A family's story

Posts tagged ‘LD’

Teacher Appreciation

This week was Teacher Appreciation week. Like a good parent, I made sure our boys participated in the daily activities. They brought flowers, they wore baseball caps (“hats off to teachers”), they wrote a nice sentence or word about their teachers, they wrote cards, etc, etc.

As the last day of Teacher Appreciation Week approached, I made sure I got all of the gift cards ready. I had to buy several. I had them laid out last night as I wrote a hand-written note to each teacher and specialist. Each one. Hubz’s eyes bulged from their sockets. “How many of these do we have?” “Thirteen”. “Seriously?!” “Yes. It takes a village, my man. A village.”

I had a little cramping in my hand from writing so many notes. However, it was worth it. While we have had our differences with various staff members, I still am ever grateful for all that they do for our boys. It cannot be easy to modify curriculum, make sure accommodations are being honored, and seeing to it that a stubborn four year old is learning his alphabet. We may not always see eye-to-eye on everything, but I do respect them for their dedication and hard work.

Jake may not act out, and we never hear about negative behavior. However, he requires a lot of redirection, check-in, and encouragement. A lot. If he’s on the right path, he needs to be told that, and encouraged to keep going. If he gets confused, he needs to be shown what is supposed to be done. He processes information differently…he is a little slower than an average child, but given the time, he answers the questions correctly. It can’t be easy for the general education teacher to be able to give him what he needs while she’s juggling 20-some other students and their needs, as well. Somehow, it has been happening. Since our struggles mid-year, Jake is coming along. He struggles, yes, but he is also finding areas of success. And when he does get those good grades, oh, how he beams. His pride is evident.

Tate is impulsive, and wants to blow through everything. He’s smart, too, which means that even when he blows through it, he often gets it right..but he misses the concept, and it often needs to be retaught. He requires constant one-on-one help to get through academic tasks. We are absolutely appreciative of his teacher’s ability to tailor the curriculum to each child’s needs. His special education teacher has a knack for customizing the curriculum for each child so that he or she can learn it and retain it. She is amazing. She is patient, strict about adhering to the IEP and BIP, and she doesn’t let Tate use his cuteness to skip out of the hard stuff. As a result, he has made huge gains and is hitting his goals. Whoohoo!!!

Cole is a bundle of energy. He is also such a sponge. He loves to learn. He is full of “why” and “how” and “what” questions. He also retains the knowledge. He is also stubborn and doesn’t always want to learn his letters or apply the phonics he is learning…but he’s getting there. We are grateful that his teacher has been able to harness his energy and love of learning to get him where he is today. When he entered preschool this year, he knew a few letters, a few numbers, and barely knew his name. Now, he is doing much, much better. She recommended him for kindergarten..and we know her hard work is behind much of his success.

The aides in Tate and Cole’s classrooms are wonderful. I don’t know how they keep it together with all of the demands, but they do. They are patient and caring. We never worry about our boys in those rooms, because they really do care for our babies as if they were their own. And even better? They treat our kids with respect. These aides should give lessons to other aides. They just do it right.

The specialists that work with Tate and Jake deserve credit, too. Our boys aren’t always keen about going to OT, but she has been working harder at pushing them to their abilities..and we are seeing results. Both Tate and Jake are progressing. Tate’s handwriting is getting much more legible, and Jake is more comfortable with his assistive technology. Jake isn’t fighting his OT weekly, either, which is progress. The social worker gets both boys to work through their anxiety. She helps them through the tough stuff (like socializing and conversation). She knows when they need the law laid down, and when they need a big hug. She is nothing short of amazing. Oh, and the speech therapist…she’s young, and energetic, and full of great ideas. Our boys really enjoy speech this year…which is awesome! This is the first year in a long time where Jake is meeting speech goals. Tate has met his, too. She has a way of getting through to them, and I love that they are comfortable with her. I really hope she is back next year!! (It probably doesn’t hurt that she’s a cute little thing, too.)

So, while we can’t give the teachers and specialists what they are truly worth monetarily, I hope that they know that we would if we could. They are helping our boys find their way in this crazy world, and we are grateful for what they do for them. We are blessed that our boys have the teachers that they do, and that they have support staff that are able to handle their needs, as well. I hope they understand how much this family appreciates them…

But Wait….

You know that scene from A Christmas Story where Ralphie FINALLY gets his chance to tell Santa that he wants the Daisy Red Rider Carbine Action BB Gun….and he draws a total blank? When Santa suggests a football, he nods along, not sure what to do with himself…just kind of frozen in the moment? And, how once the elf puts him on the slide and out of the way, with a football on the way for his big gift, Ralphie jumps into action and awareness?

Well, that pretty much sums up how things have been going here with Jake’s education the past few weeks. We have been in a whirlwind of activity. I know that I had mentioned that Jake had an IEP meeting coming up on the 30th of January. Let’s just say that it didn’t go quite as we had hoped, and let’s just say that placement changes were encouraged, and only once we had a few moments to actually breathe and take it all in did it seem like the placement was a *wee* bit premature and a *wee* bit too restrictive for our liking. We THANKFULLY did not sign when we left that morning. And we THANKFULLY observed the new placement and voiced our concerns with the coordinator of special services. And we THANKFULLY spoke VERY FRANKLY with Jake and made some discoveries that were heartbreaking.

Jake’s anxiety and stress were at fever pitch. He was miserable. He was not able to pull it together in school to learn or demonstrate that he knew what had been taught. The staff was incredibly frustrated. They feel that they have tried everything. Something was broken. During the first weekend of February we sat down to talk to Jake about his schoolwork, anxiety and struggles at school. We also wanted to see how he felt about being in a smaller environment for his entire day…instead of for most of it. After promising that he wouldn’t get into trouble…and that no one else would get into trouble…Jake spilled his soul. He is being bullied. Other kids in the class are being bullied. By one kid. ONE KID.

Jake said he liked the resource room, but he also really likes being with all of the other kids. He admitted that he was scared to go back to his class. He didn’t feel comfortable in there all the time. He indicated that this child made him feel scared and upset. He said when the child talked to him, Jake’s head got fuzzy and his knees felt squishy. I probed more…I think Jake was having the “fight or flight” response a lot during his day. NO WONDER he was so heightened and dysregulated and unable to hold it together. I wrote to his team…and I know that I was not the only parent to bring up the bully situation lately. And yet, that bully is still in the classroom….

We also strongly suspect that some of Jake’s avoidance behaviors are learned and reinforced. We were told more than once over the past few weeks that when he gets really stubborn and quiet and does his little shake thing where he won’t do the work (he’s avoiding curriculum that is difficult for him) some of the staff let him just do what he wants…like sit there and take as much time as he wants to regulate. Or to sit there and draw so that he can calm down. Or he purposely knocks his paper on the floor and goes under the table to pick it up and takes a few minutes…and they let it happen. Because, well, he needs breaks. You might be thinking, Nomygodtheydidnot. But, yeah, they did…

Hubz and I aren’t saying that a more restrictive environment is never a possibility…but we are saying that we want to exhaust all options before we get to that point.

We had a second IEP meeting the other day to get a Functional Behavior Analysis done for Jake in his current setting. We really want the behavior analyst to observe and give us some data and information surrounding what is producing the anxiety at school. We have our ideas. The members of the IEP team have theirs. We are not exactly on the same page. At points during our meeting, I honestly felt like we weren’t even in the same book.

We meet again in March. By that time, he should be more comfortable with using his assistive technology at home and in the classroom. The behavior analyst will have enough observations and interviewing and data collected to address the FBA. With that, we should hopefully be able to put a BIP into place for the remainder of the school year. Aaaandd, we’ll meet again at the end of the year to determine placement for next year.

One thing I truly do not understand in this whole process is how we got from the IEP in October where things were going ok…not super-duper fantastic, but ok, to well, he needs to be in a really restrictive environment. It’s like going from the first chapter in the first book of a trilogy to the climax of the entire story arc at the end of the third book. ARGH!!!

AAAAaaand another thing…as a parent it is incredibly frustrating to have 2 children in the same district…in the same SCHOOL, and one is getting the right supports and curriculum and so on and so forth..and the other is just…not. It makes my head spin…my heart ache…and stirs some passions within that I didn’t know existed.

I will guarantee one thing….they’re going to hear me roar.

Not so alone

Yesterday I was overwhelmed. I freaked out. I know that Jake is struggling in school, and I know that last year there had been some discussion around whether he should be placed in a self-contained classroom, so that is where I immediately let my mind go.

Thank you to all who commented and voiced words of support. I know you go this path, too. It isn’t easy…and it’s always a little scary when we can’t see clearly around the bend. 

On my personal Facebook page I wrote the following status: You know, when I was a kid in school, I was always anxious and worried about doing well. I studied and put in the work, and it came together. That stressed feeling does not compare, however, to being a parent of children who struggle in school. Oh, great googily moogily. I think 4th grade is going to do me in…

10 people “liked” it. I had about 9 more comment on it. I’m not alone. Jake is not alone. Tate is not alone. There are moms and kiddos all over the country who are doing this dance. 

Both of my sisters reached out to me. Both let me know that it is going to get better. We’re going to make it through. My one sister was the late bloomer. She struggled during elementary school, and even some parts of high school. And now she’s got an advanced degree. It just clicked. My other sister had attention difficulties. She hated to read. She hated math even more. (She guesses that she likely has a math learning disorder, too.) And she went through an associate’s program, got a good job, and eventually got her bachelor’s degree.

My boys’ routes are not straight. They will not be like the “typical” kids…but I know that they will make it to adulthood and be well-adjusted and successful. I just know it. I believe it. I hope for it. I pray for it. 

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