Thursday, June 7, 2012

The benefit of peer pressure

I grew up feeling like peer pressure was always negative. Don't fall to peer pressure and do drugs! Don't fall to peer pressure and drink! Don't fall to peer pressure and smoke! You don't have to wear/eat/do what your friends are wearing/eating/doing. If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you? Etc., etc. Now I do agree that peer pressure can be a very negative thing. Kids will pick up bad behaviors from their peers and will act differently in order to fit in...and it isn't always in a good situation. However, conforming to the group can be very positive in teaching kids new behaviors and reversing some of their negative ones. It is ingrained in us to follow those around us, and it starts early.

Take for instance this conversation that I was able to witness today between four little girls ages 2-5. My daughter, Kate, age 4, was one of these little girls. There was also S, age 5, A, age 3, and L, age 2. Notice how the younger girls' opinions changed regularly to conform to what the older girls wanted, and ultimately how they all decided on the same outcome.

Me: "Ok! Time for lunch! We're going to have cheese pizza, watermelon and grapes!"

K (while whining): "I don't LIKE pizza! I don't LIKE watermelon! I want a sandwich instead!!!"

A: "I want a sandwich!"

L: "I sandwich!"

S: "I LOVE pizza! Can I have a BIG piece?"

A: "I want big pizza!"

L: "I teetza!"

K: "Well, I don't like pizza. Pizza is gross!"

S: "Pizza isn't gross! It's yummy!"

K: "Ok, but not pepperoni pizza! Mommy, can I have pizza, but no pepperonis?"

Me: "Sure. Do you want grapes or watermelon?"

S: "Watermelon!! I love watermelon!"

A: "I want watermelon too!"

L: "Wawa melon!"

K (my non-conformist....): "I want grapes."

A: "I want grapes too."


S: "I want grapes AND watermelon!"

After some time eating, everyone decided that they loved pizza and watermelon and grapes. All 4 kids ate all of their food and the whining had stopped. Kate has really been having a lot of attitude when it comes to eating lately, and it is driving me crazy. I know it is just a normal stage of her trying to assert her independence, but it is very frustrating when she takes he favorite food from the day before and then declares that it is gross and that she doesn't like it anymore. Add in a little peer pressure from 3 of her friends and she magically eats all of it without complaining.

Then there is the whole inclusion thing. What's the point of inclusion?? To have special needs kids be around and interact with typical kids. There is a definite benefit to the special needs kids, one of the most important being that they will strive to behave like typical kids. They will learn the social norms and what is expected of them. They talk with typical kids and become friends with those kids. In this instance, conforming to their peers is the the result for which we are striving. Andrew, especially, does not want to be any different than his peers. He was embarrassed to wear his leg braces to school with shorts until some kids told him they thought they were cool. He doesn't want to use a word processor to help with typing and worked hard to learn how to write over the summer because "nobody else uses one." He wanted to go in the front of the school like typical kids instead of the easier to access back entrance for special needs kids. He wants to be like his friends. We are trying our hardest to make him feel included, even if that means that we have to do things that are a little more difficult for us.

Now, we do emphasize that he needs to be his own person and that he needs to make good decisions regarding his behavior. Our hope for all of our children is that even while conforming to fit in that they will be strong-willed enough in their values and beliefs to not fall to peer pressure when the decisions are negative. Luckily, we have a few years before they are going to be really put to the test.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bittersweet Transitions

My boys were put into a school that was not our assigned "home" school for preschool, Kindergarten and the first year of first grade because our home school did not have a self-contained class for special needs children. Even though they spent about half of their days in a regular class, they still needed a lot of time working on their IEP goals in the self-contained class. However, as the boys have gotten older, their needs have changed. This brings about happy, yet scary, transitions.

You see, Andrew was in a regular class for the majority of the day in his first year of first grade (although technically enrolled in the self-contained class) and was in a regular class his second year of first grade with pull-out resource. This made him flourish academically and socially. At his recent IEP meeting, it was decided that he would be losing speech and PT at school and would be cutting back significantly on his resource time. He is staying in a regular class and is spending more time there and less time with extra help!!! It's amazing! We were never sure if this would ever actually happen.

The problem: He no longer needs the services that exist at his current school and will have to be transferred back to his home school. Now that he doesn't need the special needs class, they can accommodate his needs.

However, Andrew has been embraced and accepted for who he is at his current school. He has friends and the teachers all know him. I am terrified that he won't be able to find that same level of acceptance at a different school because he will be starting over at an older age. A lot of the kids at his current school have known him or seen him around since he was 3 years old. We put in a transfer request, but even if it is accepted this year, there is absolutely no guarantee that they don't send him to our home school next year or in 3 years. What I don't want to happen is him to go to middle school with a whole new set of kids. Middle school is hard enough without adding extra issues onto it. Kids make fun of the kid who is just a little different in middle school.... what will happen to the kid in the wheelchair? So, the decision is that he will go now while the kids are still young enough to hopefully be less judgmental and more accepting.

We are nervous, but hopeful. After meeting with the resource teacher from his new school, I am encouraged that he will find a place there.

Andy at his field day where he won 2 first place ribbons...
while surrounded by his many friends and classmates.