent social networking world, he’s not immediately thought of for social activities. Truthfully, much as it pains my heart, he’s probably not thought of for such things regardless of his social networking status.

That doesn’t mean I’m not keen to somehow help him facilitate a social life of some sort, even if it’s a bit challenging to do so whilst trying to remain behind the scenes. I’m learning that this is much more difficult to manage in high school, where parents are not connecting the same way and not being on campus makes it nearly impossible to know which kids he might actually want to see outside of school.

He didn’t see friends much during the summer, which was tough and more noticeable to him than it is during the school year when weekdays are long (he’s gone from 6:15am-5pm) and weekends have activities already scheduled like baseball league, swimming lessons, and the dreaded homework. There’s less free time to fill so the absence of friend time is not as obvious.

However, boy cannot live by hanging with the parents alone…he needs opportunities to spend time with friends and to do some socializing outside of school without hovering parents. (Not that I intend to hover but the reality of Cole is that he does need some adult support most of the time). A few old friends came over this past Saturday evening to watch a movie and very informally celebrate his birthday. It was a treat to have pals who know him well and with whom he can relax, and Dan & I can pretty much fade away while they hang out. Hearing not only his laughter, but theirs from the distance of a couple of rooms made my heart swell. If only I could figure out how to make nights like that a monthly thing…

I’d also love to figure out if there are any new school friends he might want to hang out with. I keep hearing about a boy named David, who I’m told by Cole’s teacher is one of Cole’s favorite friends at school, despite Cole telling me otherwise when I ask about him. I know he’s just goofing around when I ask but I also don’t know that he’s ready to make the leap of inviting him to go bowling or something on the weekend. Time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll be working on the next movie night…

LIAR
August 11, 2016

Reality bites…

We attended the freshman orientation with Cole this morning at his new high school. He starts school next Tuesday at a new school where inclusion means something entirely different than what we’ve experienced for the past fourteen years.

The school, and LAUSD, our school district, both seemed opened to having Cole attend this school, and touted the potential for him to do some of his classes in general education and some under the wing of special education. We worked it out as such in his IEP, painstakingly ensuring that he’d have plenty of opportunity to spend time with typical peers, as well as benefitting from the support needed for some subjects in special day class.

His schedule was hand delivered by one of his special ed teachers. First period – Jazz Ensemble. Um…What? That is supposed to be his elective, one of the courses he’d take in general setting. First off, he doesn’t play any instruments, nor is he physically capable of doing so. Secondly, Jazz Ensemble?

Apparently all of the other electives were full. That’s the explanation we received.

And it got worse from there. Jazz Ensemble is the only class he has in general education. Everything else in his day is in the special ed classroom. Again, what? This is not what was agreed upon and spelled out in his IEP. To this we received a “We’re not like CHIME. We can’t support him in class”.

Apparently the IEP means nothing.

He’s supposed to have a one to one support throughout the entire day. Someone who can tend to his personal needs, support his access to the curriculum and to the classroom, facilitate his social goals, and enable him to thrive in the school setting. Thus far, they haven’t hired, or found, this support person. We’re told they’ll be there Tuesday morning, ready to go.

Apparently without any training or understanding of Cole at all.

I knew high school was going to be different and that leaving CHIME would mean some changes in terms of the kind of support Cole would receive, but there seems to be little interest in ensuring that he receives the same kind of high school education and experience that his typical peers will have access to.

When they say no child left behind, they lie.

 

TAKE A CHANCE ON ME
February 23, 2016

The high school process continues. The great news is that Cole got into our top choice for him. The bad news is that the hard work is still ahead of us. The school he got into is an independent charter high school. It’s small, fully inclusive, and open to the challenge of having a diverse student body. It’s a performing arts charter but Cole was accepted to their liberal arts program.

They’ve never had a kid like him, but the reality is very few schools have. Cole’s unique beyond just his obvious challenges. I’m not sure where kids like Cole go to school but this process has shown me that very few schools are open to the unknown. Spectrum diagnoses are now apparently commonplace enough that they do not rattle most mainstream schools, and there are endless private options available to these kids.

The task of managing a child with physical needs is apparently more daunting to school administrations, than say some of the significant behavioral issues that can accompany many spectrum diagnoses. Add in the non-verbal component and he becomes even more so. The reality of a kid like Cole, who is by all accounts friendly, interested, cooperative, and bright in class, is that once people know how to manage his physical needs and to work with his technological accouterments (i.e. his Tobii), he’s a pretty easy kid.

Yes, he needs modifications for some of his schoolwork, and even the occasional accommodation, usually extra time, but even that isn’t terribly taxing. The big problem as I see it is that there just aren’t enough kids like Cole in general, and more pointedly, who want to be fully included. There aren’t even enough to motivate an innovative school or non-profit to start a specialized school for kids like him, as we’ve seen happen in the last decade or so for kids on the spectrum.

Neil Young started a very tiny school, which I believe emerged initially from a camp program that focuses on assistive technology for kids with cerebral palsy. It’s for younger kids, and handful at that, who can afford the private tuition. I’d love to send Cole to the camp to better his Tobii skills, and to perhaps help motivate him use it in social settings, and not just at school.

For Cole, whose only education experience has been in fully inclusive settings, and his only social group is a diverse pool of kids, mostly typical, the best, least restrictive setting for him is a high school that can provide the same. He’s motivated by peers and teachers who are seeing him, Cole, not the wheelchair, not the Tobii, just Cole, the boy.

Getting a school to take the chance of having him as part of their community is proving to be harder than anyone led us to think it would be. If the school of our choice can be convinced to take the leap and to go for it, the rewards of having a kid like him in their student body would be far greater than the accommodations and modifications that would be required to do so.

He brings something unique to the party and it happens everywhere he goes. I know I’m his mom, but I’ve seen it happen everywhere he goes. He has the ability to attract people, to make peers feel comfortable, cared for and important, and to make a lasting imprint on teachers and staff. He has countless checkout people at our regular haunts, and waitress staff at favorite restaurants that count on smiles from him and return them just as openly.

If he can continue his education at this school, he’ll find his place quickly, routines will become established, and life will go on, just slightly altered, and most certainly improved, by him being there.

Please!!!!  Take a chance on Cole!