Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hitting a Special Low

I'm taking a day off of my 2012 Advent Challenge to share about a difficult challenge that we were presented with recently.  Our lives hit a 'special low' last week.  I got a phone call from the director of Peter's collaborative program that they were filing a 51a because of scratches that Peter had on his face.

In case you don't know what a 51a's a report to the Department of Social Services about possible neglect or abuse.  It makes me want to throw up just writing the words.

Why did Peter have scratches?  Just in case you're a new reader, Peter has autism.  Not high functioning autism either.  He is 11 with the cognitive function of a young preschooler.  Peter likes to get a rise out of people.  His newest "game" is to put his face inches away from Luke(our 3 yo) when Luke's watching tv or playing on the floor and then call his name in a very annoying and teasing way so that Luke screams and tries to hit or scratch Peter, which Peter loves and laughs maniacally while Luke is hitting him.  We have been, and continue to, put Luke in time out for hurting and put Peter in his room for instigating.  Peter is obsessed with getting that reaction out of Luke so, as soon as I'm making dinner, or nursing the baby, or putting away laundry, he sticks his face near Luke again.

Easily explained.  If you ask Peter who scratched his face he always says, "Luke" and than laughs.  Scratches on Peter's face have happened a few times over the past 3 weeks.  I had been telling the teachers when it happened and what was going on.

But that't not the way the law works.  The nurse at school confronted the teacher.  And the teacher had no choice but to report it or jeopardize her job.

The kicker is that the teacher knows and believes that the scratches were caused by Luke.  But she has to protect herself because the nurse pressed the issue.  Report it to the state...that's the procedure...that's the "rules"...

And there's nothing I can do about it.  Because that's the law.  No common sense simple questions to find out the truth...just report it to the state.

What about the family and what they go through and the pain and anguish it causes them?  

One of the things the director said to me when she called to let me know that they were filing was, "Don't worry, it's kept private.  No one else will know so other people won't be thinking that you are "one of those parents.""

One of "those parents" mean a parent who has been wrongfully accused of hurting their child!?!

I have nothing to hide.  I would venture to say that most parents deal with moments when their children get physical with each other.  Bumps and bruises among siblings are fairly commonplace.  

So does that mean that now, since Kate is entering into a biting phase, that I need to make sure that she is never around Peter for fear that if she bites comes another 51a?  What about the scab on his face that he keeps picking at?  Does that mean another 51a?

I can't keep Peter in a bubble to make sure that he never gets hurt.  And I feel like we are under a microscope that will send someone running to the state to cover their butt every time they see a bump or bruise!

How is that fair?

How am I supposed to parent feeling like someone is always looking over my shoulder?  I feel like every word and every action will be picked apart.  I am second guessing everything, worrying about being scrutinized by people that know nothing about me but will come to judge me and my ability to parent.

It's a horrible feeling.

I guess I can only speak for myself...maybe it wouldn't really bother some families?  I don't know.

I do know that I can't stop crying about it.  I know that I feel so frustrated because I am powerless to change anything or protect my family from it happening again.  (Except maybe by keeping Luke or Peter attached to my hip to make sure there is no rough housing!  Yeah, that's realistic!?!)

I know that my anxiety and fear are at very unhealthy levels.  I know that I will never be able to truly relax again with the school Peter is at....there will always be some level of worry.  My relationship with his teachers and the director of the program will never be the same again, either.  I have always felt that we were a team working for I just feel like it's us against the world.

My knee jerk reaction is to yank him out of the school.  Unfortunately, this is the first time in 3 years that he is actually having a really good year.  So do I take him out of that environment and drop him somewhere else mid-year?  Is that fair to him?

I honestly don't know if I can make it through the year, though.  I have resolved to not make any decisions until this has passed and the dust has settled a bit.  It's just so hard:(

I just feel so discouraged....

I have to say that our sped director was very kind...and the director of our home therapy services and Peter's home therapist have been very supportive and willing to back us up completely.  A woman from a special DMR program that Peter was involved with for a year has been very supportive as well...even though his participation in the program ended in September.  I'm grateful for their support and the encouragement of our friends and family.  I'm grateful that after speaking to people involved in Peter's life, especially the director of his home therapy, that the state found no reason to open a formal investigation.

But it still sucks to have to go through this.

Raising a child with special needs, and all the extra sacrifices it takes, can be exhausting.  Parents of special needs kids need all the support we can get.  Being reported falsely and living in the atmosphere where we have to fear being reported again for easily explained incidences does not make our lives easier.

We already live life hard....we don't need the people that should be supporting us to make life harder.