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She kept mocking the way he was speaking.
This is what Joseph said to me after dinner one night. While Camille will tell you every detail of every single thing that happened or was said during the day, Joseph is slower to open up to me. It's only when Camille goes on... and on... and on... AND ON that he will interrupt her and tell me more about his day.
That night, he was telling me how he had recces at the same time the preschoolers have recess. On certain days, their recess times overlap a bit. I knew things, as George's teachers often tell me that Joseph will come over on the playground, give George a hug and sometimes play with him. I've praised Joseph for this and reminded him that it's okay to play with his friends at recess too. (He's really great with his brothers and I don't want him to feel like he HAS to play with him at school. I know third grade and peer pressure and I know my son- he needs time to just be Joseph and be a third grader.) He told me he knew that and everything was fine.
That was several months ago.This conversation seems to have happened several times and he let it fester over and over again. (I have no idea who he gets that from. *cough*) He finally told me that a little girl in his class has been mocking the way George speaks. Joe told her to stop and she didn't. He threatened her. (Really, buddy, let's not do that.) She wouldn't stop and kept mocking the way he was speaking.
Joseph and I have talked a bit about this before. He doesn't like to tell people what is "wrong" with George. I have several theories about this but the bottom line is that, right now, it is not Joseph's job to explain George. In fact, our IEP team advised me NOT to constantly explain what is "wrong" with George in front of him. People who need to know will know and strangers can just deal. A fellow classmate of Joseph's falls into the "just deal" category.
Or does she?
I still think Joseph does not need to explain to her what is up with his brother and talking. I advised Joseph that this is something that needs to go straight to the guidance consular. Our school has a zero tolerance policy on bullying AND they have a ton of special needs students. I know and trust that they will take care of everything.
That leaves me in a bit of a spot. I don't know what I should do.
I know I will e-mail Joseph's teacher, George's and possibly the principal, just to let them know what is going on. But, what about educating the other students about kids with special needs? What should I do?
When I was in early elementary school, my school also housed the local School for the Deaf. The Deaf students had their own classroom but some who were "simply" hard of hearing (as we were told) were mainstreamed with us. I remember that the Deaf teachers would come to our classroom to teach us sign language, show us how hearing aides and other adaptive devices work and familiarize us with the Deaf world so we would be more comfortable playing with the students who were Deaf. Apparently I was so good at sign language that I was picked to be Goldilocks in our first grade production of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" which was done mostly in Sign.
I've been wondering if that's the way to go. Not trot George into class but bring in a book about Childhood Apraxia of Speech and read it to the class. There's soooo much that can go wrong with that, though. While I know plenty of the kids would just think, "Oh! That's why he talks funny!" and go on with life, I can see some of them teasing Joseph MORE. I can see the girls babying George on the playground (the poor disabled kid) which is just what we do not need. I have a vision of Joe sinking lower and lower in his seat as I talk, and then labeling it one of the Top Five Most Embarrassing Moments of His Life (possibly tying with "the talk").
You know what, though? I don't want any of us to have to "explain" George to anyone. I don't ask why people are in wheelchairs or use walkers or have oxygen or something. It's none of my business and I just accept it and move on. I don't think I have ever asked why someone looked or acted different, even when I was a child. It just ... was. I just want kids and adults to accept George for who he is. I want them to have the common sense to not mock how he speaks and to stop when someone asks them to stop.
But, at the same time, education and understanding is the key to acceptance. If I take the risk and help the teachers educate the children on Apraxia, will they understand? Will they accept our family and the way it is? Will they leave Joseph alone and not ask him about his brother?
What should we do?