Caution: Handle with Care
An allegory of special education
“You've got to know when to hold 'em,
Know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away,
And know when to run.” — Kenny Rogers
I have these two extremely valuable items. They are my most treasured and prized creations, actually. I work on them every day. I’ve spent hours and hours and hours molding and shaping them. They are beautiful, glorious, amazing things. If necessary, would give up every other thing I own to keep these two items, that’s how precious they are to me.
But they are also super fragile, a little explosive and very hard to ship.
I’ve tried shipping them many times. Sometimes I’ll get a good delivery driver or two but the whole shipping process has really taken a toll on them. They have been shattered more times than I can count, bent in odd ways, and the shipping company has never taken any responsibility for the damage.
About two years ago, with COVID, shipping shut down overnight. That was hard, but it was also kind of a relief not to have to rush around all the time. I was also able to really take stock on what the shipping company had done to them — piece together the broken bits, mend and sand the cracks. There are still some broken bits, and they are still pretty fragile, but overall we’ve been able to mend a lot of the damage and they are stronger now.
Last May, I started talking to the shipping company about one trip — just one. I told them how badly previous shipments had damaged my treasures and I begged them to come up with a safe solution.
“Oh, sure, no problem, we do this all the time,” they said.
“Oh yeah, I know,” I responded, “but these aren’t standard boxes. They are very fragile. Can you provide them special care? Wrap-around packaging? A planned route? An experienced delivery driver? An escape route if the worst happens and they start to explode?”
“Oh yes, absolutely,” they said. “But you’ll need to spend hours talking to our shipping specialists about all the types of packaging they need and all the different routes we could take. Oh and then, of course, there’s loads of paperwork to sign.”
“Oh yes, of course, I would be happy to do that if it means my precious cargo is well taken care of.” I spent months talking to the shippers about this delivery, pushed it off several times to make sure they had plenty of time and staff to make such an important trip.
Like I said, in addition to being fragile, my treasures are also rather volatile. They can easily damage other packages if they aren’t handled properly. The shipping company again assured me that this was fine and they handle packages like this all the time, they even have special trucks and drivers.
But the shipping day came and it was some janky white van with a harried delivery driver, coughing and wheezing, screeching up to the door at the wrong time and barking at me to “toss ‘em in” on top of a jumble of other packages so they could rush off to their next delivery.
Can you believe that?
What would you do?
I suppose I should mention that while I don’t pay for this shipping service, you all do. You all actually pay quite a lot for my treasures to arrive, safe, secure and undamaged. All along, in fact, you’ve been paying the same daily “Special Delivery” postage fee — even during the year the shipping company wasn’t operating, and during recent months when other less-fragile packages have been shipped daily. You’ve been paying the same postage fee as if my packages were also being shipped every day, when really they stayed right here, at home.
This was the first delivery I asked for, after 22 months, and the shipping company had the nerve to pretend that the janky van was not going to damage my treasures all over again.
I think I need to find a new shipping company.
And y’all might want to ask where your money is going for that postage.
Medical Motherhood’s news round up
Curated snippets of news and opinion that may be of particular interest to those raising disabled children, from news outlets around the world.
• From EducationWeek: “Staff Shortages Are Bringing Schools to the Breaking Point”
When a teacher goes out sick and a substitute can’t be found, that usually means another teacher or staffer who may not have subject expertise has to step in. Sometimes the two classes have to be “collapsed” together—to use the lingo of educational administrators—resulting in much larger class sizes.
To avoid that option, the Southern Boone district has tapped instructional support teachers. But that has a cost, too.
“What we typically do in an effort to keep the classrooms together, we’ll pull our special teachers — who help with students who need additional reading and math —to use as subs,” said Felmlee. “The bad part of that is that the kids who need the most help aren’t getting the services they need because we’re just trying to keep the schools open.”
• From The Atlantic: “COVID Parenting Has Passed the Point of Absurdity”
In nationwide survey data being collected now, the Indiana University sociologist Jessica Calarco has found so far that 70 percent of moms, and 54 percent of dads, are feeling overwhelmed and stressed; that about half of parents are feeling depressed and hopeless; and that fewer than 15 percent of mothers, and 25 percent of fathers, are getting enough sleep. “There are really high rates of mental-health struggles across the board,” Calarco told me.
• From The Wall Street Journal: “Omicron Wave Leads to New Highs of Hospitalized Children Who Have Covid-19”
Edward Dallas, a consultant pediatrician in the emergency room in a London hospital, said he is probably seeing more children with Covid-19 in this wave than at any time in the pandemic, but didn’t think that was because Omicron is affecting children more severely, just affecting more children.
He added that the most common symptoms of Omicron infection in children appeared to be runny nose and cough but that it didn’t typically lead to lung infection.
• From The Los Angeles Times: “More kids in the hospital with COVID renew fears for medically fragile children”
Young children — those younger than 5 — are being newly hospitalized with COVID-19 at higher rates than at any point before in the pandemic, according to federal data. Health officials say the rising numbers among children are the result of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, which is much more easily transmitted than earlier variants of the coronavirus.
The latest surge has been especially alarming for many families with children who are medically fragile and younger than 5 — the age group still not eligible for COVID shots. Federal authorization for a vaccine for the youngest kids is still expected to be months away.
• From WAVY: “Virginia woman charged with stabbing boyfriend, strangling child with special needs”
Lauren Danielle Jones, 30, was subsequently taken into custody following the incident. She was charged with malicious wounding and child neglect.
As their investigation continued, deputies spoke with The Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters (CHKD) Child Advocacy Center. This conversation, along with a medical screening of the 3-year-old boy, led officials to add a charge of strangulation.
Medical Motherhood is a weekly newsletter dedicated to the experience of raising disabled children.
Get it delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning or give a gift subscription. Subscriptions are free, with optional tiers of support. Thank you.
Follow Medical Motherhood on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Spotify, or Instagram or, visit the Medical Motherhood merchandise store to get a T-shirt or mug proclaiming your status as a “medical mama” or “medical papa.”
Do you have a question about raising disabled kids that no one seems to be able to answer? Ask me and it may become a future issue.