Foxes and Pedophiles

Matt got his official diagnosis this October. Mild Asperger’s and Very Superior Intelligence.

Just what we expected.

I am so incredibly hopeful that these labels will help Matthew in school. And so far, his teachers have been great. But during our October conference, it was obvious to me that Matthew requires a great deal of support during class time from his teachers. In a classroom with 6 students and two full time teachers, he is succeeding. But what about Kindergarten?

Yes, I am worrying about Kindergarten 10 months ahead of time. That’s how I roll.

Why am I worried? I am afraid of Foxes and Pedophiles. Let me explain.

When Gabriel started first grade, the first time, at our public elementary school I wasn’t too worried. We had been rezoned into a brand new school, so I joined the PTA Board of Directors as the Vice President of Fundraising, and got a sneak peek into the school before it opened, and more importantly, the opportunity to know the principal and staff. I was comforted by this. I felt sure that when Gabe started school, they would be on board with helping him.  And they were.

Turns out the school wasn’t the problem. It was Gabe’s classmates’ parents that were the problem.

I have written about Gabriel’s first grade meltdown before; he was accused of ‘breaking a class rule’ (touching the stapler on the teacher’s desk) by his teacher in front of his peers standing at his locker after class let out. Cornered and embarrassed, Gabriel lied and said he didn’t do it. She insisted he did it. Gabe exploded, yelled and scratched her forearm. Then, hid in his locker. I was called, and with Matt in a stroller and Nick on my hip, I went rushing to school to get him. He was upset, but I would be too with 4 adults standing over me. I took him home, and he calmed down.

The point is what happened after that incident.

Six women, parents of students in Gabriel’s class started pushing our principal to have Gabriel removed from class because he was a ‘danger’ and put in the enclosed classroom.

During a private meeting that I got wind of through other PTA board members, and then of course CRASHED, these six women sat with the principal and went down a laundry list of things they thought needed to be changed at the school. The list was long and centered around safety.

Although they never mentioned my son’s name in my presence, I mean these women are ignorant, not stupid, they talked about kids who weren't keeping their hands to themselves in the bus line, and behavior problems in general in the classroom. Truthfully, these women seemed to be terrified of leaving their kids at school -- fearful of everything imaginable.  My teacher-scratching son was just one of the dangers of public school.

According to these women, there were many unsolved safety issues at this new school that they were just the genius bunch to help.  Problems like how to assure that only each child is picked up by the correct adult.  Their solution?  Locking our entire school down for dismissal, including stationed guards at the front yet-to-be-built gates with walkie-talkies radioing in the 'assigned numbers' on each car and matching it the corresponding numbered child waiting behind closed doors in the cafeteria on lock-down before being ushered out safely to their car by an adult armed with a -- you guessed it -- walkie-talkie and stick-on badge.  

Another genius idea that worked in connection to that one, was their desire to build a fence around the entire school. A five foot chain link fence, like there is around the baseball field, around the entire school.  Because having your child feel the 'safety' of being fenced in will help them prepare for life -- in jail.

These women were hoping that the principal would see reason, that without a fence, our school was susceptible to predators.

The argument was supported with great evidence:  There is a ‘wooded area’ behind the school, where bad guys could hide. Mind you this ‘wooded area’ is no less than 100 feet from the back of the school, down a 40 foot incline, and then back up it, and is only approximately 5 acres. With many house around it. Not exactly 'wilderness' more of what a Real Estate agent would call a 'green belt'.

However, and I am quoting here, the women were afraid without a fence around the entire campus, that “Foxes and Pedophiles” could get on campus undetected.

Yes, Foxes and Pedophiles. In that order.

I laughed out loud.

“You really think foxes want to be on a 500-kid campus?” I chortled, “Or that a five foot chain link fence would keep out pedophiles?” I couldn’t help but laugh. I mean this woman talking was serious. And her cohorts were nodding vigorously at her concerns.

“If a pedophile wants to get on campus, I assure you he will not be dissuaded by a chain link fence.” I said with as much seriousness as I could muster.

Obviously no sane person would think that is a good idea – and thankfully for us one of the hiring requirements for principal in our district is sanity.

The real truth here is, that meeting, that experience, and the ones that came after (yes, adult women gossiping about my child), scared me.

Gabe was a relative angel at school. Matt isn’t.

Throw Matt in a classroom of 25 students, subjects of no interest (they don’t have a Thomas the Tank Engine themed curriculum to my knowledge), and he doesn’t play well with others. He is going to be frustrated. Knock things over. And otherwise be his classmates’ parent’s definition of ‘dangerous’.

And I can’t shake that worry. In November. 10 months before he starts Kindergarten.

As you can all guess, I am working my butt off with Occupational Therapy, Sensory Diet (I should’ve been an OT), social skills classes, play dates, expanding his interests (he literally was shocked when I told him he may not get ONLY Thomas toys for his birthday), and increasing his attention tolerance during assigned activities.

But, that doesn’t change the fact that I am anxiously-worried about the crazy-ass ignorant people who don’t get my son.

Foxes and Pedophiles.

Seriously people.



The Henrys said...

Um, wow. I don't blame you for being worried!
I am so glad you found out about that meeting and then crashed it.

It sounds like you are doing everything that you can to help and prepare him for school!!

Nancy Peske said...

Oh my. At least you have a sense of humor (I personally am looking for the school with the Super Smash Bros./Pokeman curriculum). This is what happens when fear goes unchecked. I think everyone needs to meditate a bit over there!
It's so frustrating that moms of kids with special needs not only have to do the hard work of helping their children to fit into a challenging learning environment but they also often end up having to educate others about why their children behave as they do and why SIMPLE accommodations and a little tolerance can make a world of difference. You are a real asset to your school district, Hartley!

Hartley said...

@The Henrys -- Thanks for the comment! I am happy I crashed that meeting, but in some ways, it just made me realize how incredibly nuts some people are. LOL

@Nancy -- Yes, a sense of humor is necessary in the special-needs-parenting world, right? LOL You are absoultely right that educating the world around our kid is incredibly hard, yet such a HUGE part of this journey. I am positive YOU are a huge asset to your school district too! : )


Anonymous said...

It's refreshing to hear someone else say that they are worried about kindergarten for NEXT year! I too am worried about what will happen next year when my son, diagnosed with SPD and shows flags for PDD (but they don't want to diagnose this right now due to his intelligence), arrives in a class of 15-20 children.
I currently live in a district that shows little knowledge of SPD and I worry that his sensitivities lead to anger and aggression with others (especially family right now). I also worry that this kindergarten is not half day - it is 8:45-3:30 and how will he handle the cafeteria, unstructured play on the playground, will his impulsivities (or frustration) lead to him walking off the playground...
Everyone around me says, don't worry so much, children are often different at school than at home - is this an insult to my parenting? I don't know, but I worry - I'm mom, that's what I do... All I can do is like you said, work on the sensory diet, talk with the OT, and PRAY that he'll learn his own cues well enough so that he can teach the teacher without me always being there.
Thanks again for helping me to not feel so alone on the journey.

In Real Life said...

Wow! I thought I was the only one that was wary of the other parents at school - sometimes, they seem downright CRAZY! I can't help but giggle over the phrase, "Foxes and Pedophiles" though.

You are such a role-model for advocating for your child - thank you for sharing your experiences!

That is such a cute photo of Matthew!

Brenda said...

Yep, my official title: "Ass-Worrier-Off-er" er, um something like that. You know what? Let those women build a fence. AND suggest they do a pedophile count AND a fox count in the 'hood. Anything to keep 'em busy and away from your cutie.

Sarah Hoffman said...

I started worrying about kindergarten a year ahead...and Sam, my undiagnosed-but-spectrummy guy, started worrying two years in advance. And now that he's in third grade, I haven't stopped worrying--was he in the right school? Should we have sent him half days? And why didn't we have early intervention so he was in better shape than he was with only the one year of OT before he started? And so on.

I grew up in a city with fenced schools, pedophiles, and no foxes. How I would have loved to grow up without fences, with woods nearby. And now, raising my kids in another city, I want to point out that living in a place with trees and greenery and the potential for foxes is a good thing for sensory kids.

Hartley said...

@Anonymous -- I know not to worry, and try to use my worry-energy (is that such a thing?) towards practical things that will help. But, I worry. That's me.

@InRealLife -- Who doesn't laugh at foxes and pedophiles? Really. That's absurd. And thanks on the photo -- I obviously think he's a doll. :) LOL

@Brenda -- I am so using that term, the Ass Worrier Offer. Awesome. Don't think these women aren't all OVER the 'registered sex offenders' website. I tried to tell them it is the UN-registered ones we should be worried about. Duh.

@Sarah -- So good to see you here!! Yes, having NO need for such insanity as fences and walkie-talkie guards, you would think would make these women happy. But the suburban cul-de-sac life I lead seems to make us MORE worried about what's out there. We aren't immune to bad guys, but come on people.

Thanks to all of you for the comments - I <3 you all!


Patty O. said...

Yikes! It's really sad when it is actually the parents who are stupid and intolerant. You stand very little chance that their kids will be any better. Sigh.

Those women need to get a grip. I sure hope you have more normal parents when Matt goes to school. I seriously wish there was a way to make parents be more tolerant of other kids....

And I worry about things way in advance, too. I think it comes with the territory.

Gina @ Special Happens said...

I think you have every right and every reason to be concerned. An ignorant group of classmate's parents is only second to an ignorant group on your student's teachers and faculty. I'm hopeful that the school is more educated, that our 'peer' parents are more educated and will make Kindergarten a good experience.

On a different note, while I never 'wish' a diagnosis on anyone, I am glad that you, he, has one. It gives clarity, direction, services, understanding.

Anonymous said...

I started worrying about KG about a year ago, only 10 more months to go! Now the worry has kicked into high gear realizing that the kindergarten class size is somewhere around 30 children! There is no way my son can concentrate, attempt to socialize, or feel free to speak up in such a large enviornment. The private school is smaller, but longer days. I don't think its bad to worry 10 months in advance...I've been doing it for about 22months :)

Alysia said...

I'm worried about kindergarten for next year too (as is my oldest, who is already planning his brother's entire kindergarten career!)
I'll admit that I too am afraid of foxes and pedophiles. But not on school grounds. As Patty said, it's scary when the parents are the ones saying the silly things (imagine what they are saying at home if this is what they are saying at a meeting!!!) thank goodness for your sane principal!

mumtoj said...

mmmm completely understand your worries, J is due to start prep in January, whilst the school is being great, (school number 2 because school number 1 pretty much informed us that J would just have to cope!)I work within childcare and I have heard how awful some "playground parents" can be about other children at their child's school, it's there reaction that I dread.Luckily for us there will be a couple of others in his year, who currently attend his EI, who are also ASD kids so we won't be alone :)
Glad you crashed the meeting, hope everything works out for you :)

Mama Pickles said...

Matthew sounds EXACTLY like my son. I am worrying about him going into kindergarten and it's 22months away! His IEP is next week and I plan on bringing it up even though it is so far away.

Heather said...

I started worrying about kindergarten a good year before my son ever got there. Fortunately it has been a very positive experience for all of us. It doesn't keep me from continuing to worry though. I guess it's what we parents do best...

Hartley said...

Thank you all for your comments! It is always comforting to know that I am not alone.I

I know that Matthew will make it through, I know he will. I just am not sure how hard it will be on me! LOL


Anonymous said...

I was at that meeting 4 years ago and it wasn't exactly as you describe. And didn't you post something awhile ago about not judging people - I'm pretty sure by calling people ignorant (including me since I was there) that is judging. And there has been someone living in the woods behind the school for quite some time now. The same woods where the older kids take walks during class. Just adding my two cents here...

dizzy_mom said...

Once again you leave me in stitches. I'll never get "Foxes and Pedophiles" off my mind in a PTA meeting now.

I'm having to prepare for the lottery into a school for our twins. With all the concerns that go with sending a typical child, add a new set of EC teachers and new IEP reviews. I'm exhausted but when I hear "Mommie, I love you..." it's totally worth it. (realize he didn't speak until almost 3) Thanks, H!!!

Becca said...

It's so SO refreshing to read of other moms with kids like mine--who worry the same way I do!

We opted to homeschool full time for a few years with my oldest; now we homeschool part time. A little maturity helped a LOT with his ability to not storm out when he can't tell the teachers what to do.

I'm sure Matt will do fine--he has you gunning for him!

Teri said...

You have a beautiful writing style and are a pleasure to read. Great stuff too. I am the mom of two highly sensitive and intelligent boys who don't quite rise to the level of any diagnosis, so I am often in the position of "seeing both sides". A lot of people thing my kids are "weird". I *know* they frequently think that I "made them" the way they are, though I certainly didn't (unless it's genetic, in which case...). It can certainly be frustrating that other people don't "get" my kids, but then I think "why should they?" Really? They don't have any experience with this kind of thing. They don't feel panicky when someone is standing too close to them or when a stranger is talking to them, so they *cannot* understand why my kids do. I find that a few well-chosen words often help to get them to back off (without feeling put-down) and to help my kids feel advocated for. I also hope that I am helping my children to find the words to advocate for themselves.

On another note, dietary modification has helped both of my boys tremedously with sensory issues, with anger, fear and sadness control, and with impulsivity. The protocol we're following is called GAPS. We also homeschool for many of the reasons you outline in your article. I know that homeschooling is not an option for everyone, but we love it.

Lastly, a fox killed a baby in England recently, and a homeless man living in a stretch much like the one you described in your post raped and killed a 13 year old girl in our town last year. I realize that these are far less common incidents than most people believe (and the fox attack was downright bizarre), but I think it's a mistake to belittle people's fears. Isn't that what we don't want *them* to do to our kids? Far better to calmly explain the facts, and one's desire to balance safety with freedom and beauty.

Ginny said...

My brother is an adult now, so never diagnosed, but we believe he has a similar diagnosis to your son. He was treated very badly in school by teachers & parents. It was hard on my mom & worse because it was 20 years ago. Things are a little better now.

I'm realizing my comment probably isn't going to make your feel any better, sorry about that. My point in commenting is that my daughter struggles in school acedimcally. I have been worrying about high school since she entered into 6th grade. She is in 8th now & we have been working really hard the last 3 years to prepare her for high school.

Middle school is there to work out all the problems by the time the kids get to high school when it matters.

Just like pre-school is there to start working out issues as you get ready for kindergarten.

You sound like you are totally doing all the "right" things for your child. With a parent that cares, that always helps the child! Good luck to you!

Ginny said...

I forgot to add, isn't it funny how crazy some parents get. I can't even go to our PTA because I can barely tolerate the parents. The lunch aids hate the volunteer moms. The volunteer moms hate the lunch aids because they are paid. It gets so insane.

I would have laughed out loud if I was at a meeting talking about a chain link fence to keep out foxes & pedophiles, too funny!