Help in assessing a child's needs

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  January 27, 2012 06:00 AM

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Barbara, Hi. I am a parent of two children. My daughter, Lily, is 9, and my son Trey is 6.

Lily is the child that I am having questions about right now. She is in the 3rd grade, and has been at the same school since Pre-K 4. (6 years at the school.) She has hydrocephalus which has made her head a little larger than normal, and she does not run very fast. She tends to shake her head a lot. Well, as you might guess at this point, she has no friends. The playground at recess is a sad place for her. She tends to talk to teachers, because the girls do not want to include her in anything. We have been seeing a child psychologist for about 4 years. One of his suggestions was to invite children over to my home for playdates. (One on One) I have done this, but I have found that the girls will come over and play with Lily for hours, and have a good time. When we go back to school, those girls go back to playing with their usual friends. Another problem is that a few girls who may want to try to include her in things now and again have been eliminated from their peer groups as a result of that effort.

This is a Catholic school. I have been wanting to pull her out of this school for years,but my husband is dead set against it. We have bitter fights every time the subject comes up. He clearly has the upper hand. My idea was that we get her a new school, new kids, and new opportunities to make friends. He says "no", she stays where she is, and learns to deal with this. He also keeps saying that Lily needs to be nice to everyone, even when they're hurting her feelings and saying mean things to her. Any advice you can give would be much appreciated.

Thanks,
From: Diane, Metairie, Louisiana


Dear Diane,

I'm going to give you something objective around which you and your husband can frame a discussion. What, exactly, in concrete terms, has this school done to support and help your daughter with social and emotional development? I want to see teachers engaging classmates in discussions about the diversity of challenges we all have. I want to see them facilitating her integration into play at recess, not standing around talking to her. Specifically, I want to see that the school has a social competency program in place, something such as Open Circle?

I don't know anything about the school system in your area -- and I have nothing against independent schools -- but, in general, public school is a better place than an independent school for a child with challenges of any kind, unless we're talking about an independent school that caters to the challenges. Public schools are mandated to deal with diversity of all kinds. I'm on your side on this, Diane. She deserves a fresh start not because she can't deal with her own issues but because she needs a school that has appropriate tools -- and attitude -- to help her.

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9 comments so far...
  1. LW, it breaks my heart to think of your little girl being so lonely on the playground, especially at a time in her life when playing with friends should be easy and less judgmental. I would suggest you do some serious research into some alternate schools for your daughter and show the results of your work to your husband so he can see with his own eyes that it can be better for your daughter somewhere else. I understand his perspective-that we all have boundaries to overcome- but this burden is much to heavy for someone so young and could effect her for many, many years to come.

    Posted by Linney January 27, 12 11:17 AM
  1. I think sometimes we, as parents, frame issues that our kids might go through in the context of how *we* experienced similar situations as kids, or just plain forget what growing up can be like, especially in the social arena. That approach can often be unfair if our child has significantly different personalities, sensitivities and/or developmental challenges. I know I've been guilty of this at times. Perhaps this is what the LW's husband is doing. I agree with what Barbara's advice, but I would add that it might also help for the LW's husband to go to the school on a few occasions and (while being hidden from view) observe his daughter in these situations. Maybe that would change his mind, because I wonder how could it not?

    Posted by Sleepymama January 27, 12 11:59 AM
  1. I agree with Barbara 100%. This school is not working for your daughter.

    Posted by geocool January 27, 12 12:06 PM
  1. You may also want to consider getting her involved in an activity outside of school--art class, dance, music, whatever she's interested in--where she will see kids from other schools. They can become friends in small steps, around an activity of shared interests, and her only outlet won't be the kids at school.

    She does need to learn to be nice to others, but purposely putting her in an unpleasant situation so she can learn it is unnecessary.

    Posted by di January 27, 12 12:21 PM
  1. Dump that child psychologist. Get a family therapist who has experience in dealing with physical disabilities.

    But this business of the problem at a Catholic school really makes me sick, as so many other Catholic abuses of children have.

    Your husband needs to address the fact that the other classmates are allowed to act like little savages at school, and he is demanding that his daughter act like a saint. This is totally contradictory to basic Christian teaching that says "comfort the sick" and "feed the hungry".

    Please ask for a meeting with the class teacher and the school nurse or whoever they have that has a clue about the medical issue. Include the chaplain. Ask them to SHOW YOUR DAUGHTER how all these children need to be good Catholics and play with all their classmates.

    And if they can't manage that tiny little detail of a Catholic schooling, then move your daughter at the end of the school year.

    Posted by Irene January 28, 12 12:08 AM
  1. My God. This is exactly what my daughter, with Hydrocephalus, was going thru.
    We changed her school and then she told us that other girls in earlier school were not talking / mixing with her. But in the new school (the student teacher ration here is half of the earlier one) she is making and keeping friends.
    But in General her peer group, if possible, would like to avoid the complication in involving with such a child. Sad but true. We are trying to sensitise siblings and friends. It is an ongoing process. Best of luck.
    By the way my daughter is 17 now, is a reasonably well adjusted person and a Joy to have around.

    Posted by Dinesh Kaul January 28, 12 12:54 AM
  1. I agree with Barbara that perhaps a Catholic school and its limited resources may not be the best school for this little girl.
    BUT this is not a forum for anti-Catholic venom like that found in Irene's letter. As a Catholic school teacher and parent, I found her letter very offensive. Let's stick to the topic!

    Posted by Mary February 2, 12 02:14 PM
  1. When a Catholic school hires anybody, they screen for religious "values" in addition to technical or professional qualifications. They ask you to provide the contact information of your parish priest to verify that you go to church regularly and take Communion. This even for a part time janitor.

    So because Catholic schools openly profess to sustain certain values on school time, it is right for the parents of a child who is being so openly shunned (and therefore abused) to demand that the Catholic school PROVE its religious values by making sure that the classmates interact fairly with this particular girl. The teachers are there to teach after all, not to stand there and allow this abuse.

    There is in fact nothing wrong with this little girl in terms of cognitive or emotional ability to interact normally. There is EVERYTHING wrong with the way that the school is allowing the other children to cause her pain and suffering on a daily basis ON SCHOOL TIME AND PROPERTY. It's the same as if a whole public school class dunked one specific classmate during every swimming lesson instead of swimming laps. You can believe that there would be a very quick end to such abuse, or there would be lawsuits.

    And it is a peculiarly Catholic principle to "suffer one's burdens" which is exactly the father's position here. I'm sorry but any father who saw this treatment of a disabled child in a public school would have his lawyer on the phone with the principal if a parent-teacher conference failed to correct the problem. So the Catholic nature of the situation of this letter is at the heart of the abuse.

    Posted by Irene February 18, 12 07:26 PM
  1. I have to agree with Irene - the Catholic schools I know tend to make a big deal of "be kind to one another" as a mantra, but then happily close their eyes when it comes to actually intervening in nasty mob behavior.

    Posted by alien57 February 22, 12 08:51 PM
 
9 comments so far...
  1. LW, it breaks my heart to think of your little girl being so lonely on the playground, especially at a time in her life when playing with friends should be easy and less judgmental. I would suggest you do some serious research into some alternate schools for your daughter and show the results of your work to your husband so he can see with his own eyes that it can be better for your daughter somewhere else. I understand his perspective-that we all have boundaries to overcome- but this burden is much to heavy for someone so young and could effect her for many, many years to come.

    Posted by Linney January 27, 12 11:17 AM
  1. I think sometimes we, as parents, frame issues that our kids might go through in the context of how *we* experienced similar situations as kids, or just plain forget what growing up can be like, especially in the social arena. That approach can often be unfair if our child has significantly different personalities, sensitivities and/or developmental challenges. I know I've been guilty of this at times. Perhaps this is what the LW's husband is doing. I agree with what Barbara's advice, but I would add that it might also help for the LW's husband to go to the school on a few occasions and (while being hidden from view) observe his daughter in these situations. Maybe that would change his mind, because I wonder how could it not?

    Posted by Sleepymama January 27, 12 11:59 AM
  1. I agree with Barbara 100%. This school is not working for your daughter.

    Posted by geocool January 27, 12 12:06 PM
  1. You may also want to consider getting her involved in an activity outside of school--art class, dance, music, whatever she's interested in--where she will see kids from other schools. They can become friends in small steps, around an activity of shared interests, and her only outlet won't be the kids at school.

    She does need to learn to be nice to others, but purposely putting her in an unpleasant situation so she can learn it is unnecessary.

    Posted by di January 27, 12 12:21 PM
  1. Dump that child psychologist. Get a family therapist who has experience in dealing with physical disabilities.

    But this business of the problem at a Catholic school really makes me sick, as so many other Catholic abuses of children have.

    Your husband needs to address the fact that the other classmates are allowed to act like little savages at school, and he is demanding that his daughter act like a saint. This is totally contradictory to basic Christian teaching that says "comfort the sick" and "feed the hungry".

    Please ask for a meeting with the class teacher and the school nurse or whoever they have that has a clue about the medical issue. Include the chaplain. Ask them to SHOW YOUR DAUGHTER how all these children need to be good Catholics and play with all their classmates.

    And if they can't manage that tiny little detail of a Catholic schooling, then move your daughter at the end of the school year.

    Posted by Irene January 28, 12 12:08 AM
  1. My God. This is exactly what my daughter, with Hydrocephalus, was going thru.
    We changed her school and then she told us that other girls in earlier school were not talking / mixing with her. But in the new school (the student teacher ration here is half of the earlier one) she is making and keeping friends.
    But in General her peer group, if possible, would like to avoid the complication in involving with such a child. Sad but true. We are trying to sensitise siblings and friends. It is an ongoing process. Best of luck.
    By the way my daughter is 17 now, is a reasonably well adjusted person and a Joy to have around.

    Posted by Dinesh Kaul January 28, 12 12:54 AM
  1. I agree with Barbara that perhaps a Catholic school and its limited resources may not be the best school for this little girl.
    BUT this is not a forum for anti-Catholic venom like that found in Irene's letter. As a Catholic school teacher and parent, I found her letter very offensive. Let's stick to the topic!

    Posted by Mary February 2, 12 02:14 PM
  1. When a Catholic school hires anybody, they screen for religious "values" in addition to technical or professional qualifications. They ask you to provide the contact information of your parish priest to verify that you go to church regularly and take Communion. This even for a part time janitor.

    So because Catholic schools openly profess to sustain certain values on school time, it is right for the parents of a child who is being so openly shunned (and therefore abused) to demand that the Catholic school PROVE its religious values by making sure that the classmates interact fairly with this particular girl. The teachers are there to teach after all, not to stand there and allow this abuse.

    There is in fact nothing wrong with this little girl in terms of cognitive or emotional ability to interact normally. There is EVERYTHING wrong with the way that the school is allowing the other children to cause her pain and suffering on a daily basis ON SCHOOL TIME AND PROPERTY. It's the same as if a whole public school class dunked one specific classmate during every swimming lesson instead of swimming laps. You can believe that there would be a very quick end to such abuse, or there would be lawsuits.

    And it is a peculiarly Catholic principle to "suffer one's burdens" which is exactly the father's position here. I'm sorry but any father who saw this treatment of a disabled child in a public school would have his lawyer on the phone with the principal if a parent-teacher conference failed to correct the problem. So the Catholic nature of the situation of this letter is at the heart of the abuse.

    Posted by Irene February 18, 12 07:26 PM
  1. I have to agree with Irene - the Catholic schools I know tend to make a big deal of "be kind to one another" as a mantra, but then happily close their eyes when it comes to actually intervening in nasty mob behavior.

    Posted by alien57 February 22, 12 08:51 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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