Saturday, August 31, 2013

KAHFOOTY and Personal Space.

The superintendent ruined my life. Then my brother saved the day.

This week has been a little rough. You heard about Walter. You heard about Goofy. You heard about the girl and her sneaky mess making capabilities. You did not hear about Alex but that wasn't much. Just a minor upset that started with the words, "just so you know." "Just so you know," seriously? Come on, who wouldn't take those words as a challenge? This wasn't just some offhanded remark that has nothing to do with me. "Just so you know, Alex had fruit with his lunch." That is a 'just so you know,' this was a major decision that I should have been consulted on, or at least been fully informed of because... 1. It's my freaking kid! (yes, I do see the resemblance to a 2 year old screaming, "mine!" there. I don't care.) 2. I'm supposed to be part of the TEAM. You know, a cooperative unit. as in, two or more parties working toward a common goal. see? not some outsider who just needs to be informed of a decision made. Especially a decision that's going to have a huge impact on my son.

Anyway, the end of the week is coming, as much as I love my little hell raisers, I was looking forward to Monday and a fresh start more than the actual weekend.

Friday came and KAHFOOTY (Keep All Hands, Feet, and Other Objects To Yourself) became a hot topic.

Walter goes to home games (football) to watch the marching band for extra credit. He's gone every year. This year he's especially excited and has a special interest in going. a special interest that smells pretty and has a nice smile. *breathing* This one is different. there are no air quotes. Somehow, while I wasn't looking, he went from being intrigued by the idea of a "girlfriend" to being captivated by this girl. It gets worse. This girl? is the assistant principal's daughter. Yes, that assistant principal. All I can do is hang my head and silently ask, "Why, God? Why?"

The Goofy One comes home. Yeah, you already see where this is going, don't you? So, earlier this week, he brought home a "Think Sheet" where he tells me what he did wrong, why it was wrong, how he's going to do it in the future, and we all sign it and send it back. He had refused to participate in gym. Simple enough. I explained that he can choose what games to play at recess but he cannot choose what games he plays in gym. *fixed*

Friday, he brings home a behavior score of yellow. WTF does yellow mean!? I read the cheat sheet:
Purple
Blue
Green
Yellow
Orange
Red
So all this time that he's been bringing home green and I thought it was a good day, I have no clue what he was doing. But we're talking about yellow, here. and KAHFOOTY.

"Putting hands on others."

What is up with my kids this year!? Walter doesn't hit! Goofy doesn't hit! They do plenty of other things to make me insane but they do not hit! I asked the Goofy One what happened. Touching. 'Putting hands on others' is touching. not hitting.

Those of you who have been with me for a while, you know. We've been working on this for years. What can I do that I haven't already tried? I think back to these days with Walter and shrug. Worth a try.

I stand him in front of me and ask him to stretch his arms out. As far as your arms can reach all around you, there is a bubble called 'personal space.' Everyone has this bubble. You do not step into or put any part of your body into someone else's bubble. If you can reach out and touch the person you are talking to, you are too close and need to back up. I told him that only the people who live with you should be in your bubble and only the people who live in the other person's house should be in their bubble.

Did it work? I don't know. worked for Walter. Which leads me back to the first problem.

Now I have to figure out what to say to explain how to know when you are invited into someone's personal space and how to know what things are appropriate to be going on in that bubble. I don't suppose you have any suggestions?

This is where the superintendent ruined my life. We were getting ready for the game and Walter's girl cancels, buying me a little time. I breathe a sigh of relief and glance at my new message. 
"It's the weekend! Good luck to all athletic teams tonight. To everyone, make #goodchoices! We want to see you all Tuesday!"

Tuesday!? It's a freakin' holiday weekend! Then my brother... my sweet, loving brother... Took Walter, Goofy, Little D, and TS to our mom's for the day. :)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Don't doubt yourself.

Last year, I sat beside Alex's stepmom in small chairs around a half circle table and listened to Alex's sister's teacher snap at Alex's mommy, "she's not autistic." As if the idea was completely ludicrous and Alex's mommy was stupid for even thinking it. I asked what she was. I asked what diagnoses they were giving her. I asked why she was so far behind in areas that were not behavior (because you know that part was all mommy's fault for being a crappy parent). They said they couldn't say without doing evaluations first. Really? Evaluations are needed? Imagine that. I'm shocked.

I came home and I wrote a post about who can and cannot diagnose autism. I explained medical evaluations and educational evaluations. I told you that without evaluation, they cannot give a diagnosis and if they cannot give a diagnosis without evaluation, they cannot rule out a diagnosis without evaluation.

I told you I wanted you to know, while they sit there in their presumed superiority throwing words at you, that you are not alone. That we all hear it. This is a fight that we all fight.

*wry smile*, how quickly we forget the lessons we've learned. It's so much easier to see when it happens to someone else, isn't it?

Every day we face family members and friends who tell us that we are paranoid, that we are looking for an excuse for our bad parenting. They blame you.

We go to doctors who tell us that whatever is there is not this specific thing so it must be nothing. They blame the schools. They say, "Get an advocate." "Make the school do something." "You know how schools are, they aren't going to do anything unless you make them."

We go to school and they snap at us or they look at us with these looks and tell us, "s/he's doing this so it can't be Auditory Processing Disorder/Autism/insert diagnosis of choice." They say you worry too much. We allow too much. They say what you see is typical. They call it behavior. They give you trouble and list the many, many reasons you should not request re-evaluation even though you have followed all of the rules and you are well within your rights to make that request.

You have people who barely know your kids giving you parenting advice. Doctors giving you educational advice. Schools giving you medical advice. and in the swarms of voices telling you things they have no knowledge of other than their personal opinion presented as fact ... you start to doubt yourself.

Don't.

Just don't.

Don't give up. Don't give in. Don't let the voices fool you.

They see pieces while you see the whole picture. They are standing a clearing saying, "this cannot be a forest because there are no trees here," while the forest surrounds them. They aren't in your home. They aren't raising your child. They don't see what you see.

Trust your instincts, always. If you are concerned, that's reason enough to check it out. Don't let them tell you differently, don't stop until you have an answer that satisfies you.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back to the normal chaos of our lives...

You know those days that have you cowering behind a locked door with a package of Oreo's?

... yeah.

I put in my 2 weeks notice but I think my husband rejected my resignation. he brought pizza home instead.

The day was horrendous.  Not the kids, for once. Adults. Passive aggressive sanctimommies that by the time I'm waiting on buses have me ready to shout from the rooftops that I KNOW I SUCK AT PARENTING, you don't need to list all the many, many ways you do it better and by the end of the day had me texting all caps and calling my husband to tell him- again- that I effing quit! Screw it! "Tag. you're it." and he dodged the tag. jerk.

anyway, after the day was the evening. We had to do homework a little early so that I could go to curriculum night. Word. Problems. Dear Teacher, I hate you. "Underline what you know. Circle what you need to find out." I swear to you, the pencil hadn't touched the paper before I was calling for help. I'm sorry, yes, it did. He had to show me his cool new "B". then he had to show his dad. and the answer to the question was the bubble coming out of the Bunny's mouth. and then the answer was the bunny. and then the answer was "hey, look at that bunny." and then we were all STOP WITH THE FREAKING BUNNY! and then then the answer to not getting the answer was, "why don't you just do it for him?" and the answer to the answer to not getting the answer was, *obscene gesture* and a note to the teacher.

and then came 10 minutes of reading. Not. Happening. One day last week, after the cat incident, we talked to the boy at the bus stop who always has a book in his hand. Granted, in 2nd grade he's carrying around Harry Potter and such and reading them again in 3rd- for. fun.- but the boy had to have started somewhere, right? So I asked him about Fly Guy for the Goofy Child's benefit. The boy at the bus stop, not seeing me looking at my Goofy One while I was asking was all, "oh yeah, I read those they were cool," and I ruthlessly cut him off before he could go on to say more than moving on to Harry Potter because I was terrified anything more would turn the Goofy One off of Fly Guy.  and it worked. until last night when we had to make an emergency trip to the library for Bad Kitty.

We got home just in time for me to grab Walter and head to curriculum night where I heard magical words full of wonderful possibility... "Listen to Reading: Just hearing fluent and expressive reading of good literature expands your vocabulary; helps build your stamina and will make you a better reader." *gasp* Be still, my heart! ...I can read to him!? He doesn't have to help me!? PRAISE THE LORD!!!! and then I got a text message that had my face in my hands while I breathed slowly, counting to calm and Walter leans over, "are you ready?" Yes. Let's get out of here.

Then this morning... I overslept, Walter wanted to skip school, Alex lost his halo, Goofy refused to get in the tub then refused to get out of the tub, and then...

We ran out of Ranch.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Missing Information: Found. School Meetings.

Mondays. Did I say I loved Mondays? Well, that was stupid.

Yesterday, I can't say if it was good or bad. I don't know what it was. exhausting. Yes, that's it. Exhausting.

It started with the usual banishing of evil creatures from my house for the day and went on to more complicated matters like school meetings.

My husband got the meeting he was wanting with the  middle school, which I headed into annoyed for an entirely new matter. While the e-mails to me were nice and friendly, the  e-mails to my husband were snippy and dismissive. as if, because my concerns were addressed, his concerns were invalid. No. it doesn't work like that. Walter has TWO parents. Just because we aren't usually on the same page and operate on entirely different timeframes doesn't mean we aren't both very much involved.

It turns out, the assistant principal didn't have all of the information... and neither did I. Each one of us missing a vital fact that would have colored how we handled it. The assistant principal had never heard #1 or #2's names. and I, didn't know #3 was quite a bit smaller than Walter. I tried to talk to Walter after he got home but he asked me not to. He said, "Mom, please. don't. The look on your face killed me. It stayed with me all day, I couldn't stop thinking about it." I dropped it. Hopefully, he really understood the reason for the look on my face.

After a good long discussion, things are whatever and people are all friendly and my husband feels the need to apologize for e-mails. Uh-uh! Speak for yourself, man! My e-mail is just fine! I meant every word I said and would say it all again today. I also found out at that meeting that while my husband likes to try to censor my language, the counselor and the assistant principal have no problem what-so-ever with the word bullshit. and later, I found out that may have been because in an earlier meeting, Walter's friend's mom was dropping the f*bomb left and right. Wish my husband had been there for that one.

And then.... the Goofy child.

Going into this meeting, I'm so tired. I'm having a hard time focusing- I even kept forgetting I had a meeting. That's bad. but I got there. on time. I can't remember why I'm there or what I want and, believe it or not, at one point I forgot why I wanted an IEP. Seriously. I had to stop talking to think about it. That's really bad.  No worries, I eventually remembered. The IEP isn't about the accommodations, although he will have them, it's about addressing the need for the accommodations as well as getting SSD services like occupational therapy.


I did find out that they are following his 504, using every bit of it even though I don't see the evidence on his papers. She's using a laminated piece of paper to cover up the parts he isn't working on because the whole page is overwhelming. and she is using his timer, he just can't have it in his hand because it's too distracting. Group work is ok for now, they are all just starting to learn it and it's closely supervised. Math is his best subject, he's doing great in math. There are major concerns with writing and some concerns with reading.

Typical, typical, typical. *sigh* If it's all so effing typical, why does he qualify for supplemental reading services!? Oh, it's the lower end of typical. For now. Soon it won't be so typical. and since he's doing so great in math, it's not the ADHD.

So, we're going over my plan and we disagree (mildly) about the timeline (30-60-30 vs 30-60-45) and whether Auditory Processing Disorder falls under Specific Learning Disability (Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations) or Other Health Impairment (means having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment) and if there is a difference between last year's evaluation for autism and this year's evaluation for Specific Learning Disability so the school psychologist is called in to the meeting.

I don't understand the importance of having such small things 'cleared up', if it was about them really wanting the information or really hoping to prove me wrong on something but not only was I right, right, and right, and he said the same thing I told the principal the other day about the things I'm looking at being so very similar, and he said that Goofy is getting closer to not being developmentally typical.. I also got a new word- dysgraphia.

Why the hell not, right? I'll add it to my list.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Walter's Essay

    Yes, I do deserve detention. I used physical contact toward a person that didn't even touch me. I know I shouldn't have slapped anyone. But I was standing up for myself. Anyway, I deserve this detention because I used physical actions. That's why I deserve the detention. Do I want it? no but I deserve it.

    For every action there's a reaction. My action was violence, the reaction was detention. And I respect that decision. Now, right or wrong? good or bad? There's a difference, good decisions are rewarded, bad decisions are corrected. I'm willing to take the consequence because my bad decision needs to be corrected. " KAHFOOTY " what KAHFOOTY means is Keep All Hands Feet and Other Objects To Yourself, did I do that? no, I didn't even think I just acted.

    You want me to be brave, not to be quiet, you want to hear my words. Then I will be brave I will let my words out. I'm suppose  to say no, what I did was not worth the detention, but slapping the person who I thought slapped me, I was standing up for myself. It would have been worth the detention because I never stand up for myself. And the one time I do I get detention? Hah no, screw that. But based on what I knew the time the detention was worth it. And I learned that I will not always be perfect I will make mistakes and what others see as bad choices but you can learn greatly from mistakes and maybe my bad decisions are worth the consequence.
   
    Acting impulsively effected the people involved because I hurt one person that never did anything to me. And if I took a couple seconds to think about it I would of believed John didn't do it.

    How would I have done it differently? Hmm... That's a hard one. I would have talked to him and asked if he did it. And if he did I would have stood firm and asked him why then told an adult. This essay has changed me taught me when to stand firm. And I will not expect to be in detention ever again.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyAfjUHlFSM

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Walter's First Detention

I jinxed myself. Totally and completely jinxed myself. I should never have said out loud that Walter's principal (and Thing2's before him) has never seen my crazy. because he's so going to. I am pissed.

Friday, Walter came in from school. I was sitting at the computer instead of waiting for him because my mind was in other places like team meetings, reading reports, doctor's appointments, etc. and a $6 million auditorium, 4 sets of new bleachers, a $76,000 annual budget for activity buses, National Schools of Character who are all about helping their neighbors, and the fact that Alex's school still needs a playground ...and I forgot to watch the time.

He came in and sat at the table with me, just talking. I looked up at my tabs and saw I had an e-mail. Half of my attention on Walter and half of my attention on what some vaguely familiar name from the school has to say, my attention is suddenly 100% on the e-mail. I read... re-read... look directly at Walter, who reads my face easily and sighs. "I know." You know!? what do you know!? Discipline referral!? DETENTION!? What. happened.? No, wait. let me get a pen and paper.

All is going well, story's coming out. sounds like a cross between horseplay and a shoving match. Detention deserved.

Except...

#1 and #2 were standing with Walter at the gym doors waiting for the bell. #3 and #4 were behind him. #1 hits Walter in the back of the head, blames #3. Walter hits #3 in the back of the head. #3 acts like he's going to punch Walter, Walter grabs him and pushes him away, #3 falls into the wall. #4 steps in the middle.

Walter, #3, and #4 are called into the office to speak with the new assistant principal who has been on the job for a whole 7 days now. Walter and #3's stories are the same, they talk things are settled. AP then talks privately with #4 who accuses Walter of elbowing #3 in the face. #1 and #2 were not talked to as far as Walter knows.

Walter gets called back in and gets detention. Which is fine if it had been left at that but nooo, this guy who has been the assistant principal for exactly 7 days, and has obviously not even looked at Walter's school records or he would have seen absolutely no disciplinary actions since 4th grade, except a talking to for talking during a test, decides he's going to tell Walter that he "needs to learn to control [his] anger." and he "should be more mature."

The detention is fine. The unwarranted comments are not. After Walter mostly gets over the hurt and embarrassment, he says, "Mom. It's not a big deal." The hell it's not! It's my job to berate him and make him feel like a complete failure as a human being. If anyone is going to crush his self-esteem and make him feel lower than dog poo, it's going to be me. I went through hours of hard labor and poured 13 years worth of my blood, sweat, and tears into raising his bad ass for that privilege. and then this jackhole thinks he's going to come waltzing in and make outrageous accusations, toss out slanderous remarks about my son's personality flaws!? Oh, hell no. That ain't gonna fly.

One thing I learned the other day is that if I'm going to go have a temper tantrum, I better make sure my audience is available to witness it. So I e-mail Walter's principal that we have a serious problem and I would like to make an appointment to talk with him and that new vice principal as early as possible Monday morning. Then I paced and steamed and started my freaking notes. I will NOT be distracted. I have points to make and I will NOT get off topic. I paced and steamed and sat and stewed and took more and more notes, I thought and thought and the more I thought the madder I got.

  1. Did you talk to #1 or #2?
  2. Why would you interview #4 and not the others?
  3. What are the consequences for #1's instigation?
  4. Did you check Walter's school records before speaking with him?
  5. ***Medical Records?
  6. ***Academic Performance/ Teachers' Notes?
  7. ***Disciplinary History?
  8. Was he angry when he spoke with you?
  9. Was he anything less than completely respectful?
  10. Did he deny his participation or contest culpability? (serious question. if so, we're having another talk on owning your actions)
  11. Did he attempt to argue or avoid punishment?
  12. Why did you not call me to notify me of an incident involving my child?
I'm considering all the many reasons this man would have jumped to such conclusions and in that list my sense of humor hits. Gotta love the absurd, right? The more ridiculous those accusations got for such a small matter, the more I wanted to toss them out at him just to see how hilarious his reaction would be. I had almost settled on skin color being the reason for his assumptions of Walter's character and accusing the man of racial profiling as well as ableism when I got a new e-mail from Walter's principal.

Of course, this man with his friendly, outgoing, everybody-must-love-him self has to bring a bit of reality to the situation, reminding me of my responsibilities and my obligation to at least pretend to be a rational adult by offering to work around his own appointments Monday. I needed the appointment to be Monday so my husband could watch the girl. I needed it to be Monday morning because I have a team meeting Monday afternoon. School meeting kill me. Even one as simple as talking to a principal leaves me in desperate need for isolation to be able to settle down, on the very edges of a migraine, completely unable to focus on anything and overwhelmed by everything. The Goofy One's team meeting is a BIG deal. We have problems with long term repercussions there and I need to be able to pay attention. So, fine. We'll deal with this via e-mail.

My problem... The assistant principal does not know Walter. If you look at his school records; his medical records show that he has ADHD, his academic reports and notes from the teachers are all consistent with ADHD behaviors, his disciplinary record shows that all disciplinary actions were taken on impulsive behavior consistent with ADHD. His disciplinary record also shows only one single action since 4th grade and that was last year for talking during a test. Of all the years my boys have been in this school, neither one of the ones I was responsible for (we are so not talking about Thing1, that would entirely destroy the case I'm making) have shown a tendency toward violent behavior. Walter is not disrespectful or rude. He treats people the way he wants to be treated and he takes being a National School of Character very seriously. He takes pride in who he is and he takes remarks against his character to heart.
 
When the assistant principal told Walter that he "needs to learn to control [his] anger." and that if he had been in 6th grade he would have let this slide but being in 8th grade, he should be more mature... I find that unacceptable because there is nothing in Walter's record, his demeanor, just nothing that indicates a problem with anger or maturity. There is no excuse for the assistant principal to take one incident and judge who Walter is or to try to tell him that there is something wrong with him on a personal level.
 
Walter is my son. It is my job, and my job alone, to correct his behavior. If the assistant principal needs to enforce the rules or to decide on discipline, that is fine but he can keep his advice to himself.
 
The principal assures me that he will mainly be dealing with the 8th grade because the kids know him well and he will definitely be discussing my concerns with the assistant principal.  

Talking to my husband about it, he wants to object to the detention because Walter was defending himself. I'm not sure what to think of that. I agree that I would have done a lot worse if someone had hit me and I am glad that Walter finally stood up for himself but I think there is a good lesson here for him. I see an essay involving there being a consequence for every action, weighing the worth against the cost, and the risk of giving in to impulse before finding the facts in Walter's very near future. My husband settles on e-mail for now so I put in all of the addresses he asked for and cc'd myself. We'll see what comes of that.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Great things come from a moment of indecision...

I did it! All of it. Except the fit throwing. There was no fit throwing. ...well, by adults. The girl, on the other hand...

So, I went up to talk to the Goofy Child's principal, she was in a meeting so I made an appointment to come back.

At home, I sat down and made my list and read up on what I was looking at diagnosis-wise to remember why I was looking for more specific information on my Goofy One. While making my notes, I got a call from the elementary.

Now, hold on to your hats, you're not going to believe this...

Goofy qualifies for supplemental reading services!

AND,

she's telling me his scores, being oh-so-careful to tell me how typical these things are for the beginning of first grade. I'm so tired of being reassured that there is nothing "wrong" with my child when I already know something is going on. I understand the need to reassure a parent that this isn't the end of the world but I don't think they understand our need to know. To have validation of our concerns. To know that while everyone else is saying we are crazy, that someone somewhere sees what we do and someone somewhere, maybe even somewhere else, might have the answer we are desperately searching for. If these things are so "typical", why does he qualify for services? Whatever. I'm not going there again. I'm asking her about getting a copy of the report for the doctor, she's asking what information I need, we're discussing what I'm looking at and why, where we've been and where we're going when she offers to do a more extensive evaluation no later than today and send me that report to take to the doctor. I swear, I could kiss her right now!

At 2pm, I'm in the principal's office.

There are 2 definite areas of concern- ADHD and fine motor. There are 3 other things I am looking at- Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder, and Executive Function Disorder. We have to find out what the problem is before we can fix it. These diagnoses are all tangled up with comorbidity and overlapping symptoms. To figure out what the problem is, we have to have accurate information.

The doctor is asking where he is struggling. If he is struggling in every subject, the problem could be the focus part of ADHD and the solution would be to try a different medication. If he is just struggling in specific areas, then that's where we need to be looking. To know if his ADHD medication is working, we need to keep an eye on his ADHD symptoms.

I need to know if his 504 is being followed and I cannot count on Goofy to give me the information. He has trouble retelling events, sequencing events, cause and effect, and trouble understanding when someone is joking, being sarcastic, or the difference between correction and trouble. With his behavior reports and his unfinished work, I need to know what the problem was and what was tried. We need to know what works and what doesn't to adjust supports.

The principal understands. she took notes, copied some of my notes, set up a team meeting for Monday, and asked me to cc her in on any future e-mails. I usually do cc principals but this year I was trying to handle it on my own first. Which left her totally out of the loop until I had enough concerns to show up in her office. Bad idea.

I came home and made the consult appointment with the Goofy One's doctor to see which medical evaluations he would suggest based on the reading report and the information I will get at the team meeting. It just happens to be the afternoon of Alex's team meeting. That will be a fun day.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Indecision

I've tried to write this post several times this week. It never turns out right, it never ends any closer to the answer than when  I started out.

We talk a lot about the us vs them mentality between parents and the schools. This past week I have witnessed both sides of it. I'm used to being on the parent side and seeing things from my own perspective but I try not to get too emotionally involved in the school side of it. I need that separation, I need to know that they are there to do a job and to expect them to do that job with no excuses. I need to see them as their profession, not as people. So far, the only person to sneak through that carefully built barrier was the Goofy One's principal. We still have a decent working relationship but I can't risk that with anyone else. I can't afford to care if they have family at home that needs them or if they have things going on in their personal life that are affecting their work. I need them to do their jobs, I need to be the boys' parent with nothing muddying the waters.

But then... someone else breached my wall.

Wednesday, I went to take lunch money to Alex's school. I've never had to take lunch money to school so I went to the office to get instructions. That's where I heard the voices that changed everything. I didn't hear what was said, I was focused more on the tone than the words. The parent was angry. So angry it sounded like she couldn't decide between yelling and crying. I heard the principal respond to her. He sounded... sad? He sounded like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. He sounded like he just couldn't take another step. I'm sure the parent had reason to be angry. We've all been there, we've all had to fight for our children... mostly with the schools. but she's not the one my heart broke for.

I wanted to stop what I was doing and tell him that it would be ok. That this would pass and it would work out as it always does. I wanted to tell him that I know he's doing the best he can and that as angry as I get sometimes, I believe in him. and to not take what we say personally, even when it is. ...but that's not my place. I'm just another parent, not his friend.

This does muddy the waters for me, a bit, though. I was so ready to be right there in that parent's place: yelling, on the verge of crying. Demanding answers and attacking the school staff. If I had had the gas Tuesday, I would have been at the Goofy child's school. I had plans to go Wednesday afternoon.

I am angry. I am frustrated. I am so damned tired.

I'm not getting the information I need.

6 days into the school year, the information I'm getting is that Goofy's 504 is not being followed. I'm getting that information from Goofy.

Friday, he came home with an unfinished assignment and a blank report. so I e-mailed her. several hours later, she e-mailed me back that there is no homework on Fridays and he's off to a great start and with a little redirection he is getting tasks completed and following routines. So, I e-mailed her back asking about how the Goofy child described the reasons for his worksheet not being done and the parts of his 504 that would have solved the problems he described. No answer.

Monday, he came home with no behavior grade and an unfinished assignment. I e-mailed her asking what he was doing that the assignment was not completed. Several hours later, she e-mailed me back that he was working on math, it just took him a little longer and he did not finish. Math? Really? because he finished it here- both assignments- in less than 5 minutes- correctly- with no assistance. So... what was going on that it took him so much longer? What did she use out of his 504 to help him?

Wednesday. His behavior grade: Orange "talking and not following directions." Duh. It's in his 504. well, the following directions. The talking... we're not even going there. So, since my 504 related e-mails are being ignored, I wrote a note next to her note: "what parts of his 504 did you use?" We'll see if I get an answer on that.

Yes, I want his unfinished work to be sent home to be finished but I would also like to know why it wasn't done in class and how his 504 was used to help him before sending it home. We need to know what is working, what is not, where he could use more support and what support he needs. I need to know how his ADHD behaviors are so I know what to do with his medication. I need to know if it's ADHD or something else so I know what to look for. I need to know where he is struggling to know where to get help.

I do like this teacher (I remind myself of that daily) and I do think she is a good teacher (I do tell myself every time I get frustrated with her) but I'm wondering if maybe she's not a good fit for my Goofy One.

I have asked. I have explained. I have done everything I can think to do... well, I haven't sent him in unmedicated...*cough*yet. I'm just to the point I want to throw a fit. but, listening to the sounds of this discussion Wednesday morning... what good is that going to do?

I think since I am calm right now, it might be a good time to take my concerns to the principal. But I don't know what to say. I have no plan. No list. No solution. maybe that's the best time to listen to someone else's ideas?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

When cats interfere with homework

This conversation actually happened...

There are 5 cats at the park. 2 more cats join them. How many cats are there in all?

Look, I drew 5 cats. Look. right there. How many cats are there? Yes, they are cats. How many? Fine. How many? Good. where does that number go? good. what goes there? Good, draw 2 more cats. That's good enough, draw the 2nd cat. No, just the head. ok, it's good, draw the 2nd cat. Ok, that's good, now how many are there? leave the cat alone. No, stop drawing cats. No! it doesn't need whiskers!  STOP drawing cats and count them. STOP WITH THE FREAKING CATS!!!


and this note was actually written...

Dear Mrs. Teacher,

We were not able to read tonight because when I went to the library today, I thought Fly Guy would be a great pick because he used to have a "pet fly." I was informed that his imaginary friend (the fly) was no longer around because Goofy killed him. He no longer likes flies which is why he ONLY reads cat books (which I did know). I will go back to the library tomorrow and get some damned cat books so we can make up the time this weekend.

Signed,

an utter failure as a parent

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Downtime. Or: Tuesdays suck.

Well, that didn't take long. Tuesday. I hate Tuesday.

I was going to write some sappy post on how wonderful things went last night by switching supper and homework, giving the biggest of the little hellpups time to whatever and get a full belly before attempting homework...

In all my years of helping with homework,
I never thought I'd see the day I would cry "tears of joy"
(to quote my Goofy one) that tonight's homework is math.

No questioning it, I'm just going to be happy and send up a prayer of thanks :D 

But this morning started with oversleeping (kinda) and missing shoes. it went down from there.

Tuesdays are empty for me 'n' the girl on purpose. We need some down time, man! We can't just go-go-go and never relax. So, I thought I would skip the girl's shower this morning and we would do baths after the boys were in school.

My alarm went off and I fell back into the snooze trap. 6:30, the girl starts hollering or who knows how long I would have stayed there.

I stumbled blindly to the bathroom and said forget it! I dumped some liquid soap in the tub and started running water. I went for my coffee, passing the Goofy one on the way. I directed him to strip down, get in, and wash his damned self. He objected. I objected to his objection. He objected to me objecting his objection. Fine. Drag your feet. take a cold bath. it won't bother me, either way- you are getting in that tub. Next thing... he's stripped down, in the tub, and not washing his damned self. I'm calling that a win.

I changed the girl, put her PJs back on, added some socks and shoes and a semi-firm warning that if she takes them off, she won't go outside with me for Alex's bus.

I went and poured cereal and cups of milk. I gave the girl hers and set Goofy's on the table before going to put his clothes on my bed so he could dress his damned self. aaaaaand, there are no shoes. DANGIT! This is where I hear a plunk and a splash from the kitchen.

I go to the kitchen to investigate and find the girl standing beside Goofy's chair looking all, "oooooo, somebody's in trouble" and "wasn't me." while the Goofy Child's cup is laying in his chair in a puddle of milk, with milk all over the floor and the refrigerator.

I shoo the girl to her own, mop up the mess and pour another cup. I get the Goofy One out of the tub and direct him to dress his damned self and find his shoes. Looking for his shoes, he lost his shirt. Looking for his shirt, he got distracted by "shark." redirected to "shirt," he must have heard "shark." Told to forget the effing shark, he found his shirt. Several minutes later, he's standing in the kitchen: shirt, shorts, one sock. and I yelled.

Mid-bathing Alex, I realize Walter is missing. at 7:15. 30 minutes before his bus. I leave Alex to play while I go search for his brother and pass the girl... minus shoes and socks. I reminded her of the rules and suggested she get her socks and shoes on if she planned on going outside with me. she didn't. so she missed Alex's bus. and she was mad. so she took all of her clothes off.

After Walter and Alex left, I re-dressed her and told her if she planned on going outside wih me to put the Goofy One on the bus, she better leave them on. and she did. Thank God.

Then while I was writing this, she found a cup of water and dumped it on Goofy's bed so she could lick it. and I'm wondering if I am going to survive this "downtime."

Monday, August 19, 2013

Settling in and lighting candles.

Monday. I think I love Mondays. (for now. give me a few weeks.)

We're settling into our routines, things are going great. (for now. give it a few weeks.)

Thing2- I rarely see him anymore. We have a few minutes of waiting for the bus in the mornings, then he has school (his senior year), Tech, friends, girlfriend, and work to keep him busy.

Walter- is not happy that he's paying the consequences for the last grading period. ..oh, wait. I didn't post that one, did I? He blew off the summer reading club and now I am the meanest mommy in the world. School nights he's stuck at home with no electronics until after supper. He's glad to be back in school where he can see his friends, but not glad to have his wings clipped. The school fusion that the regular school are using is amazing. One of his teachers (language, I think it is,) is already using it to post upcoming assignments. He has one coming up where he needs to interview a student, write a paper based on the 20 answered questions, and then introduce them to the class. We worked on a system to ask the right questions to be able to turn it into a report. After he interviews his student and writes his paper, he's going to practice reading his finished paper out loud. In this house, he'll have a bunch of hecklers as an audience... if he can handle that, school will be easy.

Alex- is doing great.at school and at home. No regression that I can see or has been reported (find out for sure soon). His notes home are awesome. She gives me all kinds of useful information like what his behaviors were and who he works with, what they are working on in class and which therapy he had. good stuff. We have a team meeting coming up. I have the outline for my list started. Someone on my page said I need to try to say 2 nice things for every negative thing. My husband says, "you're so pretty." doesn't count. so, I'm still working on that.

Goofy- is a work in progress. At home, he's doing good. He's settling into a routine with less and less protesting the unfairness of having such an unreasonable mother. We're struggling with homework time, of course. I read somewhere that if I give him a serious movement break between school and homework, it might be easier on him to focus. If I switch supper and homework on the schedule, I might be able to get both done and have him be in a better mood to get serious. ...and the kids were not dealing well with so much time between lunch and supper with just a measly snack in between, anyway.

The Girl- is doing great. Now that the boys are in school, the days are all about her. She's loving that. She's thrilled with her routine (except the first few minutes of nap time and bed time) and is driving me frickin' insane over her visual schedule. She wants to do it ALL THE TIME!! She's starting to put together small sentences, the first being "I want park." and more recently "Oh, fuck no!" (serious- it wasn't me.)

Little D- is liking school but is spending a lot less time with his dad. They are still working that schedule out. My brother, lol, I love him. It's looking like he's going to be just as much the crazy parent as I am when it comes to school :) He's signing up for e-mails and whatever they'll let him sign up for. He's looking through folders and work and this past weekend, they were working on practicing his name. Worked well for me, too, because it turned into a contest (as things usually do) between Goofy and the Little D with "you're doing it wrong, it goes like this" flying in both directions.

I- am lighting candles.

With the boys being full day, the girl being as agreeable as she is, and me taking my own advice to stop being such a control freak and make the husband help, I found that I have time on my hands. I go to support group once a month, I've added one school's PTA meetings one night a month (I plan to look at the other 2 to see where (if) they fall on the calendar), I signed up to help with 2 activities at Goofy's school that have nothing at all to do with people (the kind I'm best at), I'm waiting to hear back on another school... and then I signed the social butterfly I married up for 2 other activities with Goofy's school. :)

So far, so good. *fingers crossed*

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The best laid plans... Goofy's School

Somehow, some way, it seems like we (me 'n' the school) got our wires crossed. Really, I don't know how, I thought it was all pretty clear. I asked for an IEP. They said no. I said I'll be back the first report card of next year. They said ok. Pretty straight forward, right? I thought so.

The end of last year, I got a letter that said he would be screened in August for supplemental reading services. I was happy. August is here. It's time for the screening. The counselor called me Tuesday, I guess to set up the team meeting I was asking for. I asked her if it would be a better idea to wait for the reading screening and discuss it all at once. The thought that was a great idea. She said she would find out when it was. I asked her to let me know. She said ok. Pretty straight forward, right? I thought so.

Wednesday... nothing.

Thursday... nothing.

Friday, I e-mailed her asking if she had any news. Hours later, she e-mailed me back...

They will start testing around the middle of next week.  They have to have the results back from everyone before they can make decisions [on] who will qualify.  As soon as I know anything, I will let you know.
 
"They have to have the results back from everyone before they can make decisions [on] who will qualify."? What does that even mean? Like, some sort of lottery? many will play, few will win? Hell, how 'bout we just play a round of duck, duck, goose!? Whatever, I don't even care. That wasn't even the point in my agreeing to this screening.
 
I don't give up. I don't give in. I don't back down.  ...
I won't back down, no I won't back down
You could stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won't back down  
Gonna stand my ground, won't be turned around
And I'll keep this world from draggin' me down
Gonna stand my ground and I won't back down
 
Uh, anyway, this school houses the conference room Alex's IEP meetings were held in. Some of the potential members of my Goofy One's team sat at that very table with me as I ripped apart Alex's IEP, line by line, team member by team member and detailed the many, many ways they each violated it; leaving no team member untouched and nothing any of them could say but "I'm sorry." They know I take my kids- and their education- seriously (which, in hindsight, may have something to do with them not wanting to give my Goofy child an IEP... ) and yet, they think... what? That the possibility of supplemental reading services will satisfy me enough to shut me up? Sorry, but, no. I just want the report. The reading services, while they may be nice, are not even on my radar. That screening is just part of the documentation I need for my formal written request for evaluation.

So, alright, whatever. I e-mail her back. Now, if there is one thing these demon spawns taught me, it's to not give them the opportunity to say no. Be careful how you phrase things and what (*if*) choices you give. I'm not giving choices so I ask her when I will get a copy of that report.

So far, no answer.

My husband tells me to be patient. My husband asks me if I remember what happened last week. I reply, *obscene gesture*. I was patient Wednesday and Thursday. I'm tired of being patient. and, hello, history, remember? This is the same woman who told me dyslexia was not covered by an IEP. yes, it is. Well, not by Missouri law. Yes. It is. So, I printed out the papers that said so. Well, huh, would you look at that... it is. Patience is overrated. Patience is for people who can afford it. and people who don't play dumb when it comes to federal and state law. Patience has no place in the adult portion of special education.

Do you know there are only 41 days until September 27th? True story, I googled it. I have 41 days to get the screening, the report, 2 referrals for medical evaluations and the reports that go with those evaluations because September 27th is the end of the first 6 week grading period. The clock is ticking. I don't have time for games, Goofy can't afford it.

Right now, this plan is all I have
  1. Screening.
  2. Medical Evaluations
  3. Report Card
  4. Formal Written Request for Evaluation
  5. IEP Hell.
I was thinking about asking for help developing a better plan at the team meeting but now I'm wondering if that's such a good idea. Probably not. You don't consult with the opposing team to plan your plays for the game.

 It will work out, I know it will. I will figure it out. I will not stop until he is at grade level in every area... even if that's never. I will research, memorize, fight, plead, rant and rave... whatever I have to do.

But it sure would be nice to not have to.

It would be nice to have some backup. someone to talk it over with. to advise me. I feel so lost and alone right now. I'm unsure. unsettled. I question everything I'm doing, wondering if I'm even on the right track. What if the problem is not based in reading/writing? Where would I even go from there? I've been collecting information for a year now and I don't know that we are any closer to an answer than we were when we found out there was a problem. I feel like I'm missing something and I don't know how to find it. Playing Where's Waldo blindfolded.

I can't stay like this. The insecurity over what I'm doing with the Goofy child is stopping me from jotting down my thoughts on Alex and what is going on with him. I need to get my head on straight.

Bec reminded me- again- that this is a marathon. I need to stop thinking it has to be done right this minute or that we are behind on schedule. The goal is to get him help. There is no time frame. It doesn't have to be the first report card. They know I will be back to request SSD services. I need to wait until I am fully armed before I step onto the battlefield.  There's no point in going in half cocked to fight a losing battle. So, I'm taking this weekend for me.

Yesterday, the girl's other grandma came to get her for the night. I got my calendars straight and took the rest of the day off. Today, I'm not sure. but I'm going to do stuff. non-school stuff. like painting my nails. listening to music. hanging with my brother. reading blogs. clean the house.

Monday morning will come soon enough.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

First Grade and Spelling Tests

It's here. the first day of first grade.

I'm scared, guys, and I ain't even playing.

not anxious. just plain scared.

I have nightmares. To call them frequent is an understatement. dead things. everywhere. towns full, buildings full, rivers and rivers of dead things. and among all of these dead things is my family- who have absolutely no sense of self preservation.

Last night, zombies. everywhere. all over the place. The kind that are attracted to noise. and these dummies? one set is over in this area trying to make cars run with their loud motors and turning up radios to have some sort of dance party. another set is at the river watching a bunch of zombies fish not realizing that the zombies are fishing for rotting fish carcasses without bait because the fishing poles are the bait for the stupid people who get close enough to be eaten. and the Goofy One? Good Lord, that child is going to be the death of me! He found a certain zombie that he found very interesting and kept taunting him. He'd stay just out of reach and make all sorts of noise and when the zombie would try to look for him he'd lay perfectly still in a pile of rotting corpses, not even breathing while the zombie would run his hands over the pile and the kid trying to find his food. As soon as the zombie would stop looking, the game would start all over.

That is almost (but not quiet) as scary as what I saw in the WELCOME TO FIRST GRADE letter at open house. "Spelling words will be sent home on Friday. Please practice them throughout the week. Spelling tests will be on Friday." He can't read- not even on level 1 (supposed to be level 3), he can't write in a straight line, and he sure as hell can't put things in order. He can spell his name, though, so maybe ... yeah. maybe I'm wrong. maybe this will be simple, maybe all I have to do is figure out how to teach him.

With Walter and Cruella (the niece who lived here for a while), all we had to do is realize that an oral quiz for a written test is just ridiculous. So, we'd get the words on Monday and have a nightly written test. Monday and Tuesday, they wrote the words they got wrong 3 times. Wednesday and Thursday, they wrote the words they got wrong 5 times. They learned quick that if they learned the words early, they didn't have to do all that extra work (*woot* for lazy kids). By Friday, they knew them and the test was no big deal because they have spelling tests every day.

So, yeah, this might be easy. Spelling is the easiest of all the work. Not the way they did it, of course. Writing is torture for him, but we can figure something out... right?

So, I quizzed the Goofy One... How do you spell your name? right! and a word I know he's more than familiar with- how do you spell 'like'? He looks at me, so confident and yells out the answer... L-I-A-N!!!! He's looking at me so proud of himself and I'm thinking... Holy shit. We're going to have to stock up on beer... I smile and congratulate him on effort.

What am I going to do!?

Any ideas? please? I don't even know where to start!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Haters Gonna Hate

My children are wild beasts.

They are hyperactive and impulsive. They rarely think first.

They run through the house causing madness and mayhem.

They run around barefoot and dirty like little savages...

...ruining their clothes, staining their bodies with grass and dirt.

They wipe their hands on my pants, their faces on my shirt.

They say what's on their minds.

They laugh too loud.

They show their anger.

They make- and laugh at- inappropriate jokes like, "I eat mah poo."

They bicker and fight.

They scream, they cry, they throw temper tantrums that will bring you to your knees.

They poke dead things with sticks...

...or their fingers.

They collect insects...

...and their shells.

they paint themselves with jelly. and syrup. and peanut butter. and mashed potatoes.

They draw on themselves with markers. ink pens, makeup...

They are demon spawns, heathens, "savages", hooligans....





My house is usually a mess.

There are Fruit Loops on the floor, jelly on the ceiling (yes, still.), crackers crunched into the carpet.

There are toys tossed in every room of the house.

The dishes pile up.

So does the laundry.

The kids drag mud and water through the house.

They drag blankets and pillows everywhere to make forts or to pile up together.

They leave things where they are dropped.





The adults are uncouth.

we sit on the front porch talking while we watch our little hoosiers run around the yard...

or climb on the furniture like a jungle gym on the other side of the window...

...like they've never been taught to behave properly.

We let them run wild.

We are perfectly content to make them play together or fight it out because they aren't going to learn to deal with conflict if we do it all for them.

We argue...

We laugh...

We kiss in the kitchen...

...because we think it's better for our kids to learn how a real relationship works than for them to think they need to find a fairy tale.







and it's my fault. all of it.

Tell me something I didn't know.

I will tell you that while you are sitting there all prim and proper in your prissy, small minded world judging us for not measuring up to your standards, we are living our life the way we want to and being happy doing it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Alex's First Day of 6th Grade

Last night, things started off beautifully. Routine perfection. We had a bit of a hiccup at bath time when I reminded him (again) that he's going to school in the morning. "Goodbye? Goodbye, goodbye?" "YES! You're going to school in the morning!" "No want to. No want to." Aw, baby, you're breaking your mama's heart.

He went to bed at 8pm with no TV with no trouble. Goofy and the girl went down at the same time with no TV. It took 14 minutes for the screaming and insults to stop, 16 for him to decide he wanted the blanket he threw, 17 to go after the pillow, 25 for him to fall asleep. At 30 minutes, I was wishing I'd brought some coffee with me, 45 I was mentally reciting the book Go the F**k to Sleep, at 60 minutes I decide enough is enough and went to smoke. she was asleep before I got back.

By 10 pm, I'm nestled all snug in my bed, where the silence gives my brain the quiet it needs to drive me crazy about the fact that I am abandoning my baby tomorrow, leaving him to fend for himself.

I won't be there to tell them that when he puts your hand on his head, he wants you to scratch the back but you won't do it right and he'll do it himself but he'll keep asking just in case you get it right. or that when he sucks his thumb, he's getting sleepy. or that when he taps the table, it involves food or drink- he wants some, he wants more. or that when he spins in circles, he's dancing and would like some music.

It's like taking him to the pool and tossing him in- sink or swim.

I woke up frequently throughout the night, making mental notes but since I didn't write them down, I don't know what they were. I'm still left with questions and concerns. Did I give them enough information? Did I give them too many random bits so they won't remember any of it?

His aide is with him. The one from last year. I have to take comfort in that. She may not know him as well as I do but she knows him and he knows her. He's not left to navigate the stormy seas of the unfamiliar alone, he at least has a life jacket.

This morning the anxiety hit hard once he was dressed and eating breakfast with his friends at Nick Jr while we waited on the clock. When the time came, we loaded up and headed for the school, losing fingernails all along the way.

We pull into our spot and unload as I listen to a man explain to a boy what this area is and how to get a break when he needs it, and the start of a 5 minute countdown to leave the area.

We walk along the fence and around the front of the building to see buses unloading and staff members waiting to claim their kids.  His principal is the first to step out and say hi, offering to help me carry things. He introduces Alex to the new Assistant Principal, and talks to Alex with/about his gym teacher. We head for the front door, a few steps behind the principal when a lady steps out to claim Alex as hers. We trade off there in the middle of the busy sidewalk, and I take a few seconds to watch my boy happily walk off with his aide, like a big boy without a worry in the world, before I turn to head home.

and then one of us cried because someone has to keep the first day traditions, right?



Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Plan for the Goofy Child

Alright, school is settled. Huge progress for me (for today, that might change tomorrow) since I'm totally cool with every school before the first day and my raging was limited to only 2 blog posts (so far) and I don't see any obvious problems coming up so, yeah, I call that major progress.

Now it's time for the rest of it. I'm not sure what I'm doing (surprise). The Goofy One has a reading screening coming up. ...I'm going to say this and then things are going to go wrong and all hell's going to break loose and I'm going to cry. but... The boy can't read. There's no doubt about that. He's made absolutely no progress over the summer. None. Zip. Zilch. I suck at teaching. and writing? just... wow. so, there's no reason he won't qualify for help. (haha, I know. heard that before, didn't you?)

He needs help and I don't know what help he needs because as much as I suck at teaching, I'm even worse at being a doctor. I have no clue what's wrong with this child so I have to guess and it's all just... damnit! ya know? Getting him help through school isn't working out so well ... but on the other hand, a kindergartener with a 504 is pretty freaking good, I think. ...or bad, depending on how you look at it considering the low bar set for expected abilities. The older he gets, the easier it should be. (Yes, I'm rolling my eyes at that one, too.)

Anyway, the kid needs help. It's my job to make sure he gets it. but, I'm lost. I know the general direction we're going  but not exactly how to go about it. "medical is medical, educational is educational." "stop chasing diagnoses and make the school do something." I'm so sick of hearing that crap. seriously. I want a new doctor. Not the pediatrician because I love him, but the psychologist because I so don't love him. It's true, "medical is medical, educational is educational." They are separate. kind of. but not really. In order to make the school do something, I need to chase diagnoses. IDEA part B 300.311 says that

(a) For a child suspected of having a specific learning disability, the documentation of the determination of eligibility, as required in §300.306(a)(2), must contain a statement of—
 
(4) The educationally relevant medical findings, if any;

The diagnoses I'm chasing are educationally relevant. It would be so much easier (on me) if the self-appointed diagnosing gods (lowercase) were required to read IDEA before giving advice on school. maybe someone should tell him that "medical is medical, educational is educational." and he should stick to medical and stop telling me to get a freaking advocate. uhg. sorry. end rant. no ranting here, where was I?

I have a list. I need medical evaluations for Auditory Processing Disorder and Dyslexia until someone gives me a new direction to go in, there's the reading screening, the first report card and a request for evaluation.

The pediatrician said we'd discuss the reading trouble after the screening. IDEA 300.302 says,

The screening of a student by a teacher or specialist to determine appropriate instructional strategies for curriculum implementation shall not be considered to be an evaluation for eligibility for special education and related services.

which means after they find out the boy can't read, I need to request evaluation for SSD services but at the 504 meeting, I told her I'd wait for the first report card. That gives me 6 weeks (maybe?) before the report card, then I have 30 days for the district to gather information and decide if he should be evaluated for special education services. That looks like a lot of days, to me. Plenty to get the medical evaluations, I hope. The medical evaluations may not be the deciding factor in whether or not the child gets services but it sure as hell can't hurt to have them, right?

Yeah. There's my plan.
  1. screening
  2. medical evaluations
  3. report card
  4. request for evaluation
  5. 120 days of Pure Hell.
and then do it again next year when he's found to be not eligible.

Friday, August 9, 2013

An Aplogy to an Awesomely Underappreciated Principal.

You know, you really shouldn't be talking if you don't know what you are talking about. That's always a good piece of advice that I rarely take, myself. I had a little bit of a freak out over the past week or so. Actually, I was a bitch to a really nice man.

Granted, all I needed was a single sentence- "We're restructuring the school to better educate our students." or even, "Calm down, I have a plan." but I'm mostly... kinda... a little... slightly understanding when the Goofy Child's principal is too busy to talk to me (she may debate that statement) because she makes the time when it's something important. all I have to do is say, "I have a problem" and she's all ears, when she can't it's something serious. same with this man. I need to remember that.

Probably not going to... but I should.

anyway, by freaking out and throwing fits, I'm not really helping. I'm just putting more stress on him and adding to his already heavy load. Instead, I could offer ideas and options. Tell him what my problem is and how I could help fix it. well, I could if he returned my phone call, which he didn't, and we'll get to that in a second, but I'm talking about my blog posts. I was mean. That's not cool.

I told you I would find him. and I did. He was busy with people so I was going to look at the map to find Alex's class and maybe talk to him Monday, when he stopped what he was doing, looked over at me and loudly apologized for not returning my call. He's had his hands full with changes in the school and has every intention of speaking with me. I wanted to tell him that I'm ok now, I got the answer I was looking for and I'm satisfied with his plan and that I wanted to talk to him about school communication but I tripped over my words. He wants me to know that he is sincerely sorry that he did not call me back yet and promises that he will. It strikes me that he is serious. and I totally deserve an apology. "Ok." *problem solved*

I didn't totally start feeling like an ass until I got the answer to the puzzle I've been trying to figure out for months... did they paint the walls? I think they used to be white... they're a soft blue/grey now... were they always this color? Alex's new classroom is across from the therapy room. I saw something through the open doorway that made me stop. I changed direction, stepped into the therapy room and looked around in shock. awe. He fixed it. It's beautiful! and yes, I see now that they did paint the walls. and all of the equipment that used to be stacked in the halls? gone. Looking at this therapy room, I'm seeing all of the things that I haven't been here to see: all the changes he's made, all of the improvements... I see why he's been so busy. The school I'm looking at now is a totally different school than the one Alex started in 2 years ago. He did that. For his students. because he cares.

and I am a jerk for not appreciating it.

Seeing the evidence that I didn't know what I thought I knew, seeing how I overreacted... I really, seriously did not want to hand that man my blog posts. But I did because as mean as I was, it's the prime example of why we need to improve communication. Why he should brag on himself a bit and let the parents know the wondrous things he's doing for their children. I want to help do that in any way I can.

Mr. Principal, in addition to the private apology I will be giving you Monday, I think I owe you an apology as public as my anger was. I am sorry, I should have trusted you.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

School/Home Communication #FAIL

I've been sitting here, trying to find myself...
I get behind myself...
I need to rewind myself...

I'm looking for the words to say what I want to say. I was wrong... but... I wasn't wrong. Maybe what I want to say can be summed up in the wise old words of Cool Hand Luke...

What we've got here is failure to communicate.


Yesterday, I called looking for Alex's principal again. By this time I've worked myself up into a tizzy, I'm done looking for answers, I want action. Again, he was unavailable. I left my name, number and the message that I would like a meeting with him and the social worker. I'm looking for answers from him and placement options from her. Maybe an hour later, I get a phone call from Alex's new teacher. I get the feeling he zombie-chasing-us-tripped her but she's not the one I'm looking for. but... she seems alright.

She's calm. cool. reassuring without being patronizing. She's savvy enough, cares enough about her privacy, or heeds warnings well enough to use her privacy settings on Facebook and I can't find her on Twitter. That boosts my opinion of her quite a bit. She takes something seriously... that counts for something.

She said they restructured the classrooms. They put all of the autistic kids together in an effort to improve the way they are taught. I can't remember exactly what she said, it was a phone conversation and that's really hard to keep up with but it sounded good. She has the kids that get ABA. She has something in ABA so they thought she would be the best for that. There are 6 kids, 3 aides, and her in the classroom. One of Alex's aides from last year is with him and she understood my reasons for asking without asking for an explanation. She's talking to people, reading up on Alex, and she'll be talking to Alex's old teacher today. We set up a team meeting the first week of September to give us all time to see how things go and find out what we need to find out more about.

This is all great news and puts me at ease to hear it and to find out there are very good reasons for the change- but here's the problem... I'm getting updates on bleacher installation from the middle school (Twitter), I was told at the end of last year about expected staff changes (e-mail blasts), I'm getting updates on the kitchen manager's illness from the elementary (Facebook), I even got a letter in the mail from the elementary letting us know about this year's staff changes the other day. These schools have frequently updated websites, school fusion to keep us in touch with our kids' teachers and what's going on in the classroom as well as what's going on in the school, the principal sends out mass e-mails to tell us about things that he feels are important for us to know, they have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to keep us up on day to day things that happen in our schools... in our kids' lives.

But I cannot find a single place to find any information on Alex's school. They have a website but it's profoundly neglected. Not all of us can spend time in the schools. Our kids banned some of us. Not all of us can join the PTO, even if we were looking forward to it. We need to be able to get news without having to be there to see for ourselves. Restructuring classrooms? A new assistant principal? Definitely newsworthy. Painting the walls? A new piece of equipment? Yup, notable. Need help with something? Looking for something my kid may have outgrown? I'd like to know that, too. I want to help. even if I can't be there to do it.

If you don't have time to update your site or manage social media accounts or send out mass e-mails, ask someone who does to do it. Or, get some volunteers to put together a newspaper for the parents, your kids might even like helping with that. Being able to get information would go a long way in solidifying a relationship between school and home. ...and might just stop a hissy fit before it even starts.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

School induced insomnia and the anger that comes with stupid decisions...

It's another one of those 2 AMs. can't sleep because there's too much on my mind.

Funny, I expected the Goofy one to be the one I lost sleep over this year. Instead, I've already talked to his principal, heard back from his teacher, and am confident that we have a solid plan that will work. Alex, on the other hand.... *sigh*

I know I said that I would give his principal a chance, that I would stop and breathe and try to understand but I'm nothing if not fickle, ya know. Laying in my bed, tossing and turning, tormented by the past, taunted by the future... it dawns on me that that's just stupid.

Alex has been in this school for 2 years. 2 years.

Teacher #1- I don't know why Alex was pulled out of her class 1/2 way through the year and based on what's coming, I don't know that I could handle the real answer because Alex is so not independent. After he moved, he went back for a day and this...

all of you who guessed ringworm? Wrong. Bite mark.
and the staff is shocked. They didn't see it happen. 
 
Teacher #2- was amazing. but even so, Alex was attacked on the way back from recess. His 9 year old body battered, his flesh torn, his heart broken by a teenager in the middle of a meltdown.
 
Teacher #3- Summer school. 3 weeks, 4 days/week, from 8am-12pm. Didn't realize it was her job to supervise the staff in her room. Alex came home without a diaper because the aide said he thought Alex could change himself.
 
Teacher #4- His behaviors were out of control, according to them. His dropping to the floor making him a danger to himself and staff as they tried to catch him...a BIP no-no. The solution was not to follow the behavior intervention plan but to use a gait belt and not take no for an answer until they pushed and pushed until I went up there to show them exactly why a gait belt was inappropriate and they'd do much better following the interventions listed in his plan... and his behaviors miraculously disappeared overnight.
 
Teacher #4 part 2- his aide vanished halfway through the year. and then this...
The oh, so professional answer to this one?
"We don't know."
Why is it again that I need to just breathe? To relax? To trust these trained and highly qualified people to do their jobs? or the person who chooses which of these trained and highly qualified people to team with my defenseless, non-verbal child? and, this makes sense... how?
 
No.
 
I have a right to be angry.
 
The constant change in staff puts Alex in an extremely vulnerable position. The constant changing of staff is causing an increase in undesirable behaviors at school and at home for the several months it takes Alex to adjust. He doesn't know them. They don't know him. This limits his already severely limited ability to communicate his wants and needs. They do not know him- his patterns, his behaviors, how to read him... which increases the undesirable behavior because all behavior is communication, remember?  
 
The constant changing of staff is detrimental to Alex's ability to make real progress. Alex is not making progress. He's regressing with the change and then making progress only as far as he was at the end of the last year.
 
I hear there's an autism-specific school in our district. maybe it's time to consider a change in placement.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Oops... I did it again.

I tend to act first. My initial response to something I don't like is almost always emotional and not very nice. Ok, is pretty much always. All I can say this time is at least I didn't publicly post the kind of message I sent my husband and best friends. Now, that would have been bad. Walter was awed by my creative use of vulgar language and my ability to write a full paragraph using almost no clean words, though, so at least I made my kid proud *eye roll*

Last night, Alex's mommy came by to drop off school stuff. Talking to her, I was reminded of several things it's vital for Alex's teacher to know about- like chocolate. and milk. and migraines. Let me tell you, the panic that came with that realization was enough to motivate me to write that letter I didn't want to write.

I made notes last night and wrote the letter this morning while waiting for the school offices to open so I could hunt down some principals. Once I finally got someone in Alex's school, I guess my irritation wasn't concealed very well since the sweet lady was very reluctant to give me the information I was asking for beyond the fact that the principal was in a meeting. She wondered if the new assistant principal could help me and if maybe I have a problem with this teacher. Oh, yes. Yes, I do. The problem has everything to do with the principal and why I am looking for him which means no, the new assistant principal can't help me. (yes, if you are counting, that's new assistant principal #3. I'm sure you know how happy I am about that.) I finally got the e-mail addresses and the assurance that the principal will definitely be calling me back.

The next phone call was to the Goofy Child's principal. I should have called her first because she relaxes me. As soon as she took my call, everything was ok. She always sounds so at ease, so calm. She was working on the teacher list when I called so of course she had time to talk about it. We talked about the teacher I wanted and the reasons I wanted her. She told me about the teacher she picked and the reasons she picked her. She said she could trade the teachers if that's what I thought was best but as soon as I heard the name of the teacher she picked... she was right to pick this one. The teacher she chose was our niece's teacher one of the years she lived with us. She just moved from teaching third grade to teaching first. The principal asked what my impression of this teacher was from what I knew and... I like her. Our niece had nothing but good things to say about her and talking to her at the parent/teacher conference, I was impressed with her abilities as a teacher as well as her genuine interest in her students as individuals. Looking over the staff roster the other day, I had run across her profile and was actually hoping to have her for third grade.

We talked about having a meeting to discuss what to do about the Goofy One this year but she doesn't think it needs to be before school starts (Thank God) so she'll plan on having one soon after.

Talking to Goofy's principal, reflecting on our conversation, I'm taken out of the us vs. them mentality. I'm reminded that principals have a job to do and they have more information than we do about the school, the staff, and the students. I know Alex; the principal knows his school, he knows me, and he knows Alex. For him to make the decision to change Alex's teacher (a-freaking-gain) knowing the effects on Alex and myself, knowing the hell he's putting us through and the hell we will put all of them through ... he must have a good reason. (maybe... I hope.) I at least owe it to him to ask and to really listen to his answer. Maybe I'll even agree with the reasons.

and maybe it might be a good idea to ask for a team meeting close to the beginning of the year after they get a little bit of time with Alex so we can get to know each other a little and start out on the same page instead of bickering all year then scrambling to catch up at the end of the year.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

This is the song that never ends.... Alex's school.

Yes, it goes on and on, my friends. ...It never changes. The same thing over and over and over until you want to stab your freaking ear drums with an ice pick just so you can stop the homicidal rage provoking non-freaking-stop repetitive racket.

I've just been pushed over that edge.

I am furious.

I started being on edge over Alex's school because while I am getting tons of information from the Regular Schools, I am getting absolutely nothing from them. I found out through the general SSD newsletter that the first day of school is August 12. And yet, here it is, August 3, and there is no sign of even a school calendar on the website. Nothing. Silence. Annoying, because how can we prepare if we don't know what we are preparing for? but it's ok because promises made are promises kept, right? When someone says something, that's the way it will be, right? Alex is going to be easy this year. Alex's teacher should be the same as last year and I know school starts August 12. So, that's fine. I can wait. everything will be fine.

Until the mail runs and I get the huge packet of papers I've been waiting on and the first thing I see when I sit down to fill them out is Alex's teacher's name. A name I have never seen before.

Why am I surprised? I'm not, really. I had to talk myself into almost trusting the principal's word and that just pisses me off even more because I knew better. I should have prepared for this. but I didn't.

Before Alex started this school, we took a tour. One of the first questions I asked was how long he would have this teacher. I was told a couple of years. I'm happy with that. Until halfway through the first year, he changed classrooms because this is the teacher he would have for the next year. and then she left. and he got a new one because this is the teacher he will have for the next year. and now, I suppose I'm going to hear that he has this new one because this is the teacher he will have for next year.

Fuck it.

This man cannot be trusted. He has proven that over and over and over. If the leader cannot be trusted, neither can the people working under him. That's just the way it is. Makes for a fun year, doesn't it? Right now, I just want to say...

whatever.

I don't even care.

I have 8 days to write an introduction letter because I trusted that he would have the same teacher who needed no more than an update and I don't even want to write it because what I want to say is they need to actually read his IEP for once, that way they aren't doing stupid stuff and then wondering why he's not making progress- for example, making him eat with his right hand when his IEP clearly says he eats with his left. To follow his BIP and don't come whining to me that you need all these new interventions like a gait belt because this year is an exact duplicate of last year and the year before because you guys keep changing things on him which brings out the behaviors even though he was so over them by the end of last year and you aren't following the strategies listed in his BIP that actually work because, obviously, they didn't have to deal with this type of behavior last year or they would have addressed it. which they did. in the BIP you obviously didn't read. His BIP hasn't changed in years. Why? Because he has the same behaviors every year and the interventions work every year.

But, I seriously doubt any of that would make a difference.

Nothing I've said so far has.

Monday, when I get off the phone with the Goofy One's principal asking about his teacher and a team meeting before school starts, I suppose I'm going to have to go through the motions of calling this one and asking why he has a new teacher when I was told he'd have the same one. That way, I can get the same speech I got last year on the unpredictable nature of staff change in an understaffed school and how the staff is trained and highly qualified (a significant number being overqualified with the lack of teaching jobs available to the overwhelming amount of people graduating with teaching degrees, which leads me to question why they are understaffed in the first place) even though they just don't get it. I will listen to him tell me this while knowing that there are other parents in this school who have told me that their child has the same teacher, some of them for years. Then he can ask my opinion on how to fix it, tell me how helpful I am and what a great idea it is as if he's never thought of it before- like it's not what I was told by them from the beginning would be happening- and send me out the door while he pats himself on the back for calming a hysterical mother and does absolutely nothing about the issue.

*problem solved*

Or, maybe the answer I will get is that Alex being passed around from teacher to teacher is an exercise in staff training. Utilizing free resources and all. That way everyone gets to learn how to deal with the child who reacts adversely and predictably to change and the overprotective mom who rants and rages about anything you do wrong with her sweet baby, the mom who has just enough knowledge to be a pain in the ass but not enough to actually do anything about it.

*Jaded*

Friday, August 2, 2013

Goofy's Introduction Letter: First Grade

It's that time again. I'm getting e-mails and letters from school sending me information on the new year.

The Regular School has this awesome new thing going on their website where you have an account to sign into and you can get news from each child's school and from each teacher for each child. and, the best part, the staff members set up profiles! That means I can totally check out each person with no more public status update/tweet stalking :) AND, some of them tell you what they went to school for!

I got bus schedules, school calendars, and checked out the new assistant principals. I don't like either one of them. I want my Mystery Man back. but that's not happening so I think I'm just going to ignore these two this year. The elementary principal is cool. She's not even afraid to tell me (nicely) that I'm insane. That earns points with me. Honesty. Gotta love it. I know I can be a bit much, I count on the people around me to let me know when I've gone too far. My husband thinks I always overreact so his opinion doesn't count. anyway, the middle school principal is cool. He hasn't found out yet that I can be... *cough*difficult*cough* ...because he only has Walter and Walter is awesome but he talks to me when I e-mail him. I like that. I also like that he makes good use of social media to connect with the students and their parents about school news. So, who needs assistant principals? Not me.

And, I already picked out Goofy's first grade teacher. I think it's the same one the principal picked out at the 504 meeting but I'm not sure. If it isn't, I'm totally asking to trade. This one has a degree in special education and speech pathology. That is awesome because even if he doesn't end up with SSD services, she'd probably be most likely to be more understanding and open to accommodations which also means she'd probably be most likely of the bunch to follow his 504 with little to no trouble. I really like that.  Plus, if she has any knowledge of special education, it makes me feel a whole lot better about throwing down in our first communication of the year.

Which brings us to the point in this post. I've had several requests for the boys' introduction letters so, here ya go... This year's letter:

Goofy's 504 lists many ways that he can be helped to achieve success in the classroom. I would like to discuss them with you and ask for an addendum.
 
Repeated Instructions
Clear Instructions
Written or Visual Directions
 
Goofy has trouble following multistep directions, mostly oral. At home we use visual charts made with Picto Selector, a free downloadable program, for routines. We use a lot of first, then and numbered lists. When he needs to do something that has many steps, such as taking a shower, I label his supplies or line them up from left to right in the order they should be used which gives him the visual cues he needs to do it on his own.
One thing you can try is to attach Velcro strips to his desk for step by step instructions on one side and the allotted time for each step on the other on each assignment.
He has trouble transitioning from step to step. Helping him list both each individual step (cut, color, paste, write, draw) and the amount of time to be spent on each step in minutes and seconds (3:00, 5:00, 10:00) will allow him to set his own timer to mark transition time, giving him ample warning and teach him to independently manage executive functioning skills that will be essential later. You can read about executive functioning here and here.
 
Another thing that helps my older boys is color coding their supplies by subject. Their folders, notebooks, and book covers (small stickers on the spine work, too) each have a coordinating color so they know with a glance which they need.
 Preferential Seating
 
Goofy is easily distracted and very distracting. Depending on the layout to your classroom, a seat that is close to both your desk and the instruction area, and not surrounded by kids (on the corner/edge) would be the best. If there is someone who can sit beside him to set examples on how to do the work and remind him to stay on task (buddy system/teacher's aide), it would help him a lot.
 
Clear Rules
Positive Feedback
Immediate response to misbehavior in a positive manner
Classroom Behavior System
 
Goofy needs to know exactly what the rules are and exactly what they mean, he takes things literally and doesn't generalize. He needs to know when he does something right because if he doubts his ability, he doesn't want to try. The classroom behavior system will not work for him because it's long term (full day), he lives life minute by minute, not day by day. He needs the classroom behavior system broken down into steps and goals and assessed frequently. Once he bottoms out and knows the chances for a good behavior grade for the day are not good, the rest of the day will be a free for all.
 
Positive Feedback
Shortened Assignments
Work will be broken down into smaller parts
 
He has the attention span of a gnat, even on medication. If the work looks too hard or there is too much of it, he'll freeze. Breaking the work into smaller sections- even if it's just folding or cutting the paper- helps. When he does it right, he can move on. When he does it wrong, he doesn't even want to try again and needs lots of encouragement.
Frequent breaks
Stand to work
 
Goofy has sensory issues and hyperactivity. he needs to move.
 
Handwriting
 
Part of Goofy's trouble with writing is the fine motor skills needed. I ordered him jumbo pencils instead of the standard no. 2s. Mr *** suggested trying shorter pencils to arrange where he grasps it, a rubber band wrapped around the pencil may work just as well.
 
 
A few things that I would like to add his 504 are:
 
Group Work
 
Every time Goofy brought home a note that they did group work, he had a low behavior grade attached to it. Bec has some awesome ideas listed here that could help.
 
Missing/Incomplete Work
 
If you can get Goofy to stay on task and complete every assignment given to him, I will be pleasantly surprised. If not, I would really appreciate it if you would send those assignments home as homework with an extended deadline.
 
The National Institute of Mental Health lists having trouble finishing tasks, as well as disorganized work habits and difficulty paying attention to details, as symptoms of ADHD, the diagnosis that qualifies him for a 504 plan. Section 504 is an anti-discrimination, civil rights statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met and defines discrimination as failing to provide aids, benefits, or services to the person with a disability that are as effective as those provided to non-disabled persons and notes that "equally effective" means equivalent as opposed to identical. To be equally effective, an aid, benefit, or service does not need to produce equal results but must afford an equal opportunity to achieve equal results.  In this case, modifications to help him stay on task, and sending unfinished work home to be completed 1:1 when there is no 1:1 help available at school.
 
I understand your time is valuable and you have more than one student to attend to, I am more than happy to help at home when possible.
 
 
 
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