"We are going to focus on LIFE for Katya. I believe, one day, she will amaze the world."

Dr. Ben Carson on Katya Dueck

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Visiting Schools Part 3

So yesterday I blogged about the postives of the second classroom we visited.

Today the other side that we have to prayerfully and carefully consider.

#1. Transportation. Currently we are close enough to Katya's school that we take her to and from school each day. There are several reasons for that, one of which being Katya is non-verbal and we want to make sure she is not harrassed or hurt while on a bus. Having ridden a bus myself as a young vulnerable child and knowing what happened even to VERBAL little me, I take protecting my daughter pretty seriously. Also, due to her very fragile head, she needs to be safely restrained in a child safety booster seat and belt. She likely could not survive even a minor bump were she to fly around in a school bus in the event of an accident.

But this second school is enough farther away from our house that transportation would be an issue for us due to gas AND time. Like it or not, my schedule is VERY full each day since I homeschool 3 other children, and often am managing our household and lives single handedly as my Dh often works away out of town (when there is work). We are not sure yet what all details may have to be arranged for transportation--we are currently being told we may have to bring her to a meeting point to catch a bus, ride a few miles on a bus, and then transfer buses (!) to get to school and then home again. We will wait to make a decision until more specifics are in place about transportation. But realistically, we can not afford the gas nor the time to go that far and back each day. Realistically, we are NOT going to send Katya there unless we are positive that she is safe both physically and emotionally on a bus.

#2. Many of the children in the classroom under consideration have very big challenges. In some ways, bigger than Katya. They are not developmentally or behaviorally appropriate. At least one of them can get very physically aggressive. This is a huge issue to consider because of several reasons.

   A. Physical aggression would be a VERY LARGE trigger for Katya of how she was treated in the orphanage. I mean, a BIG TRIGGER. A WAY BIG TRIGGER. The current school has worked very, very, very hard this year with Katya and is finally starting to see improvement in terms of her own aggressive behaviors and I would seriously hate to see her revert to them. Not to mention, if she is attacking the other kids, it simply becomes a very ugly and viscious cycle of one kid attacking the other, and then that kid attacking too because they feel unsafe . . . and so it goes.
   B. Katya learns by imitation. She has dropped a lot of strange and socially inaapropriate ways of behaving and relating since coming home to us because she is around neuro-typical kiddos who are (generally) behaving reasonably well and socially appropriate. Katya watches and imitates. We are concerned that placing her into a classroom wtih children who have socially and behaviorally inapporpriate behaviors could cause her to regress and form new inappropriate imitative behaviors. This is not just a minor worry . . . it is a real concern, based on seeing Katya watch and imitate again and again and again.
  C. Like it or not, Katya is medically fragile. It would only take one good hard shove from some of these larger and stronger kiddos to send her flying and could cause serious issues with her fragile skull. Depending on where/how/what she hit, it could be extremely serious or life-threatening.

#3. Katya does not do well with change. It has only been the last half of the school year that she has started to be comfortable enough at her current school that her anxiety level has allowed her to be relaxed about going to school each day, and to settle down and do well in school overall. New situations, new people etc. are not interesting and fun for her. They are terrifying. She has no reason to trust (even yet) that all new people are safe, or worth cooperating with. Her history of abuse and neglect has told her that new people bring scary and dangerous possiblities into her life.

While there is improvement (ie she warms sooner now to new people than she used to at school) changing schools could be extremely traumatic to her, and set her back a long, long way in terms of how well she is able to focus and work withing the school setting. Because Katya can not talk about her feelings yet, they are bottled up and overwhelming to her. While we are working on ways to address this as much as we can, we aren't "there" yet. So the question we have to ask is: "Is switching going to be too much for her at this point in her life? Would she progress better in her current placement due to less anxiety, even if it's not as ideal for her in terms of ASL? Or would the fact that she was able to communicate more with her teacher in ASL reduce the anxiety enough that it would off-set her increased axiety about the new placement?"

There are some other "minor" concerns we have, but these are the major concerns we have for the moment.

As I have said before, lots to think and pray about. Some of these questions there is no way to know for sure ahead of time . . . we can only pray that God directs us clearly into what is best for Katya. I know HE knows, even though we don't. So we think, we pray, we ask questions, we seek input and advice from those who know Katya and our family best, we talk to the school officials, we talk to other parents of kiddos in the classroom, we pray some more, we ask more questions, and then pray some more! ;-)

When we had to make the very hard decision of placing Katya in public school (which was something we had never done before, having always homeschooled all our kiddos) God gave us peace and certainty about the decision even though we didn't like all aspects of it. So I remain confident that He will let us know what we need to know, when we need to know it. I'm grateful.


Astrin Ymris said...

Going by what you've said, the ideal placement for Katya would be to remain at her home school with a 1:1 aide who is either fluent in ASL or willing to study to become fluent.

Sadly, the world of Special Needs education is seldom governed by what is truly best for the child, but rather what is fiscally and administratively easiest on the school system.

BTW, has anyone suggested that Katya might have a hearing or auditory processing problem of some kind? She's obviously not deaf, but even slight hearing problems can have big educational consequences. It's striking how advanced her visual skills are compared to her verbal/linguistic skills: That's why I ask.

You should also know that hearing which is "normal" for an adult (a less than 20 decibel loss) is considered a hearing impairment for a child, since they don't have the knowledge base to use context to fill in the gaps. That's especially true for Katya given her limited English exposure. I've read that it takes internationally adopted kids years to truly catch up to their native-born peers.

Milena said...

I totally agree with the first paragraph of the previous commenter. Staying where she is, with a good aide, would be the best for her. The concerns you have are truly major.

Hope Anne said...

Who would we have her examined by to have her checked for an auditory processing problem? We know her hearing is evidently quite decent.