… from the bungalow

Look Out! It’s a Tongue!

22 Comments

Ut-oh… my first rant on FtB. I try to keep my thoughts well-organized and triple-revised, but this one came straight from the belly.

I received an email from Finn’s teacher yesterday saying that he’s been sticking his tongue out lately, and she’s been putting him in time-out for this “bad habit,” and wondered if I had any insight as to why he might have started doing this. I sort of brushed it off as a non-issue. It’s a tongue.

kitten tongue

She also left a note in his notebook that we send back and forth in his backpack to let us know that she’s putting him in two-minute time-outs to “deter” this behavior. Karin and I sort of laughed at this. She’s kind of old-school, and obviously sees this as rude or disrespectful behavior.

Could we grow some thicker skin, please? How about the concept of redirection over reprimand? I mean, have you met Finn? He’s not really socially appropriate. This is a kid who poops in his pants and doesn’t blink an eye. He hits other kids on the head. He used to scream in church when his grandparents would take him. And we’re talking, all-out, fearful screaming here.

And yet, his teacher acts like she knows him better than I do. Conferences with her are somewhat condescending. She likes to instruct me on how to deal with him at home. I get that we should be working together to reinforce skills between home and school. Generalization and all that. But she’ll tell me things like, “you need to be tough with him,” and, “he’s a manipulator,” essentially implying that I coddle him.

I have to say I’m tired of teachers acting like they know my kid better than I do. Granted, you’ve been teaching longer than I’ve been parenting, but who’s spent more time with Finn?

And here’s the other thing: Finn has oral motor control issues. Hello? I am not going to discourage any new developments regarding the use of his tongue. He can stick his tongue out ’til the cows come home, or until it leads to some other new oral-motor functioning. Maybe his SLP should step in here…

She’s not super condescending, but there seems to be a presupposition that I give my kid too much slack and I’m not tough enough with him, somehow implying that I don’t see his full potential or something. I’m not sure what the implication is, really, but as a parent, I can say that it doesn’t feel good.

Last week, Finn had some diarrhea, so they needed me to pick him up. I used my lunch break plus another hour of personal time to pick him up, take him home to Karin (we only have one car right now), and drive back to work. School “policy” (although I have yet to find any such policy in writing) is that a kid can only return to school after they’ve been free of symptoms for 24 hours. Is that even legal? Access to free and equal education and all that? They want to send him home every time he’s got a little bit of thicker snot coming out of his nose. Don’t you have two paras in that room? Ever hear of hand soap? Hand sanitizer?

Anyway, I picked him up from school last week because he pooped his pants. And when he saw me, per usual, he started to scream and cry. See, Finn has an issue with blending his worlds. When he sees me at his school, it freaks him out a little bit. He doesn’t modulate emotions well. I usually give him a minute to recover (without coddling him) by saying, “It’s OK, Finn. Shake it off.” And we’ll literally do a shake. This usually works for Finn without being harsh or dismissive. It’s a handy way for him to recover from a potential melt-down.

As I do this, a routine that has proven to be effective time and time again, his teacher puts her hand on my arm, gesturing that I should step away from the child. It’s as if to say, “you don’t know what you’re doing. Please don’t coddle this manipulative child.” I didn’t move right away, but I’m not one to immediately react to something like this. I give it a minute then (usually) speak rationally about it. I don’t fly off the handle every time somebody says or does something dumb or inappropriate. If I did, people would look at me like they do Gary Busey. Gives you that sexual feelin’!

Eventually, I do move away because I have to sign him out. She immediately steps in and says, “Finn, cut it out!” I’m thinking, could you give the kid a break? He’s already been chastised, I’m sure, about crapping his drawers. Let me spend 30 seconds with him to help him calm himself down. Instead,  you take this as an opportunity to educate me as a parent. Thanks.

This is the only teacher in the district for Finn’s age and type/level of disability. She’s probably close to retirement, but I don’t think she has any plans to retire. That means Finn will have her for at least one more year. I don’t hate her or anything; I just think she’s very old-school.

I hope no one was hurt by the sight of my kid’s tongue.

Finn sticking his tongue out

Ranting from the bungalow,

Chris

P.S. Now that I’ve gotten my thoughts out, I’ll be sure to send a carefully and kindly worded email to his teacher about it. But have any of you had to deal with dumb stuff like this?

5/7/11 Update: Here is the note his teacher wrote in his communications notebook:

“I don’t think Finn thinks it’s a game here. He seems to know we are not happy. Even before he gets off the bus he is doing it to Mrs. E******. Making faces is one think [sic], but just sticking out your tongue at adults is another. We have explained this to Finn. I have another child that tries it too and Finn has seen our reaction in the past. :(“

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Author: Chris

A dad with a self-evaluation complex. Also a music therapist, college enrollment administrator, and hippie-nerd.

22 thoughts on “Look Out! It’s a Tongue!

  1. First, this teacher sounds…interesting. I definitely understand your frustration. Was there any more to this sticking out the tongue thing? Was he being inappropriate with his tongue (e.g. taunting, licking, etc), or merely exploring its function?

    Second, I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a moment. You seemed frustrated about the 24-hours after diarrhea policy. We also have that policy at Heartwood, though we don’t send them home until after the second instance of diarrhea within a day. The reason for the policy – and also our fever policy – is that we have certain parents who consistently send their kid in sick, when they should really keep them home. And, very often, once one kid gets diarrhea, it spreads. And quickly. It’s one thing to have one kid with diarrhea, imagine a room full of kids with special needs with diarrhea. Not pretty.

    Also, there has been a lot of crud going around the past few weeks. We’ve been short-staffed for about two weeks now. I, myself, have been sick for a week. A music therapist with no voice is not fun, let me tell you! I continually wash/sanitize my hands, my instruments, my room…but there is so much contact with bodily fluids that the germs just continually circulate. From the school standpoint, that’s why they always want to send Finn home for even a runny nose. I understand it makes it hard on you with work and whatnot, but that’s why they do it: minimize the contagion. And the sending home policies are in place because there simply ARE parents who don’t keep their sick kids home when they really should.

    Good luck dealing with Finn’s teacher. She sounds like a trip!

    • I do understand the need for a policy, Kellee. Just feeling frustrated, partially fueled by the problem with Finn’s iPod Touch.

      I might be one of these parents that you speak of… sending my kid to school when he probably should stay home. I subbed for a little while, and of course I’ve worked in schools as a MT, and yes I got sick. I saw it as part of the job. But I do understand the need to keep down the contagions.

      Thanks for your comments.

  2. My daughter (then 10 yrs old) called me from school one day. She was in tears & obviously terrified so my first thought was “is she injured?”. No, thank goodness. Her class was in the middle of a practice quiz & she was caught explaining to a distressed classmate how to do a math problem. Not stealing answers. Not even giving away answers. Explaining how it was done so the boy could figure it out on his own. Her teacher thought this was such a terrible offense (cheating was the word she used) that she took away her recess for a week & made my daughter call home for further humiliation. Then she kept haranguing her (we were all on speaker phone) & pushing me to discipline her over the phone. I had to repeat several times, each time more firmly, that I would speak with her when she got home. I then requested we speak privately so I could tell her how inappropriate I thought the phone call was & ask her to please reconsider whether the punishment truly fit the “crime”. No cheating had been done. Perhaps my daughter should have involved her, I understand. And the talking may have been a distraction. But cheating? Would this go in her record?

    I guess the point of the story is that I tend to approach all discussions with educators with the not unreasonable assumption that we’re all adults and we have common interests (namely, my child & education). I think these assumptions come with the notion that we’re on equal footing. So it throws me when I’ve had to deal with teachers like your son’s. The best medicine, short of asking for a meeting w/the offending teacher to hash it out, is to rant about it to sympathizing parents. Of which I am one!

    Hang in there! You’re a great dad and a great teacher. No one, absolutely no one, knows a child like an involved parent. 🙂

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence, Stacy! His teacher isn’t so bad, I guess. We just disagree on certain things. I will be sure to send her a clear message that I encourage his newly developed oral motor development.

      Thanks for reading. I like being able to connect with other parents!

  3. One reader pointed out that this isn’t much of a rant considering the complete lack of swear words. Goddammit.

  4. You’re silly. Oh, and you have a typo. Not a big one, but I thought you might like to know. *smewch*

  5. *remembers to put on her polite smile because she’s not mad at Chris at all*

    O M G!
    That is what I HATE about some teachers!
    The special ed team at CJ’s old school thought he was being a brat and taking advantage of our “coddling.”
    OHHHHHH this makes me MADDDDDDDDDD!

    Ultimately I took CJ out of public school because they were NOT helping him.
    I can’t even get my head around this because all I want to do is SHAKE THAT WOMAN!!!!

    DAMN…
    Oh wait… I’m supposed to be polite, I forgot….
    My mama tiger claws aren’t retracting… I hate people like this! You know your child. She may know teaching, but you know your child. You are the expert on your child.

    I so want to come over there and speak up for Finn – I’ll rant here (and please, you did not rant… you mildly suggested frustration… want a rant? come to my blog and read back a few months)

    It’s people like this that make “different” into “bad.”
    Hell, sticking out a tongue? I wonder what she’d do if he had Tourette’s? Would she expel him for tics?

    Okay I have to get away from this before I get more pished…
    I have to battle with the school district soon to get CJ re-evaluated since he was due in March – but since he was in a private school just across the state line, the school district where we live won’t do it.

    ufgh.

    • Struck a nerve, eh? I know, I guess most others wouldn’t really consider this a rant. I’m usually pretty laid back, though. Sorry you’ve had such bad experiences with CJ. What do you mean, they won’t do it?…

      • Chris, since we live on one side of the river and CJ goes to a private school on the other side of the river (different state), our district won’t to the re-eval because he’s not attending school in the state…
        Don’t get me started 😛
        CJ’s current school ends at 6th grade, so this fall it’s on to

        *dun dun duuuuuuuuuuun* MiDdLe sChOoL!!!!!
        Heheh.. I’m not worried, these folks are A-MA-ZING. The kids absolutely love CJ, and so do the teachers! They think he’s fantastic and “they think it’s so cool how smart I am, mom!”

        Advice for you as Finn gets older – trust your instincts. No one knows your child better than you do. No matter how many years a person has been teaching, they will never know your child as well as you do.

        Document everything. Strategies you use at home to redirect behavior, situations that can be triggers for anxiety, methods to deter meltdowns… If the teachers don’t want to hear it, don’t be afraid to tell them that you know your child. There is no need to yell at a child if he’s sticking out his tongue. This is a learning moment. “Hey, Finn. Right now it’s time to focus on this project. Put your tongue away for a little bit, you don’t want the saliva to dry up, right?”

        I mean, really… sticking a tongue out – he’s getting a reaction, right? Maybe his unconscious is trying to tell the teacher “I need your attention, this is getting it, so maybe I’d better keep doing it. I need to tell you something… I don’t know what I need to say, but I need your attention….”

        There is always a reason behind the behavior.
        Behavior is Communication.
        Just because someone doesn’t speak a language doesn’t mean they can’t communicate.

        • Glad you’re looking forward to middle school for CJ! Sounds like a good placement for him.

          And seriously, just brush it off and redirect him. I’m not sure why sticking his tongue out is so awful. I’ll post the response from the teacher as an update to the post.

  6. I’m sure you handled this a lot better than I would have. At Katelyn’s school, they don’t deal with a lot of kids with sensory processing disorders. She is in regular classrooms, but also has a special needs teacher for certain things. One year she was assigned to a special needs teacher who just knew that her sensory overload symptoms were really ADHD. She even went so far as to imply that she was considering ‘stepping in’ to force me to put her on medication for it. She was seriously lucky I didn’t want to get arrested that day, because I was close to punching a bitch! Instead, I waited until I was calm, I called the school and requested that she not have this particular special needs teacher again. Luckily, we have that option for Katelyn.

    • Man, that’s the other thing. Teachers aren’t doctors. Teachers aren’t social workers. Doctors are doctors, social workers are social workers, and teachers are teachers. Again, I love teachers for what they do, but they have to listen to the parents. Thanks, Laura. I didn’t know you were reading. 🙂

  7. I am wondering if this teacher is taking it personally – really there is no reason to get that upset by a tongue. Have you suggested that maybe she might want to look into entering therapy for her issues that she is pushing on the kids? I take referrals 😉

    • Haha, right, Carissa. I’ll be sure to send her your way if she’s interested in addressing her issues. Thanks for reading. Hope you’re doing well!

  8. Ok – just wanted to share some of both sides of this from my personal experience:

    My youngest son, Lucas, is on the autism spectrum as well. My son is verbal, but has a difficult time with remembering names. He only remembers names of people that are extremely important to him. He knows the names of a few good friends at school. He knows my name, his dad’s name and his brothers’ names. He know his paras’ names and his first, second and fourth grade teachers names. That third grade teacher? Well, she retired after the end of that year with Lucas. One year too late if you aske me. She was a lot like you discribe – kind of old and bitter and not particularly up to date on how to deal with and AI kid in her classroom, and not really caring to take the time to learn. I think it is particularly fitting that Lucas never uses her name. She wasn’t worth his time. She shall forever be addressed as: “You know, HER!”

    On the other hand, I have had the misfortune of dealing with parents that, despite their best intentions, really do have problems seeing what is in the best interest for their child. I have dealt with a parent who pulled her son from music therapy – the one place her son was really doing well – seemingly because she couldn’t handle that something was going well for him and she wouldn’t have that “oh poor me” thing to cling to as the parent of a disabled child. Sigh. I have also had the misfortune of having a mom insist on being in the room for her son’s therapy, refusing to give up the authority role in a really unhealthy way (serious co-dependence thing going on) and when her son kept turning to her and she kept interfering with the music interaction and therapeutic bonding process by singing in all the therapeutic silences and undermining me at every turn, I just about lost my shit.

    Still, all it takes is a bit of communication between parent and teacher to recognize who “gets it” and who doesn’t. Pity Finn’s teacher is one that doesn’t “get it.”

    Sorry – that turned into a little rant of my own. Thanks for providing the opportunity.

    Here’s praying that Finn’s oral motor skills continue to grow and blossom! Here’s praying that you don’t start second guessing yourself and your parenting skills due to the short comings of others.
    Here’s praying that Finn’s teacher (now and future teachers) find the time and motivation to seek answers to best help ALL of their students and find internal satisfaction for doing so (because heaven knows our current government and many administrators aren’t helping with that situation…but there is a rant for another day).

    • Thanks for your comments, Denise! I had a parent exactly like the one you described. Mom basically insisted on staying in the room, even though I recommended she wait in the lobby. I insisted one day, and she agreed, but she wasn’t happy about it. But her son really needed to be alone with his therapist because she couldn’t help herself from butting in and pushing him to respond, when I wanted him to recognize social queues and improve independent response time.

      This is more of a simple matter of perception. She thinks he’s being disrespectful and I don’t.

  9. Oh, and as a p.s. I should add that I LOVE doing family therapy. This wasn’t an issue that I didn’t want a parent in the room with the child while ‘I did my thing’ but rather, in this instance there was no therapy going on at all because of the interference and lack of actual positive interaction between myself, the child, the parent and the music.

  10. This upsets me, too. I was hoping Finn’s teacher would be a little more loving and forgiving of him. The tongue thing sounded like progress for Finn. They had him do that at speech therapy. Does the teacher know anything about speech therapy? I now worry about who will be his “teacher” over the summer. I just want Finn to be happy.

    • I’m sure she knows something about speech therapy, but I wouldn’t assume much. His SLP goals have really just focused on augmentative and alternative communication, which is currently on the fritz. 😦 I’ve been dealing with iTunes and the software company for 2-3 weeks now. The software company has been pretty responsive. Not so much with iTunes. More on that later.

      Mom is really excited about the summer program. They’ll be focusing on teaching and encouraging independent and social play, from what I understand.

  11. Pingback: Priscilla, Queen of the Short Bus | … from the bungalow

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