The night before I moved two states away and brought my younger daughter with me, her and her older sister got into a bit of a fight. The younger one was left bruised and, as instructed by the older daughters case worker, we called SFPD. Now, violent behavior is not typical with my oldest daughter - she is actually anything but. But I guess the stress of my moving with the other daughter and her staying behind (albiet temporary while her and the wife finished packing up the place) was too much for her. Considering I'm the one she's most attached to and I was leaving her behind, I can see why that would cause her to act out. (But it does seem to have paid off)
Anyway, the cop arrived and I explained to him what happened. He wanted to know if she was violent so I began to try and explain to him her issues. He pretty much shut me down saying he didn't believe in "all those therapists and their diagnoses", claiming she "sounds like pretty much every teenager". He then proceeded to "talk" to her. And by "talk" I mean give her a 15 minute lecture on how "it isn't ok and the next time the officer might not be so nice, and in Washington things might be different and blah blah blah". I was watching and could literally pinpoint the moment when she tuned him out. Was at most, 3 minutes into his speech.
I couldn't help but shake my head and think about how useless he was. He left, all smug and convinced he had made a difference, but he accomplished nothing except in his own head. If it never happens again, it certainly won't be because of him.
Fast forward a week. I'm two states away enrolling my oldest in school. The local High School is 1100 students and I'm signing the consent form for them to get my daughters psych eval from her Day Treatment Center when I see the counselor. She's heading into her office and I slip in behind her just as she's closing the door, telling her I need to chat with her about my daughter. She has apparently already spoken with my daughters case manager and read the I.E.P., although she (obviously) hasn't seen the eval yet. So I express my concerns - that 1100 students is FAR to large a school, my daughter will get lost and give up. That she needs more individual attention. That emotionally she's about 10 years old but with the body of a 16 year old which is a dangerous combination. That she bases her self worth on how much attention she can get from boys, and is too naive to protect herself. I could tell she sort of got it, but not really.
So I asked her if she was familiar with attachment disorder.
And got a blank stare.
She then proceeded to tell me they have a great special ed program at the school that they actually bus students into from all over the district. That it's a "school within a school" where the students can go when they are feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts, but they do integrate them into the regular classrooms as much as possible.
That isn't going to work. I know exactly what is going to happen. My daughter will get there, become overwhelmed, she'll make sure her blood sugars are so high that she can't focus, which helps her not have to deal with the things that overwhelm her, and she will begin the same downward spiral that I fought so very hard to break her out of by getting her into the DTC in the first place. I tried to explain this to the counselor and got nowhere. "We have a nurse that will come in and help her with her blood sugars"... uhh..hello? She's had "a nurse come in and help her with her blood sugars" ever since kindergarten. If that was the answer, I wouldn't be in this womans office in the first place.
So what do these two experiences have in common? Simple... the world needs more education with special needs children. I know, I know.. people don't want to learn about things that make them uncomfortable or don't benefit them. Special needs children are not typically the kinds of things that make people feel all warm and cozy inside, so human nature tends to try and put them out of their mind. Once you learn about something, you tend to recognize it and see it. Special needs children can be depressing - after all, they're just children and they are going through so much. That's sad. If that doesn't break your heart, well.. I dunno what to say about you. And who wants to go through life seeing sadness everywhere? Not many people. So they become good at tuning it out, and resist knowing more about it.
But it has to be done. There are no cookie-cutter children, they aren't robots, they are innocent children who need our help because they can't do it on their own. And yet, many of the people tasked with helping them seem to turn a blind eye to their individual difficulties and treat them as though they are all cut from the same cloth. It's time we, as parents, stand up and educate them. Mental health issues in children need to be addressed and faced. Even if you can't do much, you can do something. Even if it's something as simple as "accidentally" leaving a website up on a computer at the library, or leaving a book out. Join a support group if you have any nearby (strength in numbers ya know), or attend school district counsel meetings. Maybe, even just go in and have a chat with the school counselor.
We may leave frustrated, but eventually we can win. And when we win, our children win.