Swedish council schools are “for normal children who can sit still in a desk”: 2 meetings and a phone call

15 January 2015: Finally, the head of the pre-school, the headmaster of the pre-school and the Montessori school, the special ed teacher working at both, were going to find out what conclusions habilitation have drawn from all the tests they have conducted on little “Gubby”. And they were also going to inform them about what he will need when he starts school. Both T. and I attended, since this meeting felt incredibly important.

K. started telling them about the PEP test she did on him and that the result showed a very uneven profile. That “Gubby” is especially week on language and imitation, the latter being needed to understand and learn language but also other things. (See earlier post with further details!) V. told them that the IQ test concluded the same things, that he is clearly autistic and that he has especially difficult with language and communication. But that he has no right to special needs school, since he ends up in the normal IQ span, but with mild retardation in the language area. This IQ test has to be repeated every year, since he might actually end up having to go to a special needs school eventually, if he falls way behind his peers. A speech therapist is also going to look at his language and try to find out what the problem with language is.

Habilitation told the pre-school that they were very pleased with what has been done for him there, all this time. That he could not have been in a better place. But they also looked at the headmaster, telling him that if “Gubby” starts at the school, he will need a LOT of support, visual help and information geared especially for him. He does have a very difficult time with getting contact with other children. He doesn’t act out at all, and he does talk to other children, but he doesn’t care if they listen or not and he does not keep a dialogue with them. But he can participate in discussions at meal times and in games played with other children. He also have started asking children if they would like to boil pasta with him, or do other things they do two and two, so his language has improved and the children do take notice of him, which they did not before. When concrete things are not involved, it is difficult to understand him and other children give up, as does he himself when people obviously don’t understand him.

It is very very important to be clear, when speaking to “Gubby”, since he does not have as many words as his peers and he makes up his own words for things. Instead of saying ten sentences, one has to weed out all unnecessary words and just say a few things. He really does the best in a small group, so he can not be in a big class.

When he doesn’t understand what is going on, he “flaxes” about like a bird taking off in flight. He does this when he has been working hard with something, as well, and is in need of a break. But you can catch him and point out something else for him to do and then he will do that instead. If a group presentation is going to work for him, it has to be with concrete things, abstract things do not work at all. Then he will stand up and go off “flaxing” instead.

When it comes to categories, he is really not there yet. He does not understand that an apple does not belong with animals, that it is something else. In his world, the apple belong because it is the animals’ food, when someone asks what belongs in a group and not. Nor does he know the colours, but he can see them. He is not colour blind.

He does want to interact with grown ups and has developed his own strategies for handling things. He always tries to do his best so in that respect he is a model student. But he does get very tired, since the work does take a lot of energy. It is very easy to get him interested in trying out things and he has not displayed any aggressive behaviour at all. As a person he is very much liked by all the other children. And he does not get sad or angry if the others turn him down, not wanting to do things with him.

He does not see how things are connected and he really need a lot of extra help when it comes to understanding what he is supposed to do, with whom, how he is supposed to do it, for how long and what he is supposed to bring in order to do something. If he doesn’t understand, if he doesn’t know how to do something or thinks it is too difficult, he does not say so, since he can’t make that connection between language and what he is not able to do, so he will slide off the chair instead, start associating to other things or go and hide. He gets stressed out from these situations. So his teachers need to look at what level he is on and give him appropriate things to do.

This is where the big question was raised, how does one solve his problems practically? He has to be in a small and calm group with an assistant or teacher who is with him, who knows him well and knows what his needs are. It will be very difficult for a teacher to meet his needs. Right! So why is he not allowed to go to a special needs school then? What they were telling us all was that everything is set up for him to fail, because he is the person he is or rather has the handicap that he has!

He will have a very difficult time with relationships and also with the big setting, at a big school with many children running around. I told them all how difficult it is for him in church, to sit still and listen to all the abstract things said there, which he doesn’t understand at all. And he does stand up and flax about, that is just how it is.

Will it work at the Montessori school for him? Well both the special ed teacher from habilitation and the one from the school, who has been down to the pre-school working with him, said that he can not function on his own in a classroom with 13 pupils. He will need an own grown up to be there with him and help him function, in order for him to develop on his own level. The headmaster wondered about the Puzzle Piece school and I told him that I think that he needs to be around children, even if he does not interact that much with them. They work alone at that school, each child in one room, and the special ed teacher from habilitation agrees with me, that it would not be the best for him. And as few places as they have at that school and the long queue, it really is not a school to count on. One can’t just decide to go there and then get a place.

I could see how concerned the headmaster was at perhaps receiving “Gubby” at his school. So much work and so much money. He said that one-third of the school’s pupils are having similar problems. And he really wants us to look at alternatives. But there are none. Habilitation said that LSR, the resource center for our council, has decided to not have any integrated groups for grades zero and one, that the schools should try to accommodate these children first and see if it works. So our children are all test rabbits. And while ordinary children might be able to move around schools however often, these children need stability. It is not good to move them around!!! How can LSR even suggest such a stupid thing? What planet do they live on?

So what did we decide on this day? I told them that I don’t want “Gubby’s” school start to become a failure, like “Kitty’s” and “Boo’s” were, which affected them in a bad way. Them loosing all confidence and no longer being happy little boys. Both of them hated in school and rejected by both peers and teachers. The headmaster said that he is most welcome at the school and he will do as much as he can for “Gubby” but ultimately it is the council who is responsible for his schooling and maybe we should  check out those options too, them perhaps having more to offer and more money to spend. He was going to phone LSR and ask them what they offer in the council schools. I know, it sounds like Greek doesn’t it?

On 21 January 2015, you could say that our meeting continued, but I still had not been able to go and visit Waldorf, the alternative that I was seriously considering after reading an article that the headmaster at that school, had published about his view on children needing extra help in school. The headmaster at Montessori had done his homework and had contacted the resource center to see what they had to offer, which turned out to be absolutely nothing. There is nothing for children “Gubby’s” age and they had even told him that the council is having severe problems placing their own children, so to speak. The children who have attended the language pre-schools, meaning children with delayed speech like “Gubby” but also children with other speech problems. They have nowhere to place these children who obviously need continued help. Sweden just can’t handle all the handicapped children born in this country! I was told to contact the council school that we belong to, in order to find out what that school is prepared to give him in the way of support and help. I did not like the idea, but was forced to accept the task, since I would be considered a bad parent if I left a single stone unturned.

He told me that if I decided that “Gubby” should attend the Montessori school, then I need to do so before the end of March, since  then he can start the application for extra money and he can start interviewing personal assistants during the summer, if he gets the money for “Gubby”. IF he gets it! He told us all how this retarded boy used to get extra money and then one year, it was withdrawn and the school had to solve it best they could, without the money, and then the following year, he once again received the extra money. So there are no guarantees what so ever. But if they receive extra money for “Gubby”, then perceivably, there should be a personal assistant there in August to greet him and make him feel welcome and safe.

One thing I could tell them right off is the fact that he would not be staying for after-school-care, which of course is an extra problem they do not have to solve. That is when there is absolute “chaos”, children doing as they please and not staying put in their respective classrooms.

It was also discussed that he needs so much support with his language and that noone at the school has those qualifications. So they will need to buy that in from the resource center, which will have to send someone to guide them and teach them what to do. The speech therapist that he will eventually get to meet, will test him and ascertain if he has a specific speech problem or if it is just part of his autism, because if it is the latter, it can not be overcome.

The headmaster said that there would be 12-14 pupils and one teacher, with extra help part of the day, in the zero class. In the morning there is a grown up greeting the children when they arrive. His teacher would be out at recess guarding, which is something she did not, when I visited weeks later! The school day last 08:20-11:30. Then lunch is being served till 12:00 and after this they go out for recess and the recess guards are out there involving the children in some group activity. Probably to avoid fights and other nasty things. Children of today, after all, can’t play on their own anymore unless it has to do with computers and computer games!

I walked in to the zero class afterwards and got the teacher’s e-mail address, so that I could set up a time to come and visit. It was also decided that when I spoke to the headmaster of the council school, I would set up a meeting with that person and habilitation would come with me, so they could inform that headmaster properly and then we could hear if that was a good alternative for “Gubby”.

I was a good girl and did what I had been told. The next morning, after dropping off my little sweetie at pre-school, I drove over to the council’s village offices, and asked if there was anyone there who knew which school district we belong to. I guess it has been two different schools, that children around here have gone to and they gave me the phone number to both of the headmasters. I knew that I would not phone one of them. In a previous post, I am sure I have mentioned that this substitute teacher, from years ago, at the pre-school, ran in to me at the supermarket and we came to talk about autism. Her son is autistic and attended that school. He got zero help and was often put in a classroom with 50 students in it. The parents were so fed up that they were planning on selling their house and moving elsewhere in the province, where their son could get what is owed to him according to the school law. Our neighbour, who is a school psychologist also told me about a year ago, that it is a horrible school and that I should never ever even consider to put my children in it. She hates having her own over there.

When I got home, I phoned the second headmaster. She did not answer me, but an hour later, she phoned me, having seen my phone number on the presentator. She was very aggressive. She did not want me to come for a meeting with habilitation and what did she have to offer “Gubby”? She told me verbatim: “School is for normal children who can sit still in a desk!”. She told me that she had never been given any extra money for any students and that she can not ever offer a student a personal assistant full-time. At the most she has been able to offer some hours with a special ed teacher and perhaps a couple of hours with a personal assistant. She made sure that I knew that “Gubby” is not welcome in her two schools. He needs too much help and her classes have at least 20 students in them, if not more, so it would not work for him. She told me she would talk to her bosses and get back to me, but I have not heard from her, it now being March. Nor do I think she will dare to phone me, because as LSR and Habilitation told me, after I quoted everything she said, to them, I have the right to report her! They can bring a case against her, but what would come out of it? Do I really want my son to go to a school with a headmaster like that? A regular Nazi! Heaven forbid but I don’t want my son to become the victim of a person with that sort of attitude. None of us would feel comfortable.

I hear it all the time. Report the school, report the school… People tell me that over and over about the Catholic school, but what would my children’s lives be like, after I have reported their school? We would not be welcome there anymore, so it is a thing you do as you leave. For others to hopefully benefit from the verdict. Because the personnel would certainly take out their anger and frustration on my children. You can’t keep your children at a school after you have reported it! Sometimes I really wonder at the intelligence level of people, when they suggest this option, to make things better for my children. People are full of revenge and they will take it out on the weak, who they can get at, in other words the children present all day. Some adults will of course act adult, but I have met some very mentally unstable people at my children’s school, who should not even be allowed to work around children. Adults acting like sulky children. No, reporting someone will only lead to bad things!!!! So a council school is in other words, out of the question as is the Catholic school, “Gubby’s” siblings attend. When I can get them out of there, I will. “Kitty” is not happy there and it is not working at all for “Boo” who just falls more and more behind.

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