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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nothing to do with the paper, but everything to do with working

Some of you know the ongoing struggles I've had with my son since a very early age. Learning disabilities, attentional issues, depression --you name it, it's probably been diagnosed. We've seen more specialists --even at fancy institutions, than I even knew existed.

Years of me trying to reach agreements with school districts over a ten year period came to an end, when I finally hired a lawyer.
Well, we got more services, though I can't say lawyers necessarily will give you what's best for your kid. Mine charged me $350.00 to meet my kid for the first time over lunch. That's the most expensive hot dog I've ever paid for.
My son is 17. He hates school. He's super smart. He wants to drop out so he gets in fights at school, then comes home and makes our lives miserable. It's all manipulative, I understand.

No high school diploma? Yet, for all the emotional upheaval, I know he doesn't want one. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Not for him. You ask him about the future and all he says is:
"I want to work. I want to skate, I want to chill."
"Yeah, but you have to have a job," I say.

I don't say this to be a smart ass. But I say it because by job, I mean something you love and are engaged in. I don't mean that he has to be an executive, I just mean he has to be doing something that interests him. As long as it's legal, and doesn't cause harm to anyone, and is an area where he can grow.

And I know this kid has a natural aptitude for work. I've seen him at his best when he's on a project that he loves, where he gets some social feedback for what he does, where he's learning. I mean, this is the kid --who if this had been the era of manifest destiny, he'd of been leading connestoga wagons to the west. He'd of had the name of every tribe, would've brokered deals in order to cross their lands, would've ridden in the forefront. He'd of discovered Montana and had brains enough to get the hell out in time for winter in San Diego.

Yet, no GED? No CAHSEE? No Diploma?
Who will hire him? Who will take a chance?

But then I think ....damn. There can't be just one path in this world. And I want to buck conventional wisdom. And then I get scared again, because I think of my friend Melanie's son Andy.
But, I'm flummoxed. I was the kid who did everything they were told.
And what's this? Karma kicking me in the ass for something I missed?
Shit.
The school psychologist says "Maybe he needs Juvenile Hall." (Like it were a cruise).
And the psychiatrist says, "Why doesn't he just go to a normal high school?" (We tried that).
The therapist says, "I think school for your son is way too anxiety producing." (No lie).
And the lawyer wants to put him into a residential placement school. (And probably charge me $350. for another hot dog).
But something says.... no.
That's not where he belongs.

"What's it going to take?" someone once asked me.
"A thousand acres and a horse," I replied.
They thought I was joking.
I'm not.

10 comments:

LivinginOz said...

I hear you, Kanani.

Andy wanted to be a model. I thought he'd be a great actor, but it's hard to do either when you can't think in a straight line.

In another era, Andy would have been a hobo - riding the rails and doing the occasional odd job. He would have been happy enough. He would have seen more of the country than I have. He's got the closest life to a hobo there is.

Anonymous said...

Check out the High School at Moorpark College. http://www.moorparkcollege.edu/hs/
For the right kid it can be the right place. And it is free.

Kanani said...

I know I'm not alone in my struggles. And yet, when I run across a parent who is having the same issues, they don't want to talk.

I think Oz's articles over on my blog have been invaluable in starting an understanding between parents in that they have to talk about their experiences to one another. Yet, the schools.... don't want the parents to do this.

But think of what good could come out of having meetings for all the special education kids at a primary school. Instead of having contentious meetings at IEP's, the parents might come up solutions, rather than the schools consistently battling back with a denial of services.

And later on, how much it'd help for teens.

But instead, schools won't even give out resource lists. And so parents either have to find them themselves, but over time they get so beaten back they just retreat.

Anyway, the school he's at has been great, but like many things in life, it's just not a fit.

Anonymous said...

I know what you are going through. I have four kids and the school has fought me every way it could and lost.It cost losts of dollars on fines and lawyers for the school.My kids were even sent to three districts at one time by taxi.Most of the sfv problary knows who I am.But there is not much you can do when they reach 18 it is out of your hands.Unfortunately it is up to the kid to want the help.Three of my kids were invited to the House of commons in England and turned it down.My oldest was in the top 3 percent of all high school students in America.The other two dropped out on there 18th birthday.

Kanani said...

Anonymous

I think our stories have to be told. All this silence is costing us sanity.

Yes, when they're 18, they're of their own volition. No services unless they agree, and if you're dealing with an acute case of mental illness like Oz's son and my own son has, then you're not dealing with someone who has a normal cause and consequence way of thinking. I'm sorry your kids dropped out. On the other hand, I hope they've found something good in their lives.

I don't doubt you were a good parent, as Oz was when she raised her four boys alone.

Carole said...

Excellent post. I do not understand the boxes that schools, however good, place people in. I do thing the 1000 acres and a horse are a good idea. I'll go there too. Your son is brave (and I'm sure a pain in the butt) to struggle so hard to be who he is.

Anonymous said...

This is what I know. Do not let him chill, at home, at 18. I come from a family that made all the wrong choices. Isolation leads to inertia which leads to elderly women, living with their middle age sons. And when mommy dies the siblings inherit the damaged one. I know, I sound harsh and bitter but this isn't coming from a mother's love. I'm the sibling holding the bag.

Kanani said...

Anonymous..

I know someone in that same situation, and we're doing all we can to avoid it.

Yesterday, he sat in a room with not one, but one therapist, me, a family coach and my own parent coach (through mental health services).

I see the big problem of letting him stay out of school, and it's not something I want. We plan to have him back by next week. This week he's been adjusting to the new levels of medications that have been prescribed for him.

I'm wondering anonymous --have you contacted County Mental Health services for your brother? Does he qualify? It might be the best thing for you to give them a call.

LivinginOz said...

I think you touched on something really important - at 18, they are expected to act like adults and make decisions about their treatment; however, if they don't think rationally (like my son) how can they really be expected to make those kinds of decisions? I wouldn't completely trust an 18 year old under the best of circumstances to make life altering decisions - but someone like Andy who is in the 80% bipolar range who is also passive-aggressive and has other personality issues? That's a tragedy waiting to happen. I go through life forever holding my breath.

LivinginOz said...

I think you touched on something really important - at 18, they are expected to act like adults and make decisions about their treatment; however, if they don't think rationally (like my son) how can they really be expected to make those kinds of decisions? I wouldn't completely trust an 18 year old under the best of circumstances to make life altering decisions - but someone like Andy who is in the 80% bipolar range who is also passive-aggressive and has other personality issues? That's a tragedy waiting to happen. I go through life forever holding my breath.