Tag Archives: school

Apparently Maura had shopping plans

8 Feb

I get interesting emails from Maura’s teacher. Things like “She’s bringing home food, check the backpack!”and “So Maura brought in a white cell phone that obviously doesn’t belong to her” and “Hey, so Maura brought in some sort of wine glass and a curtain? Just so you’re aware, it’s in her backpack, wrapped up safely.”

Oh yes, I’m always eager to open up an email from Maura’s teacher because the possibilities are endless.

BTW, the cell phone was her brother’s, and it wasn’t a curtain but the fancy tablecloth – because Maura’s always prepped for a fancy dinner.

Today, an email pops up from Maura’s teacher.

Hi Phoebe, 

Maura brought a Dooney and Bourke bag with about $120 in cash in it to school today.  I hid the bag in my filing cabinet.  Do you have time to pick it up sometime today?  

Well, don’t we look all fancy pants?

This is the purse in question –


A couple of weeks ago, our local Goodwill moved into a new location, and to celebrate, pulled out all this high end stuff. My friend spotted this bag and was all “OMG Phoebe, you must own this purse!” And so it came home with me. Maura spotted it and instantly went “Ooooo….”

Last night, she ventured into my room, and came out with the bag. I was all “You can’t steal my purses!” and her response was a non-verbal “You can’t stop me!”

Now, I’m not big on different types of purses, but I realized after doing a Google search why the teachers were all “OMG, she has THIS purse here” – because it’s like a $200 purse.

What can I say, Maura has good taste.

I went up to the school to retrieve the items. Maura’s teacher retrieved the purse, which Maura instantly latched on to.

I looked at her. “Maura, you know you’re not supposed to take Mom’s purses.”

Maura just ignored me.

“I’ll make you a deal.” I said to her. “You can keep the bag for the rest of the school day, but you have to give me the money.”

Maura sighed loudly in true teenager fashion and said “Fine.” before reaching in and giving me a wad of $20s.

She probably had a shopping trip planned for that money. Meanwhile, I need to figure out who’s missing cash in the house.


I’m not THAT parent…I’m thaaaaaaat parent

8 Sep

The good news is, Maura has the same teacher as last year. So she is wise to my ways, no warning is needed.

However, I can admit, I am thaaaaaaat parent.

Which is different from THAT parent.

Let me explain…

THAT parent is a term in the special ed world for those parental units who come in with their heads slightly spinning, flames shooting out their ears, quoting educational laws while working very hard to refrain leaping over a table or saying “Are you fucking kidding me?”

I’ll admit, at one point in Maura’s educational career, I morphed into THAT parent. But I earned that title when the special ed director told me she didn’t need my signature on the IEP, I didn’t have to sign it…after a long year of this woman treating me like I was demanding unicorns and limousines for my daughter when I asked for seizure training for staff (who were like “Um, yes, please”) and a proper emergency health plan.

I know. I’m so unreasonable.

So yeah, I turned into THAT parent. It’s a bit like Bruce Banner going Hulk. It’s ugly and not fun for anyone involved, but sometimes, it’s necessary.

However, I’m really more thaaaaaaat parent.

Let me explain…

Thaaaaaaat parent is the one who has been in the world of IEPs and interrupted sleep and has watched the same episode of The Muppet Show, with very special guest star, Sandy Duncan, about 389 times that week.

You’re tired and maybe a bit socially awkward, and definitely hopped up on the caffeine of your choice. You’re not quite fit for human consumption, and you toy between realizing you’re in desperate need of getting out into more normal company and knowing you probably shouldn’t be allowed in polite company because you might talk about poop or your theory about Dora the Explorer.

After years of jumping through flaming hoops and having nonsensical arguments with your offspring over underwear, thaaaaaaat parent has definitely cracked up a bit. Add some natural sarcasm and lack of organization, and I’m sure I’m a joy to work with for some school staff. I mean, I’m the gal who at the last IEP meeting spilled an almost full grande latte across the table. I did manage to only get myself, and restrained myself from sucking the coffee out of my jeans.

And when presented with 193 school forms to fill out every year, I get ridiculous. I may also want to see who’s paying attention, or give them a laugh. Because if we can’t laugh at the sometimes ridiculousness of our lives, well, what’s the point.

That’s why, in filling out an information form for Maura, I did this –



See? thaaaaaaat parent.

Meanwhile, as I was trying to organize my kitchen/dining room yesterday, I found a crumpled up sheet of paper with words on it. I smoothed it out and saw it was the “student technology equipment user agreement”. You know, the form I sign to allow the school to give my kid a laptop for the year, promising we won’t swim with it or eat the keys, and if we do eat the keys, we have to pay for the cost of new keys? The form I totally signed for one child?

I looked at it and thought “Hmm…I bet this is Maura’s.”

I checked my email later on that day and find a note from Maura’s teacher about how she sent home a new form, can I please sign it and return it so Maura can get her laptop?

I replied with “Hey, found a crumpled up one just today myself! Haha! I’ll send the form back in tomorrow.” Took the form out of Maura’s backpack, along with her student planner they give every student and we use for communication.

This morning, I go to sign the form…and can’t find it. I check around, and still can’t find it. I do find the crumpled copy though, and went “Well, it’ll do.”, signed it, stuck it in Maura’s folder, which I then put in Maura’s backpack…and wondered “Hmm…planner’s missing…”

But since we’re playing “guess how early the bus will be today?” this week (13 minutes from time we were told, four minutes earlier than yesterday) I threw the backpack at Maura and she ran to the bus. Emailed the teacher from my phone that she was getting the crumpled version back because I lost the new form.

Then sat down at my desk. Checked Facebook. Sipped on coffee. Moved my keyboard a little. And found the form and planner just there. Under my keyboard. Where I’d surely notice it.

So yeah. I’m thaaaaaaat parent. I warn the school I’m thaaaaaaat parent. Not that they couldn’t guess after I showed up at the IEP with green hair, spilling coffee everywhere.

It’s okay. Better to be thaaaaaaat parent than have to be THAT parent.


Post script – I love Maura’s school and the people who work with her. They are not only great with her, but great with me, lol! We’re very lucky to be in such a fantastic situation. 

Autism, elopement, and when it all hits too close to home

22 Jan

Last week I got a message from a friend that went something like this – “Hey, can’t go into detail yet, but my child eloped from school again.”


This friend, we’ll call her Renee, has a child with autism. I’ve known Renee and her family for years. Not to brag, but our two kids were the most disabled in the school when they started kindergarten the same year. They had to remodel the school a bit to include a resource room because of our two fabulous offspring.

Together, we’d have coffee, which we called cheap therapy, and discuss life, school, kids, husbands. My moving to Ireland made it harder to meet Renee for coffee, but through the magic of the internet, we’ve been able to keep our cheap therapy sessions going.

Right before Christmas, Renee sent me a message – her child had wandered away from their classroom and outside of the school. I was horrified. Anyone who deals with autism knows two things – many children with autism have a tendency to wander – also called “elopement” – and secondly, many times, these elopements of autistic children end in tragedy. Most recently in the news was the story of that boy who wandered off, whose body was found in a canal. But that’s just the most recent case. This happens more than most people realize.

See, children with autism have a tendency to wander. They also can be quite well at manipulating locks, scaling fences, sneaking out windows, whatever it takes. Hang around enough autism moms and you’ll hear stories of pushing couches against the front door to sleep on at night because no lock will keep their child in, or “I came out of the bathroom to find the front door wide open and himself running down the block in just his underwear.”

Some people are quick to judge these parents, to say “Why weren’t you doing more?”, not realizing that technically, tethering your child to your with ankle chains is probably illegal, and that sometimes, maybe twice a day, the caregiving parent has to stop and pee, or blink, or pause to ask another autism parent how they keep their child from scaling the six foot fence to get into the neighbor’s yard.

The thing is, elopement of the autistic kind does happen at school. Look up the name Avonte Oquendo – he’s the boy from Queens who wandered away from his school and wasn’t seen alive again.

These are the things that a parent with a child with an intellectual or neurological disability lay awake at night worrying about. We try so hard to keep our children safe. And then, we have to hand them over to schools and pray they will keep our children safe.

This is what is keeping my friend Renee up at night – because she’s uncertain the school can keep her child safe – not when that child has twice now, in as many months, left the school before teachers and staff noticed. And knowing Renee’s child as I do, once they do something one time, it becomes habit. Ergo, it is now a new habit of this child to try to find a way to leave the school building.

How could this happen?

Well, the obvious statement is that someone wasn’t doing their job. Because when you have a child with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, a child who has the judgment of a two year old, it becomes someone else’s job to keep them safe.

I am absolutely horrified that my friend’s child has been put in danger not once, but twice, because people weren’t doing their job. If we were still living in Michigan, my child could have been in the care of the same people, as she and Renee’s child went through so much together when we did live there. The fact that heads have not rolled yet over this upsets me. Because this child’s life is at stake. Where the school is located, there’s ponds and highways and a busy road all within blocks of the school. The potential for a tragic outcome is high.

And yet, my friend’s supposed to still trust these people with her child?

How? How is a parent supposed to trust them after this? How are they supposed to sleep at night, and not worry during the day? If a teacher with a child with a known peanut allergic tried passing out bags of peanuts in her classroom, heads would roll because that teacher would be putting that student’s life at risk. Well, having a known runner and not keeping tabs on them at all times is the autism equivalent of the peanut allergy.

It’s not hard. The other day, I drove Maura to school. We walked to her classroom building, which has a foyer with lockers. There were multiple aides, teachers and students in there. Two adults were saying hi to Maura. Yet I still made eye contact with one and said “You have her?” and the aide said “Yes I do.” Because that’s what we have to do. That’s our job. Hell, if your dog walker lost your dog and they were picked up by Animal Control, would you keep trusting that dog walker? Hell no. So why are we parents expected to keep trusting the people who keep losing a child?

And yet, the only people who seem to be outraged by my friend Renee’s case is other parents. The school district has been less than immediate with their response and solutions.

So please, be aware. All the time, be aware. See a kid who’s acting a little differently and on their own? Check up on them. Make sure they’re okay or call the police. Go to your local school board meeting and ask, “What’s being done to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable students?” Help us out. They may not listen to one voice, but they’ll listen to one hundred.

meanwhile, check out The Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education (AWAARE) Collaboration for more information about this subject



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