I’m COVID, how are you? Relearning how to speak to people during a pandemic.

Embracing being a weirdo at my son’s dragon themed birthday party whose only guests are people who live in my house.

There’s a comedian, Brian Regan, who does this funny bit about not being able to properly speak English, his native language.

“I know enough English to get by, like, I could order in a restaurant and stuff. ‘I want Ham! One ham please, to eating the ham! Bring ham to eating the ham, please!’ You know, I can get by. “

This is topical on multiple levels. I have always been socially awkward and I habitually lose 100 IQ points when I attempt to vocalize. I’m just smarter on paper. And because of COVID it’s been 14 months since I’ve eaten in a restaurant, so what would that even be like?

So, forget the anxiety of speaking to masked strangers in a poorly ventilated environment. I have lost the ability to even speak with friends and family.

I’m feeling like I can relate to my autistic kids so much better because of the pandemic. I perseforate on my one topic: COVID news. I literally have one thing on my mind at all times and I only know how to talk about that. And I cannot make small talk. What’s the point of that? It seems disingenuous. Kids, I get it.

When we were all in lockdown together, it sort of worked. It didn’t make for great conversations, though, so I found myself avoiding talking to people outside of my family. Even dear friends.

Now, people are “out there”. The “economy has opened up”. And I guess other people have shorter memories or are just that desperate for a regular, non-deadly world. People tell me that they are doing something that’s not in line with my hard fast pandemic lifestyle, I just freeze and become completely tongue tied.

You signed your kids up for soccer and swimming lessons? You’re out shopping? We should meet up at the park?!

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Total mental implosion.

I don’t even want to continue the conversation because I feel unseen and unheard. I’m going to be hiding in my panic room for the foreseeable future due to my health issues. And I’m vaccinated! If I’m out in society, I’m physically manuvering around people, not trying to chat. This is not the norm anymore. And I come off like a freak.

I was delivering a dozen goodie bags for my son’s virtual birthday party. Yup, that’s something I did. And there was a mother and the class peer playing in the driveway. I approached them like they were potential terrorists.

“I HAVE A GOODIE BAG! I’M PUTTING IT RIGHT HERE ON THE DRIVEWAY! STAY BACK, SMALL PERSON! GOODBYE!”

I started booking it back to my mommy van and the dear mother, probably as desperate for human contact as any distance learning family, called after me, “I like your hair!”

“Thanks! Thank you! For the complimenting my hair! Bye!” And I booked it out of the neighborhood.

Am I totally embarrassed by this and horrified that I don’t know how to have basic human interactions? Yuppers! But that’s where I’m at.

Small talk is a skill that gets rusty. Small talk. I don’t think of anything small. Global crisis is my default setting.

How am I? Do you want the truth, that I’m white-knuckling it through each day? Or are we just warming up for a “normal” conversation.

I don’t know how to do that anymore.

“please consider the impact on the environment before printing this email”


This is my “furious with Special Education administrator” face.

Yes, there was a time when people printed out emails. It was called the aughts? 2000’s? One of those.

Regardless, it was a thing and it was wasteful. Of course, there’s always those who know better and do better, so they would add to their email signature to “please consider the impact on the environment before printing this email. ” Fair enough. A bit douchey, but point taken.

But. BUT! There are still people who have this in their signature. We are all so perma-mobile, even grandmas have a smart phone and know how to pull up an email.

The bigger point is, have people learned how to read an email or respond to one?

To everyone more concerned with my printing their electronic mail I would ask that they please consider the impact on my brain of the content of their ridiculous correspondence. The choices seem to be that they didn’t fully read my query, ignored it completely, had a brain fart and started an entirely new train, or just chose to allow me to chase them down for a month before replying.

Emailer, your carbon footprint, as a less than fully realized thinking human, is far more exhausting to the environment than my printer paper. I can recycle the paper. You, however, will still be frustrating the shit out of people, and probably getting paid to do so, for another 3 or 4 decades.

So, yeah, take down your pompous signature and do some actual work. Because that would be the least wasteful of a non-renewable resources, i.e. my time and energy.

Our Second Grade Teacher is Fucking with Leprechaun Traditions

Since it’s St. Patrick’s Day Eve, let me ask you, are you tormented by this new generation celebrating every minor event? I’m a real grown up, a Gen X-er, a child of the 80’s, so I call bullshit when I see it. I never celebrated St. Patty’s Day beyond wearing a green shirt and trying to pinch other kids who forgot to wear green. Because that was the mean spirited fun that the 80’s was predicated upon.

St. Patrick’s Day is a grown-up holiday. With haggis and corn beef and Guinness! It’s for Irish people! (And I’m Irish, and from Boston, so I do get to have this rant.) And it’s mainly drinking and getting into bar fights. But now eeeeeverybody celebrates it. Everyone is Irish on March 17th. Fine. Get your drink on. I don’t want to take away from the salient point of this article which is: we now have ridiculous holiday customs that amount to more work for grown ups who might just want to drink the aforementioned beer and eat the (gross)food. But we’re all agreed on certain things. There is something called a leprechaun. He’s a imp from Ireland who keeps his gold at the end of the rainbow. He likes cereal containing awesome marshmallows. And once a year, he breaks into my house and tries to steal my shiny, shiny gold.

It began in 2013:

ONE THOUSAND CURSES upon the preschool teacher who first introduced “The Leprechaun Trap”. You know who you are. Yes, I had a hyperactive, autistic 3 year old and I was very pregnant, so I was inordinately pissed when my son bounced around the house, explaining that we needed to haul out all manner of boxes and pillows and blankets to make a trap and then bait the trap with shiny jewelry. If we caught him, he’d have to give us his gold!

Fine.

Boxes. Blankets. Costume jewelry. Pennies. Every year, more elaborate schemes were concocted. Sticky tape on the window sills, misleading signage about leprechauns being welcome here…it’s was all a bit dark, but I was in deep after a few years and just went with it. Like with many things in a parent’s life, this is what we do now. We make leprechaun traps.

(I think I may have been getting off easy as I know some parents put green glitter everywhere, and glitter is verboten in my house. )

Spoiler Alert: If you’ve never had a leprechaun trap, he always gets away. In my house, he manages to “drop” some $1’s and chocolate coins. We eat Lucky Charms for breakfast and wear a green shirt. We have been doing leprechaun traps for 9 years. It’s tradition. And hard headed Irish folk will tell you, you don’t mess with tradition.

Well, this year, 2nd son’s teacher, the fecking eejit, drops “Lilly the Leprechaun Liaison” into our world. I shit you not. She, being Lilly, sent home a very officious looking document, in fancy font, printed in green ink with little shamrocks across the header, laying out this cockamamie story that alllllllll along, we’ve misunderstood leprechauns! They’re not trying to cause mischief! No, they want to be our friends! And, they’re the size of a mouse.

Did I remind you that I’m doing distance learning for three children so this really is the equivalent of taking a dump on my lawn? And speaking of which,

Bullshit! I call bullshit. You cannot just step in and totally change the whole backstory of a popularly maligned imp just to push your touchy-feely, we’re all friends in 2021 ethos. I even tried to call out the ridiculousness of this supposition, but apparently, a 7 year old is very, very swayed by green ink and shamrock clip art. Not wanting to be a total asshole, I helped him make his little house for the “mouse -sized” leprechaun. But I’m not happy about it!

And now I’ve got waring leprechaun philosophies in my house! The OG son is wanting to build a trap. He walked away in disgust as my 2nd son insists that we construct a castle, nay, a VILLAGE for our diminutive friend. 3rd son is just excited to have so many Target boxes pilled up in the living room. 1st son is even claiming that he doesn’t believe in magic anymore. So thanks very much for ruining Easter, the Tooth Faerie, and Santa, ya geebag!

So, this is where we’re at. Our family is divided. We went from trying to trap the leprechaun and make him give us his gold, to building him a twee little home and being his friend.

Tonight, I say,

Screw you, ya gobshite not-even-Irish teacher! I hope the leprechaun leaves a disproportionately large green shit on your bed. Cuz he’s not tiny like a mouse!

All of this AND the lickarse teacher sent home piles of candy and cookies so the child will be high on sugar in my home.

In case you’ve been Googling COVID-19 VACCINE SIDE EFFECTS: Yes, the vaccine is going to cause your immune related issues to flare (psoriasis, IC, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, etc.)

Your Googling has just been fruitful!

If you are like me and suffer from psoriasis and a host of other autoimmune related ailments (fibromyalgia, Hashimotos, neuropathy, interstitial cystitis), you have probably spent the past year scouring the web for information about how COVID-19 will impact your health. And like me, you have probably read plenty of articles about how little is known about the impact on your already miserable condition(s) but that the vaccine is generally safe and to get it as soon as it’s available to you.

You may have spoken with your dermatologist/neurologist/rheumatologist/endocrinologist and your primary care provider and been encouraged to get the vaccine because getting COVID-19 is certainly worse than any impact that the vaccine might incur.

I just got my second dose a week ago and I want to share that you will suffer a flare in your symptoms.

When I learned that I was fortunate enough to qualify for the vaccine because I am a home health care worker I made the choice to go for it and gain whatever protection I could. I have three young autistic kids and no family nearby. I needed to grab that appointment slot and saddle up for whatever bumpy ride might follow.

The first dose, I felt like I had the flu. I was exhausted and had chills. This lasted less than two days. I didn’t feel great after that, but, I never feel great. A week later, I got a stomach bug and that laid me flat for two days. Nothing on the web was saying vomiting and pooping were a side-effect of the vaccine. But now I’m thinking that the two may be linked.

What I had read was that the second dose was what really made you feel ill. Being the Type A, OCD nut job that I am, I prepared my household for Mama to be sick for days. I friggin mopped the floors, got food delivered, and had my bedside table set up with all of the survival supplies one needs for a full body seige of “flu-like symptoms”.

Let me just say that all the parts of my body that like to attack itself because they think they are a foreign entity have been attacking themselves. My hands, where my psoriasis is centered, have freaked out and each finger and both palms are inflamed and scaling. It’s painful and it’s gross.

My fatigue and fibro-fog (can’t think of that word….nope, still can’t think of it) are severe. And my myalgia and joint pain are worse. Let’s talk IC pain. Oooh, no, if you have it, you know what a flare up of that is like.

Was it worth it to get the vaccine? I’m going with “yes”. Am I also experiencing flares up and down my body? Oh, fuck yeah, I am.

These are the early days of vaccination and not a lot of research has been accumulated. Particularly among those with underlying conditions. Let me be the web hit that provides you with that first hand, pun intended and it stays, case study that the vaccine is running amok from my head to my toes. I’m hopeful that these unknown and under discussed side effects will wane over the next couple of weeks.

If I have gained immunity that will protect me and allow me to care for my autistic children, it’s all been worth it.

I know how validating it is to read someone else’s story about illness and chronic pain and feel like,

“Hey, she gets me! It’s not all in my head!”

I get you. It’s a real thing. Please get vaccinated anyway.

Be well!

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/mAGZNECMcUg?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink

Thank Goodness We’re Back on Dinosaurs: Autistic Obsessions Affect the Whole Family

When an autistic child gets obsessed or passionate about a topic, you had better pray you’re interested in learning every minute detail about that subject. Because that special child is going to want to talk, and talk, and talk about it. It’s just how they’re hardwired. And it’s how autistic obsessions suck in the whole family.

My eldest was three when he became enamored with dinosaurs. We learned together. I found that I could keep up with a preschooler’s capacity for knowledge. After about 40 species and as many factoids, though, my brain couldn’t retain any more information and just had to accept that he was right. Even at 4 or 5, I trusted that he knew that 65 million years ago a meteor hit the now Gulf of Mexico and obliterated much of life on Earth. Or that a certain beast was a Tarbosaurus and not an Allosaurus.

We had a great run of 5 years. We were watching BBC’s “Walking With Dinosaurs” when he was 4. We had read every book in the kid’s section of the the library and those in the surrounding towns by the age of 6. He had earned or had been gifted every dino related toy. Relatives were warned to only buy dinosaur themed presents. His room had dino decals on the wall and dinosaur bedding. He would only wear clothing that featured a dinosaur. His little brothers knew all about dinosaurs or at least, they were enamored with being a captive audience for big brother’s lessons. Because, he has always been a little professor.

You get the picture. Dinosaurs dominated our life. But…at least they were real.

Enter the dragon(s), namely, “How to Train Your Dragon”.

There were the movies: adorable. The Netflix television show: barely palatable. At least there was a dozen new books he could read. But, that’s pretty much it. OR SO YOU WOULD THINK!!!

Because there was also a video game! I would bleed from the ears, listening to all of the breeds and their strengths. You could battle these guys. And breed and hatch them! And there were toys, but not enough toys, ironically.

We endured two years of nothing but drawing dragons and reading about dragons and stepping on the collectable figures, and watching the shows and him asking me, “Mom? Which is your favorite kind of dragon?”

I don’t bloody know because I hate all of them!

No, no, I memorized a few names and would always say, “Whispering Death”. I mean, that’s a pretty fierce dragon. Given the choice, always pick Whispering Death because it’s a conversation stopper.

“Ok, Mom!”

Then, when I thought I couldn’t stand it another moment, we were onto Godzilla! I don’t really know how it happened but I’m blaming an in-app video. I made a poor parenting choice to let my 11 year old watch the 2019 movie, and we were burning up in our desire for all things Godzilla. Now, maybe if we lived in, I don’t know, JAPAN, it would be easier to satisfy Godzilla-mania. But after 6 months and a birthday, allowance money and Christmas, I think we’ve hit the end of Amazon.

I know there are more films, but having watched one, I realize just how many bombs, and missiles and guns and did I say nuclear bombs there are in them.

And then…like a strange Zephyr of Mattel origin, dinosaur toys have returned to dominate the land!

*Mother ululates*

Who cares if they’re hybrids? Who cares if I’m mostly hearing about how production of Jurassic World 3 has been pushed another year. At least we’re talking about REAL THINGS! “Real” as in derived from once living things, but I will take it.

Now, my brain has fogged and melted around the edges significantly in the 8 plus years since we were reading The Big Book of Big Dinosaurs. Motherhood and covid will do that. I forget what a Sarcosuchus looks like but I am so glad to see the bins upon bins of dinos emerging from storage to be played with!

My sweet boy may be on the cusp of adolescence, but autism has pushed that back a while. I go in to say Good-night, and his bed is filled with toys and there are fierce sounds of battle. If we have a moment alone, my child will ask, “Wanna talk about something?”

Sure!

“You know that lawyer guy in Jurassic Park? I wish they sold him and that he came with a toilet!”

Sigh. Yup, buddy, that would be pretty funny!

There’s a Special Joy to Fridays Again!

I am not shy in my distain for distance learning. I am running in three directions, beholden to the school district’s schedule and rules, only they’re happening in my house! I mean, ok, I do bend/ignore their rules whenever I can, I won’t lie. And I take satisfaction in yelling about did you flush the toilet during science class. But I’m typically stressed out and exhausted by noon and that’s before I’ve done anything to manage the house.


Yes, I get way more hugs from my fellas now that they’re home, but I sorely miss the freedom of an empty house, something I had barely begun to enjoy due to one child’s school struggles and the youngest having only entered preschool.


When at least a couple kids were in school, the weekend felt like more work. No breaks and a heightened expectation on everyone’s part that we’d be “doing” something or going on an elaborate adventure.


The pandemic has actually made me enjoy the weekends again! No zoom, looser schedules, the kids spend more time playing with each other, and since we can’t really go anywhere, the pressure is off to have any fancy plans! It’s like weekends from my own 80s childhood.

“Go play outside!” or

“If I hear any fighting, you’re doing chores!”


We embrace the path less traveled these days.

Here’s a sweet picture of my Littlest on our random adventure to the local cemetery! We have no relatives there. The boys wanted to put flowers on the graves. And now the youngest is obsessed with the Stations of the Cross, something, as an atheist, I am ill-equipped to explain. We’ll dedicate a separate blog post to that! 

The Trump-ocalypse

Just a quick post to offer you this limited opportunity to hitch your wagon to my anxiety star! I saw all of this Trump insanity playing out in my neurotic dreams, circa 2016.

It’s my witchy sight. And this stretches back well before covid. But to keep things contemporary, let just say if there has been a phase of covid panic, I had already been there for about 6 weeks.

Phantasmagoria: a sequence of real or imaginary images like those seen in a dream.

It’s an awesome new word I just learned and I think it’s possibly the most accurate description of what’s happening re: The President.

In November, the long held breath of slightly more than half of the country was released in a cheer and people took to the streets!

“Biden is the next president!”

I was thinking, let’s not count our chickens yet. I was thinking, buy food, make sure we all have our medication, and yeah, Clorox and toilet paper, because I was flashing hard with visions of a civil war.

Well, the chickens aren’t yet counted and we’ve got acts of terrorism in D.C. People playing soldiers because they drank the Trump conspiracy Kool-Aid. And they have guns.

I feel a tweak less crazy to see my paranoia actualized on CNN. Less crazy and way, way more anxious.

2020 “Musings”

I’m not alone in feeling bleary from this Lost Year. Mostly, I feel like I’ve been abducted from my real life, by aliens, or an evil overlord, and am living out my days on a stage. It’s kind of like the movie “The Truman Show” but no one is running the show and there’s no audience. My bubble includes my four roommates (the husband and kids) and the nanny, so there’s never even a chance that a side-character could wildly nudge me and send me down a quirky path. I am a one-dimensional character in a Netflix original series with only one season.

When I think back on this year through various lenses and stages, much like the stages of grief, my year in quarantine has had distinct periods through which my muddled brain processes this new life.

Spending all of my quality time with the small screen, I now identify time periods by what show I was currently binge watching.

Ohhhh, that was when I was watching “Succession” and I hadn’t figured out how to get regular food deliveries.

The “Tiger King” really made me feel a connection during lockdown. Fun fact, I also thought it was a mockumentary for two shows!

Righhhhht! My Tudor era costume dramas (still on-going). That was when I was trying to pull off a magical Christmas when I couldn’t take the kids anywhere or see anyone and my strongest connection was with the Amazon Prime delivery person.

Here’s a dark shift: I’m in a cave. I see only the shadows of real life. Am I really living?

I’m safe in my cave. A Cave Bear Mama, roaring at anyone who tries to cross the threshold. But, I am claustrophobic hence the squeezing sensation in my chest.

There’s the Zoom School lens. Much of my life is live-streaming, thanks to the accursed Zoom (sounds like “Zuul”, the god of destruction, and I think that’s fitting.) In that element, I enjoy the little things where I can, like running the vacuum cleaner during reading time. And I really savor when I can catch the teaching losing her mind, trying to virtually control the attention span of second graders.

There’s the lens of “Which teacher was I most pissed off at?”

Mmmm-hmmmmm, “The Cheerleader”.

Yup. That was when I yanked my kid out of preschool because it consisted solely of youTube videos and complicated craft projects that required 60 minutes of prep time to net 5 minutes of my child using a glue stick.

There have been victories, though. I haven’t completely wasted my time.

The youngest is out of pullups!

The middle one learned to ride a bike without training wheels! (Of course, then the bike broke and I’m too nervous to take it to the bike shop.)

Our eldest was accepted into a private school that celebrates his special abilities and he’s getting A’s!

I very-nearly, not-quite-but-almost have IHSS provider benefits for the kids! It’s only been 5 months since I began the process, so, half-way there?

Some unique skills that I’ve not mastered, but definitely am pulling off with some level of competency include:

Giving a boy’s/men’s hair cut times 4! I cannot give myself a haircut. I had to learn that one the hard way. But, I can dye it many pretty My Little Pony colors with minimal damage to the grout in my shower.

I have used up a vast supply of my wrapping and craft supplies. Thank you, compulsive Cyn, for  buying all of those discounted birthday cards at Marshalls!

I am feeling very hydrated by all of the free skin care samples I’ve been accumulating over the years.

I have rediscovered that I enjoy hiking! And you better believe I have been getting myself to the beach more. All those positive ions. Ommmmmmmmm!

I honor all of these accomplishments.

My biggest win of the year has been writing here. I had re-established my writing habit with the revival of this blog last February. I moaned that while I was supposed to have all of this spare time for writing but then I became a “learning coach” for my three virtual students. I have managed to eek out some words here and there. It’s not the first draft of a novel, it’s not poetry that I would show anyone, but these are words and ideas and I have rattled them from my brain and thrust them outwards to you, dear reader.

What continues to be a horror show does include some gratitude, a hard thing to acknowledge at the best of times. Our lives still rocket and spiral in far too many directions. I hope that much of what was valued and deemed essential in the past 20 years will fade and be replaced by smaller movements that honor life and the merit in each day. And I hope I come to the page with more regularity. Because writing is healthy for me and Zuul knows I need some balance.

Fiddle Leaf Fig, I Wish That I Never Brought You Home

Showering my fiddle leaf fig: The Spider Mite Episode

At the start of the pandemic, we were all cycling through similar horrors:

How will we get 36 rolls of toilet paper?!

Yeast! We need yeast to make our own bread!

and,

Quick, buy a ton of houseplants!

Ultimately, we got the toilet paper and grocery thing sorted. I never did have to resort to making my own bread, or toilet paper! Epic relief. We rely on a brave personal shopper to hit the stores for us and deliver all the essentials. And, of course, Amazon. Love that company or hate it, if you need strawberries or new Crocs for your child, they’ll show up at your house in a smiling box.

The plants, however…

In April, I rapidly grew my house plant collection from 5 to 19 in a matter of weeks. There’s probably more than 19. I’m too embarrassed to count. But, when we were on lock down, one of the few places I felt safe shopping was the local nursery: Boston ferns, monstera, monstera adonsonii (the swiss cheese plant), a money tree, too many succulents, and the figs.

Every damn influencer and magazine spread has one or more fiddle leaf figs in every shot. Their trees are glossy and have giant, perfect leaves, artfully plopped into a bohemian basket, stylishly punctuating every foyer. The figs appear to be effortless sentients to the activities of living being advertised.

When I found a pair at the nursery, I lugged them and two giant pots (and the dirt) into my life. I needed a distraction from reading horrible covid-19 articles and statistics. I needed some control. I became, or tried to become, a crazy plant lady.

I clogged up my Instagram feed, following local plant vendors and my Google feed with YouTube videos about the care of these plants.

And guess what I discovered? These are finicky fucking plants. All of my other house plants are polite enough to survive 10 days without water.

Not you, fiddle leaf fig! My YouTube crazy plant people all tell me how “finicky” you are. Are the leaves brown? Are you over-watering? Are you underwater? Root rot? How to tell if your plant has spider mites. Ah, spider mites?! (It turns out my figs DID have spider mites and I have not forgiven them since. When you have to give your plant a shower to blast off tiny spiders, you’ll lose the love fast.)

Fiddle leaf fig. Even typing your name makes me want to choke you. And that’s also a thing that I’m supposed to be doing. Rather, I should “exercise” my plant, à la Homer Simpson. What? You’re not exercising your plant?

Oh, I’ve been waiting 2 months to write about how you’re supposed to exercise your plant by “shaking it for 2 minutes several times each week”. Like, be the wind in the rain forest. But guess what? I’m too busy. I’m not really exercising my own body right now and I’m supposed to shake a small tree?

Saturday is “water the plants” day. Some plants, I mist during the week. Because part of my plant hysteria involved purchasing two amber glass spray bottles…for misting the damn house plants. The Boston ferns and the accursed figs. The ferns are grateful and are growing into gigantic green beasties. The figs. Those damn figs. Every week is their last chance. I sneer at their spotty new leaves and the others that curl, or droop.

“This is your last week, plant!” (I know, you’re supposed to love on them and name them and play them the Baby Einstein Rainforest nightlight your children have outgrown.

But that’s the thing, plants. I have humans to take care of. And an elderly cat. And sometimes I even try to take care of my husband.

This is your last week, figs!! Shape up and get Instagram worthy or I’m chucking you in the dumpster.

WTAF: Special Needs Education During the Pandemic

MOOD: Homeschooling 3 kids with autism.

I try to be funny and encouraging and post about the little victories. But there are days when the grind that is parenting children with special needs is just overwhelmingly impossible. It doesn’t FEEL impossible, it’s like, actually impossible. How we make it to bedtime each day most often feels like it involved magic.

Now, we have the Covid-19 pandemic and the life that felt impossible has been replaced by a vortex of electric anxiety and fury. I am mad. Every. Day.

Do you know why? The schools.

I live in California. In our school district, we had the choice in August to keep our children home for the entire school year, or to send them back to campus. We didn’t know how things were going to shake out. Cases were blowing up! And I have 3 kids who need a 1 to 1 aide to keep them safe and engaged in their learning. Safe, as in, don’t let me kid run away into the parking lot or hit himself because he’s so frustrated that a friend took his LEGOs.

Yeah. I was not sending those children to the dystopian school of “Dune” meets “12 Monkeys”.

This is a very divisive subject and I am not here to argue keeping kids home vs sending them to campus. That’s a family choice. And this is mine.

It seems, from my own experience, that families of special kids are keeping their children home in a higher proportion to those with neuro-typical children. And that means that children who need the most in-person help, are not being receiving these services. Or, they are being offered a minimum of these services compared to when these kids were on campus up until March when campuses closed across the state.

In our school district, distance learning was offered for the entire school year of 20/21. We had to choose in August how we thought the severity of the pandemic would play out. And how we thought the schools would handle educating our children. As the mother of a 6th grader, a 2nd grader and an pre-k student, I am realizing the disparity of educational and therapeutic services being offered.

My eldest has been in a holding pattern for 5 weeks, waiting for his out-of-district placement to come through because the district has their own opinion about where he belongs based on his behavioral issues — issues that he had due to an inappropriate placement that stretched back to the summer of 2019 — when he was triggered by bullies and peers who would spit on him and threatened to beat him with sticks. Nice, huh? This is my sweet Aspie who uses baby talk whenever he talks to our pet cat and can tell you anything about dinosaurs or Godzilla and can draw amazing paleo art. He’s not hitting any of his academic benchmarks because they spent every day trying, and failing, to get him to be present in the classroom.

My middle child is in a general education classroom and he spends 5 hours sitting in front of a laptop doing Zoom School. He has a “break out” room where he, his teacher, his aide, or myself can elect to place him if he’s struggling to engage in learning. Let me tell you, he’s in that break out room half of his time. With autism and ADHD, he can’t sit through all of the assignments. He can’t absorb the verbal instruction offered by his gen ed teacher. His special education minutes, as outlined in his IEP, mean that he is to receive 55% of his education translated to him through a special ed teacher or therapist. This is not happening. Finally, in the 5th week of school, we received a package of chewy necklaces. There you go! That’s your OT services! Good luck!

For my pre-k child, his school did not even open their campus and they couldn’t figure out a safe way to instruct these children. Instead, they are being offered a paltry fraction of live education and therapies. There are two 15 minutes sessions with his teacher and then 5 or 6 videos that we watch. These “assignments” are about blue cars! Or building with blocks! Or watching the teacher read a book! I get that he’s 4 and that other peers might have intellectual delays that make these lessons appropriate. But my autistic child is very bright and doing 1st grade math. His delays are emotional and behavioral. So, what are they offering to help him? Not enough. I’m the one who’s regulating his behavior.

Yes, I chose this path. Yes, you can say that was my choice. But what is the district doing with all of the money that they continue to receive were they on campus?

It seems like they’re spending it on litigation.

My own peers, other parents of special children are each in negotiations with the district over failure to offer equal access. That might be for in-person education, for OT, speech, adaptive PE, or transportation to participate in on-campus learning.

We’re spending hours working with special education consultants, advocates and lawyers! Then we moan an rage to each other with what little energy we have left.

My most fervent wish for my kids, other than their physical safety, is that they don’t regress…more.

Ask around and every special needs parent will say, “my child has lost language”, “my child hits and throws the laptop”, “my child is anxious to leave the house! “

How are these children going to recover all of this lost ground when what they’re being offered for learning and therapies is just enough to satisfy the minimum requirements, or whatever they think they can get away with.

Money, money, money. The school gets the funding for my child and he’s not even on campus.

I could cry imagining how this is playing out is less affluent parts of the country, or in homes where parents aren’t educated about their child’s legal right to these services.

I know what’s going on. Not everything, but enough, and it makes me so furious and tired. That’s my covid state of being. Go to bed late, dream about the nasty emails I have to write, wake up and start the 360 degree spin move of fury on all of the fronts.

It is little wonder that I feel like a toilet paper tube with wonky eyes.