Following Bunny Trails

“I don’t have ADD, it’s just that…OhLookAKitty!”

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Going Back to School

Kindergarten, Buckeye AZ

Kindergarten, Buckeye AZ (Photo credit: Mennonite Church USA Archives)

Much has changed over the summer.  I wrote in the previous post about how busy it’s been, but it has also been a time of discovery.  I recently enrolled myself in the local junior college.  I have arranged my school schedule so that I will be in a classroom for only 6 hours a week.  (Which leaves me taking my Intro to Statistics class on line, yikes!)  When I tell people that I am going back to college, the first question out of their mouth is always, “how are you going to homeschool?”   Well, I’m not.   I really have mixed feelings about sending the boy back to school for Kindergarten.  There wasn’t the big growth and developement spurt that I had hoped would happen over the summer.  There wasn’t an amazing ADHD medicine or cure discovered, we tried yet another stimulant medication, and it made him not be able to go to sleep for two days.   I didn’t teach him to read, though we did some flash cards and he’s got his upper and lower case ABC’s down pat.  I read to him some of “The Magic Treehouse” series, and lots of nature books and magazines.  We did some rythem games, which are said to stimulate parts of the brain that need to be stimulated in the ADHD child.  But mostly, it was just summer vacation.  We were outdoors often, but the mosquitoes or the sun or the rain caused us to have plenty of days where we played too many video games, and watched too much tv.   I wasn’t as industrius with the boy as I had hoped to be.

In a way, I feel like I’m throwing my son to the wolves -so to speak- by sending him to the local public school.  Not that there is anything wrong with public school, I just am afraid that this year will be the same as last year, and he’s going to be spending more time outside of the classroom, trying to get himself under control, than actually sitting in the classroom and learning.   I am actually pretty stressed about it.  He is still the same squirmy, falling out of his seat over and over, can’t make eye contact or pay attention, kid that was unsuccessful at school last year.   The whole point of requesting the Positive Behavioral Assessment was to get the boy the help he needs to be able to stay in school for an entire day, and actually learn the criteria.  The results of the assessment were that he would have anywhere from 1/2 hour to 3 hours with a special education teacher every day.  I don’t feel that this will be enough, what will happen with the rest of the time?  All I know, is that my son has a right to an education, and I will push for the help that he needs.  The school is going to hate me.   I will be there on the first day of school, requesting a review of his education plan and requesting an Occupational Therapist to do a “sensory profile” on the boy.  (I am absolutely positive that he is very sensitive to noises, lights, large spaces, he has been since infancy… which is one of the reasons why I wanted to home school him in the first place.)

Why am I giving the public school system a try, rather then home schooling?  Social, social, social!  Many homeschooling moms would beg to differ.  There are all kinds of organizations for moms to get their homeschooled children with other homeschooled children.  I have researched and found some in our area, but I have not been able to contact any of these moms over summer vacation, so I am not positive that he will be able to have social interaction on a daily basis.  Over the summer I have slowly watched my son’s social skills decline.  I have watched him “build a bird’s nest” at the base of a slide and then proceed to yell at the children to not slide down the slide and ruin his nest.  It took me several minutes to convince him to build it out of the way, and to tell him that it’s not nice to yell at the children, and that the slide is for everybody.   Then he built the nest behind the slide and yelled at the kids that ran by his nest…*sigh.   The other reason is schedule, schedule, schedule!  I try to have us on a schedule, but I have found that when mommy and son spend every minute of the day together, son tends to buck up against mommy’s authority…almost constantly.  I have tried the sing-song voice, the “lets make it fun” technique, the “it’s 10:00, this is what time we do ___, every day,” and the offer of rewards.    I have found out that if it’s not fun for him, it’s going to be torture for me.  So for the time being, I am going to allow the trained professionals to do what they’re trained for.   Wish us all luck, I think we’re going to need it.


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The Outcome of the Assessment

I wrote about the positive behavioral assessment in my previous blog post.  This is a continuation of that post, it was becoming quite lengthy.  First of all, the assessment is supposed to be done by a “team of people” according to the rules and regulations.  Ours was done by the school psychologist.  I am not going to be angry about this because we most likely “tied the school’s hands” by going to half days and also by requesting the assessment so close to the end of the school year.   Since the beginning of the year, we have had “a team” of people helping us with our ADHD diagnosis.  We had a psychologist that did not work for the school, but was called in on occasion to help with special behaviors.  He came to the school and  observed the boy and wrote up a report suggesting to us and his pediatrician that he would very likely benefit from ADHD medication.  Several teachers that were familiar with the boy filled out Connor’s test sheets.  And during the times we were trying different medications, the teacher kept a close eye on him and was in constant contact with me.  No, I don’t feel jilted by the school system at all.

On the last day of the school year, I brought in our final snack for the classroom and attended a meeting with 4 of the original group that met with me when I requested the assessment.  Plus I was introduced to the new special education teacher.  The good news is that the boy qualifies to keep his IEP (Individual Education Plan) under the category “otherwise health impaired.”  The bad news was that the boy was tested for academics, and he is a bit behind where he should be.  No surprise there, first of all, he’s nearly impossible to test.  And secondly, he spent more time outside the classroom this year, than inside.  The special education teacher told me that she wasn’t 100% sure what was going to happen next year, because her program was changing at the end of this school year.  She said that she would either be in the classroom with the boy, or have him come outside to a room with her for anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours, 4-5 times a week.  She would help redirect him to his schoolwork if she was in the classroom, or help him with extra studies that he may fall behind in throughout the year.  She would also teach him strategies to cope with the stimulation and teach him appropriate responses to authority and how to keep from making the noises and outbursts that got him in so much trouble this year in the Young 5’s class.  The special education teacher was very kind and offered her number in case I had any questions over the summer, she offered to attend our counseling sessions with us even.  I really like the thought of him being taught to cope and function with ADHD, but I’m wondering if the vague “30 minutes to 3 hours” a day was going to be enough.   I actually asked, “What about the other 6 hours he’s expected to sit and pay attention in the classroom?”  The formerly argumentative special education director just looked at me and said, “We will have to figure that out next year.”   I left the room with my original feelings reconfirmed, I’m going to have to homeschool.

I followed out the boy’s Young 5’s teacher and as we walked back to her classroom.  I asked her, “what do you think about all this?”  She was hesitant, but answered, “I think, unless something changes over the summer; either they find a medicine that works for him, or he grows out of it [hyperactivity], I’m afraid he’s going to have a really rough time next year.”  She continued, “they will probably suggest half days again.”   I agree.  If he was having difficulty with the stimulation while only going half days this year, how is he going to be able to attend a full day of kindergarten, where he will be expected to sit still for a large portion of the day?  Yep, we’re homeschooling.

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Positive Behavior Assessment

We finished out the school year by going for only half days.  I brought him to school after lunch and before recess, that way he doesn’t have to struggle through the morning.  The mornings were a difficult time for the boy because he was called to do “rug time,” where he was expected to sit still on a rug and participate in the morning rituals.  Shortly after rug time was “rotation station,” where the children worked on projects at a table for a few minutes and then they would rotate to the next table, where they would have a different project to work on.  This is a brilliant idea for 5-year-olds because their attention span is so short.  Except with a child that has ADHD/ADD it may take them the entire time at one table to bring themselves under control, and they may have just started on their project when rotation time comes.  Plus, transitioning may sometimes be particularly difficult for children with special needs, so I could see how a “rotation station” could cause frustration.  So we did away with the difficult mornings and just came for some recess, social time, and a little more learning in the afternoon.  Unfortunately the shortened day was still difficult for him.  I had assumed everything was going well because I was no longer receiving the phone calls every couple of days, or even daily.  I found out later that he was still needing to leave the classroom and sit on the beanbag chair in the separated part of his room several times a day.  And that he was running around like a madman in the gym, screaming and clapping his hands over his ears, etc.  The biggest surprise was when I was told that he would be on the computers and if someone so much as brushed up against him, he would scream at them.  I couldn’t believe my sweet, social boy was turning into an angry kid who yelled at his peers!  His teacher told me, “He’s had a pretty rough year, maybe he’s just ‘had it’ with his classmates.”

When we were experiencing failure with medicine after medicine, and the end of the year was approaching, I put in a formal request for the school to do a “positive behavior assessment.”  Once you request one of these to be done, by law, the school has around 2 weeks to start the process and an additional 30 days to complete the assessment.   These are very involved, so I’ll just give you a general idea of what they are and why I requested one.  First of all, I should tell you that my son has an IEP, or Individual Education Plan, for speech.  He has been in speech therapy since age 2 1/2, when he just completely stopped talking, or even attempting to pronounce or repeat words.  At age 5 1/2  his speech therapist told me that he was completely caught up with his age group’s expectations, and that she was going to release him and he would no longer have an IEP.  I immediately thought to myself, “Woah, this isn’t good!  We do not have his ADHD even slightly managed, and now he is going to lose his education plan?  If anything, we should be adding addendums to his education plan in regards to his ADHD!”   I wanted some concessions made for my son, I need him to be given the opportunity to step outside of his classroom and be able to collect himself when he feels like he is becoming overstimulated.  I may need to request extra time on tests or maybe that he be given his tests in the library.  He may need an assistant or therapist inside the classroom to help redirect him back to his studies.  He may need to go out of the classroom and have some individualized one on one tutoring to keep him up with the rest of the class.  If he lost his IEP now, he would be expected to perform as well as the rest of the class, and without any provisions to help him achieve his goals.  No, I couldn’t throw the boy to the wolves, so to speak.

The meeting for the assessment didn’t go quite as expected.  There were 7 people in attendance, including myself, the boy’s current teacher, and his speech teacher.  They opened the meeting by asking me what I want for my son.  I told them the best I could, that I felt that if some concessions weren’t made, and if my son was expected to perform up to class standards with his disability, that next year was going to be another unsuccessful one.   I told them that I wanted stuff that helped my son this year, like being able to leave the room and relax on a beanbag chair in a quiet safe place, to be in his IEP so next year’s teacher knows what to expect.  I want the kindergarten teacher to have a list of things that helped the boy to be successful, and a list of things that caused him to become overwhelmed.  But I ended up arguing with the special education director most of the time.  She even told me that I didn’t know what I was asking for, and that I was misunderstanding the definition of a “positive behavior assessment,” and even an “IEP.”  She argued that the boy wasn’t going to lose his IEP, and then she argued with his speech teacher about it.  So, thankfully, the boy’s speech teacher took over and got everything in writing and got the ball rolling on the assessment.

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Not up to School’s Standards

The boy has not been able to attend school for an entire day ever since the doctor told us to take him off all ADHD medicines.  We took several days off of school after the Psychotic Break.  It was actually difficult to convince him to go back.  On his first day back, they sent him home after lunch, or was it before, I don’t remember.   He was just too hyper and disrupted the class to the point where no teaching was getting done.   I was asked by the school, “when is his psychiatrist appointment?”   Right, more drugs is the answer.   What if I don’t want to experiment on my son any more?  The teacher suggested I bring the boy in after lunch when the kids have recess then some learning and social time.  At least that way he will be able to finish out the year without his last experience being a terrible one, and him ending up hating school.  Though the first half-day went well, they called and asked me to pick him up at the end of the second day because he was too wild to put on the bus.  The third day went well, but I have a feeling that they have given up on actually educating the boy, and have just settled for getting him through the time.  I became suspicious when the boy described how he colored pictures for the teachers and the other children. Uh oh, I noticed that he hasn’t had any of the usual photocopied papers with the number  or letter of the day either.

English: A child not paying attention in class.

English: A child not paying attention in class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What if we can get him to an acceptable level of energy for home, but he doesn’t live up to the school’s standards and rules?  I know that  the State of Michigan’s department of education mandates that my child has a right to an education, and that whatever accommodations need to be made to get this done, so be it.  But do I really want to fight this battle?  Does this “right to an education” really apply to a child who has already graduated from preschool, isn’t this only for K-12?  So we pick this battle up again in the fall, when the boy goes back to kindergarten, or I can teach him here at home, where he has the opportunity to learn when his brain will allow him to be calm enough to take in information and be allowed to be a wild maniac when his brain is driving him on impulses.

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Our Trials With Medicine

We enrolled The Boy in the Young 5 program at the suggestion of his Preschool teacher.  She said that Kindergarten isn’t what it used to be when she first started teaching.  Kindergarten is more geared toward education and less geared to play, now.  As she described the new kindergarten, it sounded as if he would be expected to sit in his seat and pay attention, and the children would be marched around the gym [goose-stepping] instead of free-play.  She thought that this high energy boy would thrive in a less structured environment like the Young 5’s.   I cried.  All I could picture is that my son was going to be the oldest kid in his class on graduation day.  One friend reassured me that she was held back but ended up graduating on time, and with honers.  Another friend suggsted that the boy would have such an advantage, and would more likely be a leader than a follower.  The thought of my kid having an extra year to grow and mature before being thrust into academia won out over the possibility of him having to struggle and be stressed.  Actually, the one comment that made me decide was from my father-in-law, a man of few words and whom I respect and love very much.  I whined to him about my fears of my son getting his diploma just a month shy of his 19th birthday, and I mentioned that daddy and I both were already enrolled in college before we turned 18!  He said, with a smile on his face:  “And look how that turned out.”      [Ouch, but true.]

I got my first phone call after two days of school.  My boy was too active for the active-kid’s class.  *Sigh   By the end of week 1, I was in a meeting at the school to discuss his activity level.   The teacher assured me that he was a sweet and sensitive boy, who was full of empathy and compassion for his classmates…but that he was doing cartwheels on the rug during rug time.  He had absolutely no spacial boundaries and would get right into the other children’s faces until they pushed him away.   He was climbing over desks and accidentally knocking them over, she reminded me that he was not aggressive, just very very active.  Over the next two months we had “Connors Assessments” done by teachers, & family members.   We had observations done by the school psychologist, school occupational therapist (to help with sensory issues), and an outside (but contracted through the school) psychiatrist.   All of which suggested that our son would most definitely benefit from medication.   My husband wasn’t convinced.   Hubby took the “boys will be boys” stance.  He filled out his Connors test with mostly “No” and “Not often” where everybody else was saying “Yes” and “extremely often” on the same questions.   Lets face it, hubby thinks the boy poo’s rainbows!

At the end of October, and at the suggestion of 5 of the boy’s previous and current teachers and aids, a speech therapist, occupational therapist, psychiatrist (school’s), psychologist (ours), and our pediatrician, we started our first ADHD medicine.   It was the lowest dose of Metidate (methylphenidate 10mg).  The difference was immediate.  It was amazing to have a conversation with my son and actually have him make eye contact.  I hadn’t realized it before, but talking to the boy was much like talking to Stevie Wonder (picture head movements)—Boo!  Poor taste joke!   The new drug worked for a month or so and then the teacher called me up one day and asked if I had remembered to give him his medicine.  Yes, same time, same breakfast, same everything.  Apparently his body had gotten used to it.  Our pediatrician raised the dose to the next step up, 20mg.  The boy showed signs of OCD behavior the very first day.  After three days on the new dose, I got another phone call from the teacher.  She said the boy was very stressed if anything was out of order, or the other children did something that was against the rules.  She told me that he got up while she was teaching the class, and went to the white board and proceeded to put every student’s name card in a row all the way across the board.  Then when cleanup time came and went, the boy continued cleaning the floor until every speck of paper or fodder was cleaned off the aged school carpet.   There was no stopping him.  He absolutely HAD to do these things.   I called the boy’s pediatrician and he said, “Oh, that’s not good.” and prescribed the next drug.