Friday, March 7, 2014

"She's so smart!"

Preface: After the Momma Bear arrived, she was quickly followed by the my-kids'-mom-can't-say-or-do-anything-right. I'm sad this person arrived on the scene because I prefer to be in mom's corner. But it gets to you. The negative choices that negatively impact the kids you love and care for very much as you parent them day-in-and-day-out with the hope that this break will allow their parents to gain the skills and services they need to effectively parent.

Standing outside as the girls mom is saying "bye" to me for another week we talk briefly about Child F.'s constant questions.
"She's really smart," mom says.
I don't really know how to respond. Define smart. This is a child who can't count to her own age and has worked REALLY hard to be able to count to 3. She knows her colors now but can't sing the ABC's. She receives special education services three times a week. In preschool.
No, she's not smart.
She's got a long way to go before she would be considered academically ready for her next year at school, never mind "smart".
Is this parent rose tinted glasses? Because your child is always amazing? Or does this parent see a child who is really intelligent when she hears what this child says?

A week later it was time for Child F. to go for a Kindergarten screening. Will she still be in this district when school starts in 6mos? I don't know. But the school district would prefer, when given the choice, to dis-enroll a student at the last minute instead of enrolling a student at the last minute. So just in case, Child F. was scheduled for a Kindergarten screening in this district. I was curious how she would do. Having done a kindergarten screening once before I drilled Child F. on her birthdate on the way to the screening (it didn't help). Child F. was a little nervous on the way there but then didn't hesitate to follow a teacher off into another room away from me - something I couldn't imagine Del and Noah doing even at 5 and 7. But Child F. is a social and outwardly confident girl and off she went.

The school nurse came to fetch me to explain the sick policy and point out the vaccine Child F. still needs before September - this time I resisted mentioning our conclusions drawn from hours of research on vaccines, and just nodded that I understood. I could hear Child F. behind a screen talking to the teacher ... talking about how people die and there's blood and that sort of thing. I'm cringing inside, wanting to run in and smooth things over - but from what I can hear, the teacher is not too bothered.

The nurse is done explaining the school policies and she sends me back to the hallway to wait.
Half an hour later a kind woman appears asking for Child F.'s mom.
"That's me," I say.
"She's saying her last name is {our last name}, but her name tag says {her last name}," she said confused.
"Yeah, that's our last name, but it's not hers." The woman looks more confused. I turn my back to the other parents waiting in the hallway, for some privacy. "She's in foster care and her last name is {her last name}. I don't think {our last name} comes up that often, so that's interesting that she's picked it up." I feel proud that she's identifying with our family even though I logically know that's not what she's doing at all - it's just what she thinks her last name is because she's heard it recently.

A half hour later and one of the speech therapists is out in the hallway with me saying that Child F. is in the 50%ile. Really?!!? Speech was a big concern initially when she started preschool services. I'm giddy. That's a ton of progress! I'm thrilled! The speech therapist seems almost apologetic but I assure her that this is HUGE and explain the level of special ed services Child F. is currently receiving.

An hour later (yes, the screening took THAT long) the school psychologist is ready to go over the results. Child F. is in the 40-50%ile for many many things. She's super low on gross motor (I don't believe this for one second - I think she didn't understand what they were asking of her) and cognition (this is more believable). Again, the school professional seems a little apologetic.

But I'm thrilled. I'm so excited for all of the gains that Child F. has made. I'm hopeful that she will not need services by the start of Kindergarten. I don't mind - if she needs services, she needs services. But it would be really exciting and encouraging if she made all the gains she needed to make up for the deficits resulting in the neglect she experienced in her early years.

So maybe she is smart. She may not know her ABC's or how to count to five, but she does know how to survive - something that was a much more important life skill in her younger years. And now, in a very short time, she's learned her colors and shapes and a bunch of cultural unspoken rules with a new family and is an avid learner interested in mastering her numbers and letters next. So from now on, I'm going to take a page from Child F.'s mom's book and believe wholeheartedly that our girl is smart. Look how far she's come and how enthusiastic she continues to be about learning! I'm so proud of her.

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