A family's story

Posts tagged ‘Anxiety’

The In-Between

The boys start school in 10 days. Another summer has blown past us. It has been an up and down summer, but a mostly enjoyable one. Soon, my boys will be in 7th, 5th and 2nd grade. Amazingly, when I started this blog, my oldest was a 2nd grader…and now, well, my baby is knocking on that door.

School supplies have been organized, and those that needed to be replaced are purchased. Folders are un-creased and crisp and shiny. Crayons still have a pristine tip. We have piles for each in the spare bedroom. Now, we wait.

The “In-Between” can be a bit anxiety producing, I am not going to lie. I am not sleeping great. The boys are each showing their anxiety in their own way. I won’t mire you down in the details, but let’s just say that the apples don’t fall far from the tree, here.

Each of them checks the master calendar daily. New items are being written in often. Jake is allowed to go walk his schedule any time from 9-3:30 on Thursday. Cole has a playdate for incoming 2nd graders another afternoon. Next week, the younger 2 have elementary school “Meet the Staff” day. As we tick off the list of supplies and have our last summer flings with friends, they get more and more aware that (said in a Ned Stark voice), “The School Year is coming.”

Summer isn’t always easy, with it’s relaxed schedules and routines, but in some ways, it is easier for me. No homework battles. No shuffling three children to and fro between various after school activities that range from soccer to religious education to therapists to scouts. And let’s not get into the freedom from IEP concerns.

Yes, we are firmly in the “In-between”, and right now, it’s a mix of emotion. Should I be bummed about the end of the summer? Should I be worried about the school year? Should I be writing summaries for the various teachers as they are new to my child(ren)? Did I remember to get all of the supplies? Did we do everything summer-related on our list? Did we do too much therapy this summer? Too little? Should we try to cram in another summer event?

So, I will sit here, and enjoy my coffee, and contemplate the “In-between”…for soon, we will be fully entrenched in another school year…

Middle School is looming…

April 29th. How the heck is it already April 29th?! This year really seems to have moved full speed ahead!!! The boys are done with this school year in 6 weeks. I am ironing out therapy, summer school, and summer activity schedules right now. It seems so far away, and yet, so close.

I also can’t believe that we are nearing the end of the school year. Big changes loom ahead. Jake heads off to middle school in the fall. MIDDLE SCHOOL. I hated middle school…well, back then it was called Junior High. And who am I kidding, I went to a K-8 parochial school…but the 6-8 graders did have their own area of the school. It was the armpit of my educational experience. Yuck. I am trying not to project that too much upon him.

This is another step closer to his independence, to him being a “big” kid. Middle schoolers are required to know their schedules, juggle locker combinations, dress in a PE uniform for gym, and switch classrooms for every period. That’s a lot of moving around and keeping things straight for any child, let alone for a kiddo with executive functioning issues, focus and attention issues, and anxiety. I need to calm my own anxiety so that I will be able to help him with strategies as the struggles occur. And they will occur…but hopefully we can work through them and stop struggles from taking over.

Middle School also means a new IEP team. A new group of teachers, specialists, and the like. We are currently in the process of re-evaluation. It’s time for his 3-year reassessment. I know he’ll still qualify for services, but I’m also nervous about what may come out of this meeting. Unfortunately, we had already had his yearly review meeting in February, in which it was recommended that he take Instructional Math and Instructional Reading/Language Arts, which are smaller classes. We worry that he will lose ground on the curriculum. He is in a co-taught classroom for other subjects.

With the reevaluation, I’m hoping that he will score higher in language arts/reading to justify a co-taught experience. I really do think he can handle it. It’s not like he doesn’t get support at home. We have tutors, he works with me, he works with Hubz. I just think he CAN do it, if that is what we expect of him. The math, well, the math I understand. He is floundering. It would help if he used his tools…and if the teachers reinforced that he should use his tools. I understand that he needs to be independent and needs to figure some things out on his own, but seriously, give the kid a checklist so that he has a reminder of what he CAN use in class to help him.

As much as Jake continues to have academic struggles, it has been a banger year for social/emotional growth. He is doing amazingly well. We had to make some tough decisions, but ultimately, our choices have worked well. He is happier, more well-adjusted, and able to address triggers and cope with them. He is playing with the boys on the playground and eating lunch with them in the cafeteria. He is a part of it…instead of being mothered by the girls, he has friends…and his confidence is growing by leaps and bounds.

Middle school also means new friends. Two and a half elementary schools feed into our middle school. The kids that he’s grown up with over the past 6 years know him and his quirks. They know they have to wait and be patient. They know he talks too much when he’s nervous, and that he will defer to talking about animals when he doesn’t know what else to say. They help him a lot, too. But the other 100+ new sixth graders don’t know him like that…and what happens then? I am not even going to let myself think about 7th and 8th graders. I just may faint.

I know it’s a right of passage. I know that we all have had to figure these things out..and that we have all had our share of failure and success. I just hope beyond hope that he is okay…and that we’ve given him enough tools to be successful.

Of Snakes and Toilets and Progress

Yesterday Tate found a Youtube video of flushing toilets. It’s one of his favorite pasttimes…watching toilets flush. Thankfully, with the wonder that is Youtube, he can watch toilets flush for hours without raising our water bill by hundreds!

Occasionally when he pulls up a video, I censor it due to language. He is often respectful of our decisions and follows our rules. Sometimes, he happens upon a video that I don’t want him to watch because I don’t want him to get any ideas. Like, oh, flushing random stuff down our toilet to see if it is a successful flush or not. Those Youtube yoohoos aren’t going to have to pay our plumbing bills and replace flooring and ceilings if something goes horribly wrong. So, while it’s a nice distraction for Tate, it does require some vigilance on our part.

Yesterday on the way home from school, he found a new toilet video. In the video, some teenagers (I know because I can tell from their voices and word choice.) were trying to flush a snake down the toilet. A.LIVE.SNAKE. I told Tate that he shouldn’t watch it. Too late. The image of a snake going partially down the drain, only to slither its way up out of the drain and out of the toilet onto the floor stuck with him. And me.

During his 2 hour ABA session yesterday, Tate went up to the bathroom no less than 6 times. He wasn’t even drinking water or anything. He just had that compulsion to make sure that no snakes were slithering out of our toilet. As the night went on, he would periodically announce that he had to use the bathroom…and really was just checking on the toilet for snakes. I did a mini-social story for him about how snakes are not in our toilet. We don’t have snakes. We will never have snakes. And we will never EVER flush snakes in a toilet.

He seemed to calm down, and was able to enjoy about an hour before bedtime with us without any compulsion to check the toilets. He even fell asleep relatively easily.

At 11:04 last night I heard him shuffling around the bathroom. Then I heard a flush. Mom-dar went on, and I flew out of bed. I asked Tate what he was doing. He grabbed a tissue and said he was blowing his nose. I told him I heard the toilet flush. He looked at me with big, round eyes. “Mommy, no snakes.” I assured him that there were no snakes. With that, he climbed into bed with us.

It took him a bit to settle down. About 10 minutes into his settling routine, he sat bolt-upright in bed. “Mommy!” “Yes, Tate?” “I’m scared of the snakes!” “Tate, there are no snakes. You are in bed with Mommy and Daddy, and you are super safe. We don’t have any snakes. I don’t like them either. We will never have snakes in our house, if I can help it. Please go to sleep.” He meekly uttered, “Okay.”

He started to go through his routine again. As he was patting my head gently, he dozed off to sleep. I wasn’t far behind him, but just enough that I marveled at our progress. He could tell me what was wrong. I was able to keep my calm enough to help him calm down to sleep and give him the assurance that he needed.

So, even though we have the hard places, I can find the hope…and the light. We both slept well until 6 this morning. I will chalk that up as a win for us.

One Down, One to Go

Since my last post, Tate’s IEP meeting has been rescheduled twice. It is now next Wednesday. Jake’s IEP meeting was yesterday. 

We were under a time constraint, as most of the team had another meeting at 9:45. About 5 minutes into the IEP, the principal joined the fray. She has never been at an IEP meeting, so Hubz and I got a little uneasy….but she mostly sat and nodded and added a few comments here and there. It became clear to us that she just doesn’t understand special ed…or ADHD. At all. *sigh*

Overall, the meeting went well. We have a good plan in place for Jake. He is blessed with another fantastic teacher, who really understands the need for accommodations, modifications, and specialists and such. She is so helpful and had a plethora of ideas to help Jake succeed in school. His resource teacher is good, and is incredibly willing to work with the general education teacher to make sure that Jake isn’t missing out on a “typical” 4th grade experience. I absolutely love that the resource teacher is pushing into his classroom to help him (and a couple other students) more. I think that is huge for Jake.

The toughest part of the meeting, as always, is listening to the areas of weakness. That never, ever is easy. I will never, ever be comfortable with it. Hubz and I agreed with the statements made about Jake’s current areas of need, but it’s just not easy to hear about your child struggling. Especially when the number one struggle is anxiety. 

Anxiety. The anxiety beast runs rampant around here..and right now, it’s got it’s clutches on Jake. He is so debilitated by his anxiety. It is heartbreaking. We scheduled an appointment with his psychiatrist on Friday. I am trying to get a psychologist appointment, too. We brainstormed some ideas during our meeting to help him combat the beast while he’s at school. We have a few checklists that he can use in his folder, and we decided that he should get a daily “bounce break” in the social worker’s office. He can use her ball, her trampoline, or just sit and decompress…after math. Because math and numbers are another of his nemeses. (??) 

Overall, though, my fears about placement in a self-contained classroom were assuaged. They want him in the general education setting. We all believe that if we can get through the anxiety component, we can really watch him flourish. So, we are all in agreement that his placement in general ed/resource is right for him. 

School shouldn’t be this stressful for kids. It just shouldn’t. 

IEP Season is Upon Us

Next Wednesday we have Jake and Tate’s IEP meetings. Because so much of the teams are the same, we are doing back-to-back meetings. You read that correctly. Hubz and I get to sit through (at least) 2 hours of IEP awesomeness. What a fun morning, huh??? To be fair, the boys’ teams are great. We know they work really hard with the boys, and that they are doing what they can with the resources that they have. In many ways they are blessings for the boys. We cannot complain.

Tate is struggling with some behaviors, but he is doing okay at school. For once, I’m not at all that worried about his IEP meeting. He is in a good place. His placement is correct, and he is benefiting from the way his subject matter is being taught. He’s learning, and when he struggles, his teacher regroups and figures out a different way to present the material. In addition, he has a great team of ABA therapists, and we are working together this year across school and home therapy. I definitely see progress.

Jake, on the other hand, has me all up in arms. I have had a few exchanges with Jake’s teachers that has my stomach in knots. I get a feeling in my gut that we are going to be asked to put Jake in a self-contained classroom. I asked for a draft of his IEP before our meeting and was told that they would try to get it to me, but that it’s a “work in progress”, so they aren’t sure if I’ll be able to get it in time. (Knot begins.) Then the note went on to say that he requires almost one-to-one attention to transition from activities. (Knot tightens.) Then the note mentions a script that he relies upon all the time. Sigh.

I asked about his attention and focus. Both are not nearly where they were last year. I asked about anxiety. The teachers noted that his anxiety is really high, especially over social studies and science, which are large parts of the fourth and fifth grade curriculum. (Knot expands to size of entire stomach.) The note ended with the fact that he requires a lot of attention and that they cannot give him all of the attention he requires. And how they want to work with us to get him the help he needs to succeed. (Knots form in my shoulders and neck as I tense up.)

So…yeah. That’s where we’re at right now. I feel like I’m going to throw up. I shed a few tears in frustration. I also exercised…but that did nothing to help. I have to run out and refill Jake’s medication prescription, wait for the doctor to call me back, and start reading more of my executive functioning materials. The biggest issue here is that I know Jake needs help..and I just don’t know how to do it. Mom fail.

Reflections on starting school

So, we are in our last week of summer break. All of the school supplies are purchased and awaiting labels. A few new clothing items have been purchased. We started our evening school routine last night. Haircuts and sneaker shopping are on my “to-do” list. Tomorrow we visit the school and view class lists, see the principal, and chat with friends. (Cue the sound of a record player being stopped mid-song.)

Chat with friends. There’s something, now, isn’t there? I will chat with my mom friends. Hubz will be chatting with parents of current scouts and hopefully a few future scouts. Cole will chat with just about anyone, as he seems to think (and often is right) that everyone is his friend. But then there’s Jake and Tate. Tomorrow will be so difficult for them. Chatting and small talk do not come easy to my older two children. At all.

Tate still refers to everyone who he goes to school with as a “friend”. He has a couple real friends, but talking to them in the chaotic situation that is “Meet the Principal Day” is not going to happen. He doesn’t cry or try to climb up my back like he did when he was 3 or 4, but he does all he can to make it through the school “stations” without a meltdown. Talking to peers, which is difficult enough, is near impossible for him in this setting. I don’t expect him to be able to converse with friends tomorrow…that may be too much.  While we are at the school, his teacher and I want to attempt to have him tour his classroom, if he can tolerate it. Otherwise, I’ll take him back on Wednesday morning to scope out his rearranged classroom.

Jake has a few friends. However, in the busy-ness that is “Meet the Principal Day”, the chaos will consume him. He will struggle to focus and have a conversation. His back-to-school anxiety will cause him to perseverate on topics that many of his friends won’t care much about. He’ll shut down if he gets too dysregulated. It will be a challenge to keep him focused and get through the stops we need to do.

Also, as we do our final countdown to the school year, the anxiety beast here is ferocious. It is gnawing at all of us. It is wreaking havoc with sleep and routine. My children are not themselves. I am not myself. We are trying to do whatever works to get through the days. And the nights. Patience is thin. We have a lot of bickering. A lot of short tempers. A lot of frustration.

In all of the frustration, however, I am grateful for one improvement. This year, Jake has been able to advocate and verbalize the fact that he is nervous about school. Because he’s anxious about school and a new teacher and new demands (he has heard that 4th grade is harder), he has very little tolerance for anything that goes against his desired plans. He is quick to shout at his brothers. He screamed at his friend the other day. He yelled at me to stop talking about our back-to-school schedule. However, in so doing that, we opened a conversation about what is going on in his brain, and he was able to put it into words. Knowing how he’s feeling, instead of guessing, has really helped me try to work through this rough patch. It isn’t easy, and I am tired and losing patience, but I respect his need for trying to figure it out on his own and needing some space to do so.

School is near, and we will make it. It’s just these few days prior to the actual event and the thinking about it that are worse than the actual act of going back. Maybe tomorrow we need to do some yoga before and after the “Meet the Principal Day” in order to get in a good place. *Cue deep breaths.*

Play date

Tate has a play date today. I’m an anxious mess. He seems ok–as we’ve gone over the social story, and he knows the boy we’re playing with, but still…I am nervous. Our play date is with a boy who is in the regular education classroom. He’s a great kid–very patient, and kind. The teachers recommended that we ask his mom, as he was one of Tate’s champions all year.

His mom is a sweet person, too. She asks questions, and asks about Tate. She talks to him, not at or about him. When I sent an email asking for a play date, she accepted very quickly. I was all confident at first..and as we get closer to the play date, I find that I’m a bit of a mess. I just want it to go smoothly. It doesn’t have to be perfect or flawless, but I just want us all to come out of it on the up-side.

Tate will bee-line for the swings. It’s his “thing”. At first, his friend will go to the swings, but as any other seven year old boy does, he’ll get bored and need to move on. That’s where things break down.

Thankfully, Tate’s therapist is coming with us to help facilitate. She’ll do the painful (to me) task of forcing Tate out of his comfort zone. She’ll encourage him to play a game or go on an apparatus that his friend chooses–it is about give and take.

I worry about the conversation. To say that conversational speech is an area of concern is an understatement–especially with peers. It will be hard for me to watch them converse. Again, Tate’s therapist will help facilitate some back-and-forth between them. She’s excellent with that. And she doesn’t have the “mom” factor going for her…I mean, she cares about Tate and wants what’s best for him, but she obviously doesn’t have the maternal attachment that I do…and thankfully she’ll be able to get Tate to talk without talking for him. (Something I tend to do when I so badly want the conversation to work well…)

I am bringing along the soccer ball. Tate can hold his own, and his friend does love sports, so it might be something they have in common…and will be able to use as an interactive game. So there’s that.

I have all this angst..and we’re only going to be at the park for an hour. 60 minutes. In the scheme of things, this is nothing…but it is everything, too. Tate has made a lot of progress in many areas…and I really hope to see him expand his horizons with peers. If we can navigate this experience well, there is hope for future play dates. And that would be wonderful…for us both.

 

 

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