This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

DreamKiller Letter to Kitty's school

I expressed my concerns about Kitty's vocational choice to Kitty's case manager in preparation for her annual IEP meeting next month.  The case manager was disagreeing with me, so I offered to put my concerns in writing.  I'm going to send this soon, so anyone having any input, just let me know.

Dear Case Manager,

Kitty would never deliberately hurt a small child, but she has very little empathy, can't multi-task or prioritize, and can't make quick decisions when things go wrong.  So why did I let her work in my friend’s home daycare?  Because we have no proof until we let them attempt it, right?   I'm constantly getting pressure to allow her to get job-related skills, especially in areas she's motivated in, like preschool teaching.  Plus, I thought that since the home daycare was owned by a friend, this would be a controlled enough environment and a good assessment of whether or not we should try to find another direction for Kitty while we still have a little time.  

Despite my expressing my concerns regarding leaving Kitty unsupervised, my friend kept leaving Kitty alone with the kids while she talked on the phone, changed a diaper, went to the restroom... so this ended up being a pretty accurate assessment (although less safe for the children) than originally expected.  I don't think my friend really believed me because Kitty is ssooo conscientious and helpful.  She LOVED having Kitty there, and the kids loved Kitty too.  It went from being a few hours twice a week, to every afternoon.  Kitty loved it, although she did find it very draining.

I was the director of a large private preschool for many years, I have run a home daycare, I have worked in church daycares, I have over 30 years working with children in this industry.  I do not believe that Kitty has the skills, abilities or personality to work in this highly stressful job that is often literally life or death, especially when she has so many other options.  This Summer we will be working with DARS (Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services) to try out their vocational skills program.  I’m asking for your help.  I need EVERYONE to be encouraging Kitty to be looking for viable options.

Reasons for wanting Kitty to look into alternate vocations.

1.    1.    Daycare Environment – Kitty needs a low stress, non-chaotic environment (why she’s doing so well at GOALS compared to McNeil).  This does not describe childcare! 
·         Large numbers of children - even as an assistant she will be left alone with large numbers of children  for extended periods of time (TX allows one teacher to supervise alone – 11 potty training two year olds, 15 three and four yr olds, or 30+ five year olds… classrooms are frequently combined and you often do not know the kids)
·         Toddlers and preschoolers can DIE!  Unlike almost every other job, mistakes in childcare, including a moment of indecision can lead to death, serious injury, and irate parents.
·         Parents of preschoolers are often not rational about things that have happened to their precious child.  Especially if they’ve had a bad day.  Usually it is the assistant at the end of the day who get to tell parents about things that happened to their child during the day -  lead teachers usually go home hours before.
2.      2.   Multi-tasking/ Prioritizing/ Emergency Situations – this is something Kitty struggles greatly with at all times, and which would be worse in a chaotic environment (in a chaotic environment her processing ability/IQ drops to the 50s).  Kitty does well handling routine situations, but has limited skills in what to do in an emergency.    She takes direction from adults easily, but without an adult supervising she is easily flustered and makes impulsive decisions.
·         Kitty went to break up an argument between 2 preschoolers, laying down the baby, next to a toddler on the couch, and the toddler pushed the infant off the couch. 
·         On another occasion, Kitty was briefly left alone with a baby, toddler and two year old.  The two year old ran out in the street, and Kitty didn’t know what to do (chase the two year old and leave the younger children alone) so she froze.
3.       3.  Stamina/ Easily OverwhelmedKitty was at a playdate with 3 yr old triplets, and a 6yo.  The children’s mother and I were both nearby.  Kitty begged to leave after an hour drained and with a raging headache, because most of the children were demanding she play with them.  3-4 hours working at the home daycare always left her totally drained.
4.       4.  Emotional regulation/ Limited understanding of children’s developmental capabilities.  Kitty has great difficulty with empathy, understanding other’s developmental capabilities, and regulating her own emotions when she gets stressed or overwhelmed.  She’s good at playing with kids, but shows no ability or interest in helping them grow emotionally.   When a six year old was picking on his little sister, Kitty came home wanting to “punch him in the face because he was being mean to a little kid.  She didn’t understand that at age 6, he was a little kid as well and didn’t know better.  She often came home often talking about how the older kids deserved to be punched in the face.  While I don’t think she would deliberately hit a child in her care, I worry about her impulses.  She has hit her younger smaller sibling (he was about 10 at the time), because he’d roughly pushed her out of the way so she felt he’d “started it” and instinctively punched him in the head.   
5.       5.  Social Skills – Because Kitty is emotionally immature (approximately age 6) she gets along well with young children, but has difficulty following the lead of the child (empathy), guiding play in appropriate directions, or mediating disagreements between children.  She has mentioned several times she doesn’t know that to do with or feel capable of handling a child who is being oppositional or children who are misbehaving.  She has expressed herself inappropriately to parents, casually telling them about their child being in dangerous situations or even injured through what could easily be perceived as negligence on her part.
6.       6.  College – Kitty wants to be a preschool teacher, not an aide.  To do this she would need a minimum of a CDA (Child Development Associates Degree).  This means she would need to attend junior/community college to make up the fundamentals not covered because she was in special ed, and then start classes for her CDA.  Assuming she is capable of handling the academics, Kitty has already acknowledged that she cannot handle the large classroom environment.  We are currently looking into online courses.
7.       7.  Out Classes  – assuming Kitty continues to have an interest in child care or any other field that the Special School cannot accommodate, then she would need regular ed out classes.  We firmly believe that her current stability is due to the Special School environment, and are not willing to jeopardize this stability for a non-viable career option.
8.       8.  Legal GuardianshipKitty will most likely live at home, or in a group home, for the rest of her life, because she probably will never have enough of the skills and abilities she needs to be able to live and work independently.  Kitty’s psychiatrist has already agreed to complete the necessary documentation, and we are working on getting a lawyer.  This means that we will continue to be an active part of Kitty s team even when she turns 18 in April.
9.       9.  Part-time /Volunteer work – Kitty will needs to receive SSI benefits when she turns 19, which requires her to make less than $700/month or be in danger of losing her benefits (including Medicaid).  Her medications cost approximately $2K a month so losing her benefits would be a big problem.  Any job she takes would therefore need to be part-time.
10.   10.  Driving – We do not foresee Kitty having the skills and abilities for driving any time soon.  This would make work as a nanny very difficult.

Kitty’s dreams of being a surgeon were not such a big deal in elementary and middle school, but we allowed her brother to continue his unfeasible dreams (joining the military, professional football…) well into high school and he graduated high school with few  practical job skills and abilities, including some key life skills, and a desperate unmet need for structure and support.  He now has the only job/life he's qualified for... prison inmate. 

Unfortunately the school did not back us up when we finally had to tell Kitty that being a surgeon was not a viable option (until the very end), so she chooses to place the loss of that dream entirely on my shoulders (despite hearing the rationale).  Kitty’s dream of being a preschool teacher seem innocuous enough, but it means she’s not looking at alternatives and trying new things.  Plus, as the only person telling Kitty my concerns and that she should keep her options open, her attachment issues cause her to believe that I’m the ONLY one who believes this is true and she hears it as criticism, because it is coming from me, her mother.  She needs to hear this information from others.  Right now she chooses to deny my concerns.  I hate having to hurt her while trying to protect and help her.

How do you encourage a child to have ACHIEVABLE dreams, so they won't feel they've failed?  Someone once asked me what Kitty is good at and enjoys doing...  I couldn't think of anything (besides reading anime and watching Annoying Orange on YouTube).  It would be different if she loved something so much that she worked hard to overcome any obstacles, but she doesn't really like much of anything (she only wanted to be a doctor so she could make lots of money and buy a no-kill shelter, but when I tried to encourage her to do something along the lines of working in a shelter or with animals, she refused). 

Thank you for reading this lengthy e-mail.  Please let me know if there is any other information I can provide, or any other way I may be of assistance.



Kelley said...

You are an awesome advocate. You are always trying to get the right thing in place for Kitty no matter how unpopular it makes you. That's hard for anyone - to open yourself to criticism. You ROCK!

jwg said...

Sorry if this turns out to be long. I'm a retired day care director and now teach adults in the field. For the last 12 years I have been preparing students for the CDA application process.
First, thank you for articulating so well that caring for children requires more than a warm body who likes kids. It requires a complex skill set and a serious amount of common sense and reasoning ability. It should not be the career of last resort for kids with serious learning and/or emotional difficulties. We are not asking that they care for and teach lawn ornaments. Children do not get a chance to relive their early years and as you pointed out poor care can be damaging and dangerous.
You also need to be aware that as of 6/1 the CDA requirements are changing. The current system is quite straightforward and practical. Candidates are required to gather a certain amount of useful information,write essays that demonstrate that they are competent, be observed with children and take a written and oral test.I have worked with a number of young women with learning disabilities who were able to earn their CDAs but they their challenges were very specific and were around literacy issues, not reasoning skills. The new requirements are much more difficult because thay are more abstract and reflective.For instance, candidates are required to " Reflect on the room environment in which your Observation will occur.How does your room design reflect the way you believe young children learn best? " Somehow I don't see Kitty being successful at this kind of abstract thinking.
I hope you are able to get all the CSE folks on the same page. Somehow I get the feeling that you will be strong enough to do just that!

marythemom said...

Thanks guys!

jwg I hope you don't mind, but I quoted you in the final letter. I think this is important information.

Anonymous said...

I think this letter is very good, with lots of good information, but I would keep it focused on Kitty, and leave Bear out of it. I'd also shorten the surgeon topic because it's connected in a small way with the problem now (teachers giving ridiculous encouragement that's unrealistic). Finally, leave the letter not on a question, but on a call to action: we need to work together to help Kitty discover and implement realistic goals with specific outcomes.