March 27, 2008


Regarding the corollary difficulties faced by special education kids, we have been very lucky.

Over the years, the boys have been to a negligible number of birthday parties and had few play dates. They have hosted or attended zero sleepovers. But they care not one whit. In fact, I don't think they have noticed the lack of social opportunities. They have never complained of loneliness or wished for more friends. They have each other.

Since neither boy has ever been in a mainstream classroom or, in recent years, even been in a school with mainstream children, they have never felt stigmatized. Neither has been teased, bullied or taken advantage of.

So I was taken by surprise yesterday. When Hart showed me his homework, I realized (again) that he had not read the passage or the worksheet instructions. Rather than write definitions of the words, as instructed, he had merely copied the words.

"Hart," I repeated gently, "It's wise to read the directions first. That way you don't waste your time doing it wrong, then erasing." Hart doesn't really care about accuracy; he is most concerned with speed.

After he finished, I encouraged, "See you are smart--you knew what to do." "No, I'm dumb."

The time for a chat about learning differences and abilities if probably long overdue. I just didn't have an answer prepared. I have to think about it.

It is true that Hart has learning disabilities, severe impulsivity and hyperactivity, and social difficulties, but I can say with absolute assurance that he is not "dumb."

March 20, 2008

Don't call me Blanche DuBois

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
______________________Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

After the police, paramedics, fire fighters, their vehicles and sniffing dog had left my house after yet another "incident," I was left to make phone calls and rearrange schedules. Over the next few days, I told friends about the boys' late-night adventures and the aftermath.

"Why didn't you phone me?" asked friend W. "I don't phone anyone at 3:30 am," I reply, "but thanks for offering."

I called friend Z to discuss new security measures for the house. Z just installed another lock in the house a few weeks ago, and he has put a number of mechanisms on various doors and windows over the years. In fact, years ago we arrived home from Russia to find that he had two cribs set up and ready for the boys. As ever, Z volunteered to immediately come over and do whatever I need.

My neighbors have been incredible, too. T has been summoned at all hours to look after one child while I take the other to the emergency room. On too many occasions, a posse of boys on bikes have scoured the neighborhood for one or both of my kids gone AWOL.

Of course, I appreciate all the help that I am offered. However, I don't like the inequality in these relationships. I don't want to be dependent on the kindness of strangers, or friends, either. I could reciprocate these kindnesses. In fact, I would like to, but I suspect no one would even ask me to bring in their newspaper if they went out of town. "She has her hands full," they say gravely.

All I can do is thank them profusely, over and over again. But if ever someone else's kid went missing in the middle of the night, I would help search. Really I would.

March 10, 2008


The Zamboni shirt, the skeleton skater shoes, the Texas t-shirt . . . these are a few of our favorite things! Funny how these came to be beloved articles of clothing, considering that Hart and Jeff have never actually shopped for clothes, in an actual store. The clothing fairy provides all their clothes and shoes. Luckily, she has a good idea of what they like to wear: pants with elastic waistbands; cotton shirts; nothing in "clown colors" yellow, orange or purple; athletic socks that are NOT white.

In fact, the clothing fairy has strong preferences, too. As a guiding principle, she hates to see disabled children who look their mother, or worse, their grandmother, dressed them. Is there an IEP ruling that says these kids must wear shirts buttoned to neck, high-water pants and NOTHING that remotely resembles what their peers are wearing? The clothing fairy cares, even if the kids are indifferent.

However, during a shortcut through Nordstroms, Cupid's arrow struck Hart: he fell in love with a pair of shoes. They were indeed some stylin' shoes, I had to concede. But they cost more than the clothing fairy's usual budget allows. Hart has not forgotten the shoes and talks about them constantly.

It recently occurred to me that the clothing fairy has done an admirable job for over twelve years. Maybe it's appropriate for the boys to assert their own style perferences. After all, the clothing fairy knows a bit about shoe-love herself.

March 3, 2008

Primal Scream

J: We have to be louder than chimpanzees.