Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Invisible" Disabilities

School is well under way now.  Olivia is doing so very well and is absolutely loving middle school!  She was quite worried for a while this summer... how will I find my classes, how will I make it to class on time, how will I remember my schedule, who will be in my classes with me, etc.  But she loves it!  She is doing so very well and has taken to the freedom and responsibility like a champ.

Liam as I spoke of in a recent post is doing great as well.  I'm VERY glad we held him back a year.  He is still very behind in his skills and learning, but he is coming along well in so many other ways!

And then there's Braeden.  And the reason I've been so quiet on the blog the last couple of weeks.  I have many posts that travel through my mind, but I have just been exhausted emotionally and physically to spend the time blogging.

The first couple weeks of school Braeden did wonderfully.  He occasionally butted heads with his teacher, but she is a great fit for him, knows how to talk with him, when to push him, when to let things slide.  He had a bit of trouble going to other classrooms (we have a semi block schedule at the end of the day), but nothing horrible.  A couple of times he escalated and was angry, but was able to be redirected.  HOWEVER, he also, in the midst of "fight or flight" "flew" a couple of times and walked out of the classroom.  Last year at this time he began doing that and they cracked down on it immediately.  If he left without asking, he was immediately taken to "time out" which often ended up in a restraint, but after a couple of weeks he was "fine" and had a great rest of the year.

He's in a new school.  My school.  Right across the hall.  And the first couple weeks it was all about seeing mom, hugging mom, etc.  He has a new social worker, new principal, new everyone, and they have been trying to appease, build rapport, and feel him out.  So when he walked, no one stopped him.  They went after him, tried to hang with him, talk to him, etc.  They came to me and asked me to step in and talk him into coming back to class.  It was not working.  They were creating a monster.  

It all came to a head Friday September 14.  He wouldn't go back to class.  They weren't "stopping" the behavior and I felt we were spiraling out of control and was surprised no meeting had been called.  But I'm the parent.  Not the special educator.  So I was asked to take him home.  And I had to then stop him from leaving where he was.  And when the principal said, "Yes, you need to take him."  His mind (which I found out soon enough) went to "Take him to the hospital" and he FLIPPED out.  So I was the one then restraining my now flailing, kicking, biting, and completely overloaded 8 year old.  In front of coworkers.  And students.  With tears falling fast and furious.  Because I can do this over and over to students in need of help, but my own son, when I feel he's been set up to fail, is just too much.  And as we went into a nearby room to calm down, he said the word "hospital" and I realized what he thought.  I told him we were not going there and he was immediately calm and comforting me.  Saying all would be ok.

So we went home.  At 1:00 in the afternoon.  And no one called me.  And no one called over the weekend.  And Monday came and still no meeting was called, no plan put into place.  Monday went ok.  He got through the day and stayed where he needed to.  Tuesday I finally emailed to ask about a meeting myself.  I shared how scared I was that everyone was being set up for failure.  We agreed to meet sometime that day.  And not 10 minutes after school began, he was out of his room refusing to go back, hiding in places around the school, running through the courtyard.  I was called in again.  Left my own class again.  To go sit with him with a book and hope he could come "down" and go back to class.  He did, where he stayed approximately 4 minutes.  And was under my desk.  When I called the office to let them know where he was it was another 15 min or so before anyone came in.  The principal said he was ok to stay in my room (WHAT?!).  That or I would need to take him home.  So we stayed.  He got some work done, read under my desk, joined my class for a few things, ate lunch with me, and got through the day until his meeting at 3.  His social worker from last year came, thank goodness, and laid it out for them.  You have to nip it.  You have to let him know exactly what will happen, and that doesn't mean going home or staying in mom's room.  It will get much worse before it gets better.  It was agreed another special educator and the principal would be the first two contacted.  I was to be left out of it. (Finally)

So the past few days have been very rough at school.  Braeden is doing well with the other special educator.  He is well versed in disabilities and Braeden has been a puzzle to him. :)  And.. the best thing hopefully coming out of this is that he is seeing and saying the exact things I've tried to say the past couple years but no one listened.  ADHD is definitely a part of Braeden and who he is... but I KNOW there is more than that.  Last year I went to a workshop on Autism.  I've been to workshops on this a lot.  I've taught many along the spectrum over the years.  And when I went I was ready to hear some things about Liam based on some of what we were seeing in him at the time.  But I was SHOCKED to hear about Braeden.  SO much of what they were discussing was Braeden, exactly.  Sensory issues... Going from 0 to 60 in anger in 1 second flat because although calm on the outside things are boiling inside... poor social skills with peers... talking about random subjects (She spoke of visiting a classroom and a boy in front of her turned around and asked if she knew about Pluto, the planet... that is so Braeden with other topics!)... Lack of eye contact (though not always)... and on and on.  I was blown away.  So I asked our special ed director if our district's Autism consultant could observe him sometime while she was in district.  And was told yes, but it never came to pass.  Never happened.  And now, this is exactly what this new teacher is saying too.  It makes so much sense, and puts so much of him into a better perspective.  His escape is just that, escape from the overstimulation.  He has 25 other students in his SMALL classroom.  Transition times are LOUD and NOISY and he can't handle it.  Transitions are hard anyway, but this makes it so much worse.  He has a tremendous fear of heights.  He is also extremely sensitive.

We meet again tomorrow morning.  I just pray that the team can listen to what is being said and not just to what this could mean money wise for our district.  I hope for Braeden's sake that we are on the right track.  There are a couple administrators that don't "get it" at all.  And the fact that they're bosses of mine is making things very difficult.  For me.  And I want to focus on Braeden and what will possibly be the best for him, not just for now, but also looking ahead at the future.

I wish people could better understand "invisible" disabilities.  A student who looks like every other student but who has trauma or issues with their brains due to prenatal exposure or autism or ADHD or so many other issues... it makes things so much harder for them to get what they need educationally.  I pray for our meeting... that people have open minds to what is being said and recommended.  That pocketbooks don't rule decisions but student needs do.  That others in my place of work are sensitive to the fact that I'm his mom, and not just another teacher when it comes to him.  That God's plan can be made clear in all of this.


Mom said...

I completely understand. My daughter has a form of Autism and it can be completely random things that throw her off. The school would not give her the one-on-one learning time she needed and she was falling behind. She is the reason I homeschool. I know that is not an option for a single mom, but it is working for us. I will be praying for you as you get all the testing and diagnosis done. It is all emotionally trying to go through, but once you have an accurate diagnosis you can work on ways to help him cope. God bless you and I will be praying for you all.

Kathy C. said...

I started pushing for testing and special help for Tyler when he was in kindergarten. I was blown off for years because he was just a little different and he always tested well on standardized tests. They diagnosed his ADHD but that was all. I kept telling them they were missing something but since he was no problem they did nothing. Finally at age 15 when it was way to late for early intervention, he was diagnosed with aspergers. He passed high school well but was not at all successful in college. Has no job. Lives at home. I always wondered how much different his life would have been if anyone had listened. So fight for what you need. It matters. And you are the mom, you know your child better than anyone else.

big hugs to you... I cannot understand why the schools refuse to listen to parents when we are trying to make their lives easier - been through this often so I know how tough it can be... glad you have an advocate... hope things get better!

Barb said...

So sorry! It has to be so frustrating! Praying you get answers so you all can learn how to help him the best way. It has to be hard teaching there too. We have sure learned how hard you really have to advocate for your child! It feels like an uphill battle but our kids are worth it. You are doing a wonderful job and praying it gets easier soon for all of you!

rosedel said...

Man, it's hard enough as a parent to deal with special needs but to be an employee of the district you want to strangle, that's really tough. Hang in there, be a positive employee and get your kid outta there. I hope that a different environment will give Braeden what he needs. Maybe there will be a parent who will drop him off at your school? Keeping you in my prayers.

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About Me

I am a single mom to four amazing kids; each of whom just happen to have been adopted. The first three were adopted through foster care, and we just completed an international adoption from Haiti. Our family has grown through adoption and I am all the more blessed to know each of my children. I worship a mighty God, teach Special Ed, love bargains, and am inspired by Pinterest... come along with us for the ride!

Olivia - 14

Olivia - 14

Braeden - 11

Braeden - 11

Liam - 9

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