Monthly Archives: February 2018

There’s a Place for Us

While at San Marcos, Shane has been enrolled in Ki Charter Academy, a public charter school on the grounds of the treatment center. It’s a totally separate entity of San Marcos Treatment Center. All kids enrolled in the treatment center attend Ki Charter, but not all kids there are from the treatment center. School has been a huge issue and challenge for Shane and we were worried about how he would handle the academic setting surrounded by peers.

When Shane was as young as two, we couldn’t even leave him at the Y long enough to work out without them calling us to come get him. Every daycare decided that he “wasn’t a good fit” for their program. Once it was time for him to start kindergarten, we enrolled him into the public school and within a few weeks, he’d been suspended several times for throwing erasers, knocking over a chair, pushing a kid, etc. The public school refused to accept the diagnoses and testing we had from doctors and insisted on doing their own evaluations before making any changes or accommodations. Each time they called me to pick him up, I went and scooped him up in tears (both of us). We decided to pull him out when we found Cyzner Institute which was a small private school that provided ABA therapy and a small teacher to student ratio. Even in a class with 6-8 kids, Shane wasn’t successful and instead of leaving him in the classroom to help him build social skills, they insisted on one-on-one instruction. No one would give him a chance. So, Shane’s entire academics have always been one-on-one which is why we were so anxious about him starting at Ki Charter Academy. But, we were hopeful.

As soon as it was obvious that he was struggling behaviorally and academically in a somewhat traditional classroom setting, I discussed having Shane tested for special education services and began wondering what else could be done to help him. With Ki Charter, I got immediate cooperation. They tested him over a period of a couple of months, repeating some tests multiple times because the results were so drastically different each time. They didn’t accept his refusal to perform particular tasks as his inability to learn. They were diligent and took a genuine interest in trying to figure out what makes him tick.

Yesterday, we had our first IEP meeting. I’ve heard horror stories from parents about their IEP meetings. Scott and I sat at the table and listened to the results and their interpretations of Shane. Most of what they said was no surprise. But, some things were amazing. They agreed that he needs extra support in various subjects and that it would be put into place immediately. They talked about how creative, funny and curious he is. It’s no surprise that he struggles with peer interaction. He’s never experienced it. I braced myself waiting to hear the “your kid needs one-on-one” instruction. They said the opposite. They want him to remain in class with peers. Such a pleasant surprise. They believe in him and are giving him a chance to find success. We spent the next few minutes after the call in silence and tears wondering why we didn’t fight harder for Shane at other places once again placing blame squarely on our shoulders.

We anticipate our insurance running out for the treatment center toward the end of March. Because Ki Charter has put so much care into helping Shane learn to navigate “real school” with peers, we want him to finish out the school year there. It would be virtually impossible to expect Shane to come back to South Carolina and be successful with only a couple of months left in the school year.

On March 1, we’ll be packing up Memphis and Tux and heading to San Marcos planning to stay through the middle of July. That will give Shane the opportunity to continue at Ki Charter learning to interact appropriately with peers in an academic setting under a staff trained in special education and undoubtedly passionate about their work. The last day of school is June 1, but Shane has been granted permission to continue for six more weeks in their summer program. It is our hope that he will also be able to successfully join some summer camps like “real” kids (his words).

I’m excited about our little place on the river in San Marcos. Tears dry faster in the sun. I may not ever want to leave. I can easily say that the last year has been the most challenging year of our lives. But, at this moment, I can finally breathe knowing that for right now, for Shane, there’s a place for us.

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Brave and Bruised

The last six months with Shane at San Marcos have been the longest six months of my life (his, too, no doubt). The first two months at the treatment center were brutal for him. For the first time in his life, he was surrounded by peers. But, not just any peers. Peers who are bruised, hurting and just as fragile as he is. So, in learning how to navigate a brave new world for each of them, they’re doing it in the midst of others hurting the same way they are.

Right from the beginning, Shane met kids who would not tolerate his name calling and physical aggression. They were the same as him and each had triggers to cause them to react as he did and fight back. Although Shane had hit us many times, no one ever hit him back. Although he had verbally abused us and others, no one had ever done it in return. So, it was a rude awakening. A real life consequence when you call someone a name or punch them is that you’re likely to get punched back…hard. In the face. And you get called names. And, it hurts. Physically and emotionally. For the first time in his life, Shane felt what we have felt. He cried. He was angry at us and would go for days just screaming into the phone when we called. We cried. It took him a while to connect the dots, but he is finally doing it. So many things he took for granted were suddenly gone for him…no one was there to coddle him or to assure him that he would be loved no matter what. We couldn’t be there physically. And when he refused to get on the phone, we couldn’t be a calm reassuring voice to him. He was sad to the core as he began to understand how some of his actions and behavior must have affected Scott and I over the years finally became clear. He talked about regret for things he had done for the first time in his life.

For the most part, the staff at the treatment center have been amazing. The nurses seem to care, the unit manager handles any issues immediately and his therapist is a joy to work with. Shane was so mean to her when he first met her, but she persevered and didn’t let that interfere with getting to know him and finding ways to help. He adores her now. She has done some wonderful work with us in family therapy. So very thankful for her.

Nevertheless, there are some staff members at the treatment center who have forgotten why they’re there. They’ve forgotten that they are working at a residential treatment center for kids with emotional and behavioral issues, not at a country club. The decision to work there cannot be taken lightly. You have to have a heart and genuinely care for kids and want to make a positive difference in their lives. They’ve forgotten that these are kids whose parents are at home crying themselves to sleep because they’re 1200 miles away. No good night kisses or cuddles. No bedtime stories or discussions about who’s better, Superman or Spiderman. Or, how did Donald Trump become POTUS. They’re just little kids who have fought every day for their entire lives. Either with others or themselves, their emotions…every single day. Little kids who have felt like a failure a thousand times more than they’ve felt successful. They are bruised, scared, no strangers to the dark. They wouldn’t have made it to a residential treatment center without dire circumstances. Many kids there are foster kids who have never had a stable life. They’ve forgotten that a therapeutic hold is not squeezing a hand too hard, thumping an ear. They’ve forgotten that the kids need to hear kind words and encouragement.  What they don’t ever need to hear is:

  • “Your parents are having a party without you at home.”
  • “You know your parents can ‘unadopt’ you if you don’t stop (insert whatever he’s doing).”
  • “You’re never going home.”
  • “You’re going to end up in jail.”

It is my hope that with each complaint I’ve lodged, the staff who have lost their way have had a chance to re-examine why they’re there. I hope that they have been retrained on the Nurtured Heart Approach which has proven to be a powerful way of awakening the inherent greatness in all children. Gentle, loving, creative, constructive, kindness.

In spite of the negative actions of a few staff members, I would highly recommend San Marcos Treatment Center to those with children who need residential treatment. I realize that no place is perfect. It’s a people business. People take jobs for the wrong reasons. They become jaded and lose sight of the mission. The fact that Administration has listened to each complaint and taken appropriate action speaks volumes about the facility and the staff there. Most genuinely care about the kids and seeing them succeed.

I don’t know how many kids at San Marcos are like Shane with a family who loves and supports them no matter what. I feel sad for those who don’t have what he does. I’ve seen The Greatest Showman twice. I listen to the soundtrack daily. There’s a song called “This Is Me.” It’s beautiful. They’re beautiful in spite of all they’ve faced and had to deal with, they deserve love above all else. This is the message I hope the kids hear as they get help and work through their struggles:

  • “We are warriors.”
  • “I won’t let them break me down to dust. I know that there’s a place for us. For we are glorious.”
  • “I’m marching on to the beat I drum.”
  • “I am brave. I am bruised. I am who I’m meant to be. This is me.”

Take a minute to watch this video. You won’t regret it. I promise.