Special Ed for Nina
The officially diagnosed disorders of my children are: ADHD, ADD, Attachment Disorder, Attachment-Reattachment disorder, Aspergers Syndrome, and Intellectually disabled. I never wanted my kids to be labeled, or to give them meds because it was the easy way out. I just wanted to help them and they needed help. These diagnoses explained their behaviors and struggles, opened the door for proper treatment and therapy and gave them access to accommodations they needed at school. Possibly, if they had been diagnosed prior to their placement in foster care, or their parents had been diagnosed, they would never have needed foster care. These official determinations did not come at one time. They came as a result of symptoms that were evaluated and treated by many different professionals over a long period of time.
My youngest, at the age of 13 is able to read at a 3rd grade level on a good day, and on a not so good day, it’s anybody’s guess. She also has rather severe ADHD and takes a time release medication each morning. Nina has been my girl since she was two years old. If she does not get her meds, she may or may not survive the entire ride to school on the Special Ed bus which transports less than 15 children and has a specially trained aid on the bus. Nina was diagnosed with ADHD when she was 6 years old, and was officially diagnosed moderately retarded in the 3rd grade. Nina did not need medication in preschool because the head start preschool program accommodated her behavior and was unstructured enough that her behavior was tolerated. We changed school districts when she entered kindergarten and at the end of the first week, she cried, and begged me not to make her go to school. The kindergarten teacher did not want her in her classroom either, saying that kindergarten today is like the old 1st grade. I pointed out that my child had a right to be in school, she had used up her two years in a head start preschool so what else did they have to offer us? A placement was made in a “diagnostic” kindergarten.
The “diagnostic kindergarten” had a full range of disabilities. There were several children who were profoundly disabled and needed physical assistance throughout the day. One little girl had very little sight and no hearing. She stayed off to the rear of the carpet, away from the teacher and other students at circle time. If she wanted to see you, she tilted her head and looked sideways. Adding to her anonymity, she had to wear a visor because the light inhibited her sight even more. Nina knew about carpet and circle time, so she went right to the carpet. She sat next to the little girl who could barely see her, close enough that their bodies were touching and transferring warmth. Nina looked at her, maybe sensed that the vision was not best way to communicate and kissed her new friend gently on the cheek. Nina said: “Want to be my best friend?” That is how it is with my Nina; she does not back away from anyone. The teacher reported to me that following Nina’s friendliness to this little girl, the little girl became more animated and engaged and Nina stayed loyal to her friend until the little girl’s health completely failed and she no longer attended school.
The summer following diagnostic kindergarten, as we are at one of our beach excursions on the annual camping trip, I have an opportunity to observe all 6 of my children from a distance. They are laughing, shoving, squealing, just like regular kids on vacation with their family. Nina joins a father tossing a ball with his two children and I am brought back to my reality as Nina yells to me: “Mom!! What’s my name again?”