Chapter Description: Clark attends his first I.E.P. Meetings...as a student.
“Is everyone here?”
“I think so.”
“Then let’s begin with proper introductions.”
“Hello I’m Tamara Bankhead, and I’m the Resource Compliance Specialist.”
“Hi, I’m Chandra Skinner, Speech and Language Pathologist.”
“Hello, I’m Maxine Winters, Physical Therapist.”
“Hello, I’m Jasmine Sosa, Occupational Therapist.”
“And I’m Melony Beouf. Maturosis and Developmental Plateaus. I’m the Little’s teacher.” There was a bit of laughter as if people didn’t know what Beouf did at school.
This is how my very first I.E.P. as a “student”, began. The ritual was always the same, the format identical to every meeting I’d ever sat in. Except I wasn’t “sitting in”, this time. The meeting was about me, and I wasn’t even allowed to properly sit. Stand either. I was plopped right in Mrs. Beouf’s lap, her hands wrapped around my chest, and her knees bobbing me up and down like I was an impatient toddler that needed soothing. The smell of half a dozen air fresheners and disinfected still lingered about us in the stagnant air.
Now, the people around me sat in judgement of me, instead of with me as though I was somehow less competent, less of a person than I had been just a few hours prior. Everyone already knew each other’s names. And even though we weren’t supposed to predetermine anything, everyone present knew this for the farce it was. This was all just a show.
Bankhead started things off, as per usual. “We are gathered here today to determine the needs, and appropriate placement within our system, of Clark Gibson. Let’s start with the initial status survey.” There was a brief moment of silence as she clacked away on the laptop in front of her. “I have here for the primary exceptionality being Maturosis…?” The slight lilt in her voice phrased the question that wasn’t really a question. They’d already made up their minds.
I mouthed to myself, “We can’t predetermine.” Bullshit.
I practically felt Mrs. Beouf looking down at me on her lap. “Can you tell us how old you are, Clark?”
I folded my arms over my chest and rolled my eyes. “Thirty-two.” Far too many patronizing smiles grinned back at me as I recited my own age like it was some sort of accomplishment. Among my friends and neighbors, the only accomplishment would be that I lasted as long as I did.
“What is the student’s developmentally appropriate plateau?” That was never a question asked at one of my students’ meetings, but I knew what it meant. Translation: “How incompetent is he?”
Another bout of silence from the assembled Amazons. It was Mrs. Beouf who answered first. “Due to the recent nature of the discovery, we can’t be entirely certain of the developmental plateau, however evidence suggests that he is not at the same level of development as his similarly aged Amazonian peers.” There was a general nodding of agreement around the meeting table.
Translation: “We don’t really know, but we’re betting he’s too stupid to function by himself.”
Such bullshit. Such typical Amazonian bullshit. “Same aged Amazonian peers.” It was absolutely unthinkable that they might end up in this position, so they’d made themselves the benchmark. But one tiny slip up by anyone else, and it confirmed all their pre-existing beliefs about anyone physically smaller than them.
Bankhead clicked over to the next page of the electronic document. “Okay, let’s go down the check-list.” A beat. “Does the student demonstrate developmentally and maturation appropriate skill sets?” A chorus of “no’s” and shaking heads followed as I stared daggers at them all from across the table. “Does the student’s needs and behavior enable him to function independently relative to his chronological age?”
Another chorus of “no’s” and shaking heads for good measure.
“Does the student require specialized curriculum, training, or instruction in order to reach his appropriate developmental plateau?” Now an affirmative chorus and nodding noggins bobbing up and down filled my view from across the conference table. “Does he require increased adult supervision for his own safety?” All the Amazons were now bobbleheads. Bankhead stifled a giggle and smirked from behind her laptop. “Is the student potty trained?”
“OH COME ON!” There was laughter all around the table hidden politely behind their hands. It was the kind of laughter for when a small child says something that you know you’re not supposed to laugh at, for fear that it will encourage them.
From above me, Mrs. Beouf whispered, “Make good choices.” She bobbed me a little more on her knee.
“WHERE’S THE DATA?” I demanded. “Every I.E.P. meeting I’ve ever attended, I’ve had to provide solid data, collected over weeks! WEEKS! MINIMUM!”
Bankhead cleared her throat. “There was the um...incident earlier this afternoon. That’s a start.” More giggling, though this round was slightly more uncomfortable. They had still seen me as an adult when that had happened. Funny the difference that a few hours can make to an Amazon.
The physical therapist chimed in. “Didn’t Mrs. Brollish give us that file?” My lip curled back in disgust. Bitch didn’t even have the courtesy to wait until I was dressed before letting me go.
“Oh yes, that’s right!” Bankhead dug around in her satchel for a few seconds before pulling out a manilla folder, absolutely bursting with papers. I was forced to sit there in Beouf’s lap for a three-minute eternity while every complaint or worry from a parent since I began teaching was read outloud to the room. Brollish had had such a grudge against my very professional existence that she’d logged every time a parent had worried that an “immature Little” was teaching their precious bundle of snot for just such an opportunity as this. Miss Bankhead finished the last one and then looked at me. “Well..? That’s data enough for me. Looks like you’ve been hiding your true self from us for a long time.”
I shook my head, denying everything. “Those complaints are years old! Some of them are close to a decade! And they were all from the beginning of the school year before they’d gotten to know me!”
Please let them see reason. Please let them see reason. Please break through that impenetrable layer of Amazon crazy.
“Where’s all the good stuff that they say about me from the end of each school year? The stuff that you reassure them about time and time again every time there’s a new batch of parents? The kind of things you were telling them this…” Morning…. I lost steam. Silence. Amazonian memories are short when Littles are involved. “All of those parents loved me! Some of them even wanted to adopt me!” I slammed my own palm against my lips. Damn my pride.
“I wonder why….” More quiet laughter. Meaner this time. They weren’t just “doing their job” now, they were putting an uppity Little in his place. I could see it plainly.
Wordlessly, Bankhead fished out another piece of paper from out of the folder, this one much less formal, much less official seeming but equally damning in the eyes of the mad giants. It was written on notebook paper. The handwriting was sloppy and unpracticed; and the words were all packed together in a giant block of text. From my position on Beouf’s lap I couldn’t read it word for word, but I recognized the hand writing.
I’d read that essay before.
“That doesn’t prove anything!” I received something of a warning squeeze and a quiet shushing for my trouble. Screw that. “It’s a creative writing project written by a ten year old!”
The O.T. cleared her throat. “Didn’t you mention that you’ve been missing diapers, Mrs. Beouf?”
“Is it possible that this behavior has been going on longer than documented? That Clark has been needing diapers for longer than just this past week?” Fuck these people!
“I WASN’T WEARING A FUCKING DIAPER TODAY!”
All the women stopped and just stared at me. “Clark, you weren’t wearing underwear, either.” The OT’s voice, ever clinical, ever flat, drove the point home. “All the available evidence suggests that your maturosis has fully expressed itself and you’ve barely been able to hide it up until now.” It was the most respectful, most adult manner in which an Amazon had spoken to me all day, and I couldn’t handle it.
My face sagged. She was right. It did look that way; to an Amazon at least. “And we’re not mad at you, Clark.” I felt Mrs. Beouf hug me again. “We still love you. You were doing the best you could to be a grown-up. And maybe we were being a tiny bit selfish by not seeing it, by ignoring your needs.” My body was getting hotter and hotter with anger. I was absolutely fuming.
Anger: The second stage of grief. This had nothing to do with my needs. Not at all. What I needed was to be let go. What I needed was to get back home to Cassie. What I needed was Tracy to get in here and “adopt” me so that I could run away like we’d talked about.
Where was Tracy?
I shook my head. One thing at a time. Keep it together. “I wasn’t though…I’m...I didn’t...I know how...I don’t need...” I stopped, swallowing hard and closing my eyes so that tears of frustration wouldn’t leak out onto my face. What do you say to a jury that has already rendered their verdict before the trial even started?
Beouf hammered the final nail into my argument’s coffin beforeI could finish my statement. “Baby, I just changed you a couple of minutes ago.” That shut me up. Her saying it out loud, in front of everyone, made it more real to me than when she’d actually been powdering my balls. I wanted to scream. I didn’t even want to curse at them. I didn’t want to use words. Words were hard just then. A primal, guttural shout would best express how I felt in that moment. I started huffing and puffing, my breath becoming audible.
Where was Tracy?
Skinner, the speech therapist, had taken the time to worm her way around the conference table. I opened my eyes up to a stuffed lion that was held far too close to me for comfort. “Hey Clark. Maybe this will help. Would you like the lion?” She wiggled it in my face, trying to distract me. I stared back at her, unblinking; my eyes as dead as the little beads that made up the teddy-lion’s. If looks could kill, I would have been a murderer.
“Make a good choice,” Beouf warned me again. All eyes were on me. “You can either take the lion, or I can give you a pacifier.” It was stated as fact, not a threat. I was given two bad options.
I didn’t think that my old mentor used those gags that Amazons called pacifiers, the kind with the inflatable bulb that filled your whole mouth so that you couldn’t talk or spit it out. I didn’t think I’d have shit my pants in front of everyone, either. I wasn’t ready to be wrong again, but I didn’t want the damn stuffie.
I inhaled through my nostrils. “Neither.”
“That’s not an option, hon.” I was no longer in control at this point. That’s what this was all about: Not choosing would not be accepted as a choice; and if I couldn’t or wouldn’t play along with their little charade, they’d choose the option that was the most effective at silencing me. Without saying anything else, I reached my hand out and took the lion into my arms.
I buried my face in the plush lion, mumbling to myself as the meeting progressed without me. It was all just so...wrong. I kept taking looks up as Bankhead typed on the laptop and “surveys” about me were conducted and my “least restrictive environment” was determined. All I got in return were flashes of pearly whites and little hand waves, along with the occasional knee bounce if Mrs. Beouf noticed. I was cute again...fuck...typical Amazons.
Then we got to the goals:
“By the I.E.P. Review Date Clark will engage in developmentally appropriate play with peers.”
“By the I.E.P. Review Date Clark will seek out appropriate aid and attention from adults.”
“By the I.E.P. Review Date Clark will express his wants and needs through developmentally appropriate vocabulary such as but not limited to diaper or diapee; bottle or ba-ba; pee-pee; poopie or boom-boom; num-nums; and so on.”
“By the I.E.P. Review Date Clark will aid adults in feeding him by handing them the correct utensil or by self-feeding using a palmar supinate grasp.”
“By the I.E.P. Review Date Clark will transition from standing to all fours and use reciprotive crawling to travel between two points not longer than twenty feet.”
Clark will do this. Clark will do that. Clark will suck tits. Clark will sleep in a crib. Clark will piss and shit himself without a second thought and like it. Clark will never have sex again. Clark will turn into a dumb mindless doll for his giant overlords to play with whenever they feel the slightest lingering bit of maternal instinct welling up inside them or they just need to get their jollies.
On and on it went. I lost count of how many regressive goals were made and listed, all of them supposedly on such short notice. Every academic goal I’d ever written for one of my students was aimed at taking them to a place that was beyond their present level of mastery. They were made with the intent of pushing them to a higher level of knowledge and skill. All of these goals were aimed at pushing me backwards.
Where was Tracy?
And they were all using the pretext and language of my own damn profession to do it; a profession that they admitted that I was damn good at! But because I didn’t fit into their cookie-cutter definition of what an “adult” was- a word that was synonymous with Amazon as far as they were concerned- then I needed to be stuffed and contorted into another mold, no matter how much shoving and pushing and what else broke inside me so that I could fit neatly into their categories.
Where was Tracy?
I just kept shaking my head, though to their eyes, it must have looked like I was nuzzling the stupid lion. I even heard one of them whisper. “Someone’s made a new friend.”
Anger wouldn’t serve me just then, and if nothing else, the stuffed lion gave me a chance to wipe away unformed tears, dig my fingers into something, and cool down.Things were moving on toward the end of the meeting. “Wait!” I said, as voices were beginning to overlap and mingle with each other; the surest sign that any meeting was beginning to run too long. Predictably, I was ignored. Time for a different tack. “Excuse me…? Excuse me, ma’ams?”
Just that little spoonful of sugar, that bit of conforming to their preconceived notions got me their attention. “You’re not sure about my developmental plateau?” I felt like I was going to throw up a little bit. I hated using their term, their made up excuse as to why I should be infantilized and denied my rights.
“That’s right, Clark,” Skinner assured me. “But don’t worry buddy, we’ll find it after a couple of weeks.”
“Does that mean that the goals can be changed to…” damnit...I couldn’t think of a better, less grown-up way to ask… “does that mean my goals can be changed to reflect that?”
“That’s right!” Bankhead beamed. “You get it!”
I didn’t dare say it just then, but I felt a bit of hope well up inside me. In actuality, I was already at the “bargaining” stage of my grief. Maybe I could resist long enough and maneuver the social minefield they’d thrown me into so that I could make things better on myself. I’d done it all my life before. Maybe I could do it again and get a toddler bed, or a pair of Pull-Ups.
But what was I talking about? I wasn’t planning on being here long.
Where was Tracy?
“Now comes the hard part,” Bankhead said. “What do we do about guardianship?”
There was an uncomfortable silence. Each of the Amazons in turn looked to one another. Their faces and body posture changed instantly. They all wanted to see me put back in diapers. But none of them wanted to take me home. And there was something else there; something that I didn’t want to recognize: They all had bad news that they didn’t want to break. “Um...what about Tracy? Miss Tracy, I mean. Couldn’t she adopt me?”
There was hemming and hawing around the table, and uncomfortable exhalations; but no one actually spoke.
The world jumped up a little bit as Beouf turned me around and sat me down on the edge of the conference table, staring me in the eye. “Clark, sweetie….” she took a breath. “Tracy already went home. She can’t adopt you. She’s not here.”
I felt nothing. Completely numb. Not disbelieving. Not misunderstanding. As my last grain of salvation slipped away, I was beyond feeling anything in that tiny moment. Tracy had abandoned me. I was fair game.
“Can you adopt me?” I don’t know if it was cunning or desperation that made my voice come out so tiny and pathetic. “Please, Miss B.?” Better the mad devil you know...
Beouf shook her head. “Sorry baby. I don’t think I can. You know I’m going to be a grandma soon. I can’t have two babies to take care of.”
I’d never seen Beouf look so unsure, so discomforted. A dark part of me was glad about that. “But I thought you said you’d take care of me. I thought you loved me.”
“I do, Clark. I do. But I can’t take care of you all of the time. I sent an email out while you were sleeping but-” I was done listening to her.
I twisted and looked around the conference table, the polished wood sliding easily underneath the plastic covering of my diaper. “Then who?”
Then, “There’s always New Beginnings.” It was Bankhead, of course. “They’ve got an overnight program for um...Orphans.” New Beginnings was worse than any scenario I could have prepared for.
I was going to be murdered but still have my body intact.
“I…” I felt my throat tightening; getting harder to breath. “I don’t wanna…” I was dying. They’d just sentenced me to death, and even Mrs. Beouf knew it. “Please don’t...please…”
Mrs. Beouf looked like she might be about to join me in my impending breakdown. “I’m sorry, baby. I don’t think there’s a choice.” Lies. There was always a choice. I just wasn’t the one allowed to make it. “I promise I’ll check up on you. Maybe whoever adopts you will enroll you back in my class...” Even that was a lie, and I could tell that Beouf knew it. You didn’t need a fully brainwashed Little to be enrolled in anything more than a daycare.
I was all out of outrage. Tears hadn’t come yet and some part of me wouldn’t allow a full breakdown.
I was going to die.
My mouth opened; I couldn’t breathe through my nose suddenly.
I’d be mindless.
A churning in my stomach, similar to yet distinct from the sensation that had been sneaking on me prior to my accident.
I tasted it in the back of my throat.
I wanted to spit. I wanted ro rinse. Anything to get the awful taste out of my mouth. Anything except swallow.
I vomited. Clear water mixed with stomach acid came out of me, spilling outward and onto my shirt. It was strong enough to hit open air, but the force of my stomach emptying its meager contents back out wasn’t enough to spill the vomit on anyone else but me.
A wave of gasps mingled with the familiar gargling noises coming from my throat as I sat there, paralyzed in despair as I heaved up the bottle I’d just guzzled down less than an hour ago.
“Oops! Spit up!” Mrs. Beouf was the first to act. The world became a sudden blur again as I was picked up by my armpits and rushed towards the nearest trash receptacle. “It’s okay Clark. It’ll be okay. Just get it all out.” I continued retching and heaving bits of my stomach into the nearest wastebasket. All out!
In the back of my mind, I took some grim satisfaction in how uncomfortable everyone suddenly seemed to be. Good. Let them be.
Just as I was starting to pant, and taste the rancid sting in the back of my throat, snot building up in my nose, a new complication entered the mix.
Positioned as I was, I heard the approaching thudding and clacking footsteps, more than saw who they belonged to. I heard the door to the conference room swing open, knocking against the bumper, and felt the cold climate controlled air spill out into the lukewarm atmosphere outside. I sensed, more than saw all heads turn towards the intruder.
“WAIT!” Janet stood there in the doorway, breathing heavily as if she had just sprinted a marathon. Everyone froze. Her hair was wind whipped, her eyes wild and panicked. Her stance was tilted; she was missing a heel, apparently losing its twin on her mad dash across campus. “I just got the email!”
Bankhead looked over her laptop. “What email?”
“I’ll do it…!” Janet walked, hobbled really over to the trashcan where Mrs. Beouf was still holding me. Two new hands wrapped around my waist and drew me in; holding me as if they were afraid I might evaporate into nothingness. “I’ll take him.”
“Are you saying-?”
“Yes! I’ll adopt him. He’s mine. I want him. He’s mine! Please!”