We had our first Parent-Teacher conference at our kids new preschool a few days ago. They have been attending this new school for 6 whole weeks. M has been coming home all smiles, excited to tell me about his day’s lessons and adventures. M2’s conference went well, she struggled a bit in the beginning but is making progress. I thought things were going well for M, too. A little sit down with his teachers revealed just the opposite. According to his teacher, M is spending 90% of the day totally dysregulated. They are seeing constant sensory issues and behavioral issues including defiance and aggression. The school is “requesting” that M have a one-on-one behavioral therapist follow him for 3 – 4 hours a day, everyday. They said maybe he’d only need 3 or 4 months until they learned how to help him. Mind you, we have to pay for this support person out of pocket on top of the $2550 a month we already spend on preschool tuition. No one ever said raising kids was cheap, but I didn’t realize that preschool is going to cost as much as college tuition. My sanity takes a toll because I live in fear each day that today is going to be the last straw, that we are going to have to find a new school at a moment’s notice. And the worst of all of this is that my poor baby is not thriving at school like he once was. School used to be his happy place.
I have some theories about why this is happening.
- M has been very anxious about changes in my work schedule. He is getting less sleep because he is having meltdowns every night from the anxiety that I leave for work before he gets up in the morning. Less sleep = less ability to control his emotions.
- I’ve written about this before about M’s clash with Type A personalities. Stressy/controlly types trigger his anxiety. I know, I am one. I have to be extra cautious not to exhibit my anxiety in his presence. It appears to me that his main teacher and the preschool director are both Type A. I’ve been worried about this relationship since day one.
- The mixed age group classroom. M doesn’t do well among younger kids. They are too unpredictable. He needs peers his age or older because they tend to have better impulse control.
- The school is not structured enough. Transition is definitely M’s weak point.
I definitely felt blindsided in terms of the conference. I was expecting a good report. His developmental levels are all on track. He has told me how much he likes school. I thought that finding a school connected to a therapy center would be a good idea. However, I think that they look at Sensory Processing Disorder through an Autism lens. In our case, M’s sensory issues, I believe, have a anxiety basis. Thus he is actually very anxious (per usual) and what they are seeing is sensory issues and aggression. I believe that anxiety is the underlying cause because, we see that first. And unchecked it turns into sensory seeking/avoidance behaviors or aggression. I think he knows that the sensory manifestations are more appropriate for school than aggression and that is why they are seeing so many sensory seeking/avoidance manifestations.
I have already put calls into M’s therapist, the school district Special Ed program, LA DCFS post adoption services, several area preschools (hoping for some openings in their classrooms in case of an immediate need for additional childcare), and the FASD specialist.
I am conjuring up my best Mama-Problem Solver while simultaneously trying to hold back the tears. Here is my current brainstormed list of solutions.
- Quit my job. My kid really needs my full time care. I am the primary wage earner in our family so this is not a very good option. Unless of course we sell our house and move out of state to a place where it’s cheap to live AND G can find a job that can support us all.
- Hire a Nanny. Two preschool tuitions + cost of one-on-one aide = more expensive than a Nanny. Now if only I can find one that promises not to quit when he/she gets kicked in the face.
- Ride it out. I will let the school be the one to kick us out. The are merely suggesting that we get this behavioral aide. Of course, the underlying assumption is that if we don’t, they are going to expel him at the next hint of trouble. At least this option buys us some time to consider option 1 and option 2.
- A new school. Is this really an option? probably not. I called around all morning this morning and didn’t find a single school with space. I will keep looking.
- Run away. Sell all our belonging and move to the middle of nowhere where we can live quietly, “homeschool”, and M can act any way he wants.
- Hire the aide. I will just suck it up and hope for the best.
As usual, there really is no cut-and-dry solution Although running away is looking better and better everyday.