Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Special Day With Special, with Aftermath

Every Friday, The Kid's teacher pulls a name from a hat to designate the next week's "Special Person of the Week." The special person gets to take home this huge, white teddy bear appropriately named, "Special." Friday was The Kid's lucky day, so we had a very cute teddy-bear houseguest for the weekend.

Saturday morning we had an early wake up call for soccer. Special came with us to watch the Earthquakes get rocked (ha) by some other group of 5 year olds. The poor Earthquakes, they were just no match for this team.

We left soccer humbled, but by the time we arrived at home, The Kid's mind moved quickly on to happier things. He had filled his sticker chart during the previous week, and the reward was a trip to the zoo. We got our old umbrella stroller out and stuck Special in it, and wheeled off. The Kid talked to Special the whole way, preparing him for the trip. He told him what we were going to be seeing, and that he was not allowed to climb on the gates or get into the cages (I'm just glad The Kid knows those rules!). It was a fairly uneventful trip to the zoo, all in all, but we got some good photos, saw some animals, and even got to see a gorilla eat some poo. Good stuff.

The other important thing that the Special Person of the Week has to do is to make a poster about themselves. They are to draw pictures, write words and paste pictures of things that interest them. If you have ever helped a child with ADHD/ADD/Impulse Control Issues/Insane Need for Perfection, you can only imagine what a HUGE job this was. We spent about two to three hours on it, all told. First, we looked through photographs that I was willing to part with (The Kid decided it was wrong to cut pictures out of magazines) for the purposes of a collage. He decided, actually, on a print of the adorable photo of him I posted last week, and then another random "action shot" of him playing soccer. He pasted both photos to the page, and then he and I started brainstorming about things that he liked. We got a good list going, and inspiration hit The Kid. He yelled, "I've Got It!" He grabbed a light green marker and made a long rectangle, the length of the page, and then added lines, spaced large enough for him to write in each space. He then asked me to spell out all of the things that we'd talked about him liking. In case you were wondering, he likes Halloween, Winter, Summer, Fall (apparently, The Kid doesn't like Spring, which like a true Coloradan, he really has no idea what Spring is--we don't really get spring here, just winter to summer, I'm not kidding), Dinosaurs, Soccer, Musuems, Aquariums, Meema (my mom), Cousins and Family. He wanted to write Aunts and Uncles, but chose a shorter alternative that included both. Plus, he was running out of space.

The pasting, planning and writing of these things took two hours. I'm not kidding about this, because I made a pot of coffee sometime in the middle of the seasons knowing that we had a job ahead of us. After all that writing, he decided he'd finish up all of the drawings the next morning, which he did. He drew some fall leaves, and then rainbows. He was very proud of himself, and kept talking about how he got to share it with the class.

Sunday, he stayed with his grandma while I went to the Bronco game. Perhaps I'll post my somewhat interesting and very wet Bronco game story at the Optimist Club shortly... At any rate, we finished up his Special Person obligations after the game at Meema's: Special has a journal, and each child writes what he/she did with Special on their weekend together. We printed out a bunch of the photos we'd taken at the zoo and pasted them into Special's journal, and he then wrote, "I had a great day with Special." He pretty much had a cow when the t and the h in the word "with" were touching in a way he hadn't intended them to. He cried, HARD, for about 30 minutes about it, until my mom invented white-out from a clorox stain pen (she's a real MacGuyver, that one). It was one of those moments, trying to comfort him from his upset at non-perfection that my mom and I just looked at each other like, "Yeah, this kid has a mental illness." Not judgemental mind you, but just one of those moments, as a parent, or grandparent, that you see a window into what a day at school must be like for him. And that glimpse is really heartbreaking.

We got everything into his backpack, got Special packed up, and the next day, The Kid headed off to school.

When I picked The Kid up from daycare on Monday, he immediately started in on me that I forgot to put his poster in Special's backpack. This is true, but I had put his poster in HIS backpack, and explained that to him. Again, the intense tantrum of crying. He didn't stop all night. He was devastated that he didn't get to share his poster all about him with his class. I know The Kid, and this is something he would really enjoy, and I feel for his sadness about it. I tried to calm him down, saying, Don't worry, your teacher will let you show it tomorrow.

Now, The Teacher had suggested a couple of weeks ago that she e-mail The Kid's daily behavior report. Apparently, he'd gotten upset one day when he disputed one of her sad faces, and she wanted none of that going forward. Monday night, though, I received no email. In fact, she's pretty terrible about e-mailing in general, I don't know why she thought she could write me daily about his behavior. So, considering that at 7:30 last night, The Kid was STILL crying that he hadn't gotten to share his poster, I wrote her the following e-mail. Keep in mind that I wrote in the spirit of working with her, aware that I ask a lot of teachers, but thinking that they ask a lot of parents, so it's a give and a take. Plus, I'm an involved parent, isn't that what they want? Anyway, here it is [edited slightly for personal info]:

"I just wanted to let you know that The Kid's special person poster was in his backpack today. He did bring it to school. He worked really hard on it. Also in his backpack is the confirmation page that you had sent last week regarding conferences. It has been in his backpack for about 3 school days now. I know I ask a lot of you already, but can The Kid get a little help with remembering to check his backpack for the things that he is sent from home to give you? This will clearly become a huge educational issue if we don't teach him how to remember to do this now, in Kindergarten. I tell him where everything is every day. Somewhere in the middle, he always seems to forget.

"He was heartbroken that he didn't get to share his poster today. He cried for a long time when I told him that it was in his backpack the whole time.

"I also haven't heard from you today on how he did. How can we make this easier? The daily report is really important to us. I use his daily report to model the night at home. If he has done something good, he gets rewards. Conversely, if he has done something [negative] we talk about it, and privileges are taken away. Also, we do still have the sticker chart at home, and for every 3 point entry that he gets, he puts a sticker on the chart. It loses its power when the immediacy is gone, so when he has two or three days worth of reports to put stickers on his chart, he doesn't remember what he did right to earn that sticker. We can talk about this on [at conferences], but I think we need to work out a better way for the notes home to come home every day."

Today, I received the following response [again, edited for personal info, but not for grammar, egad]:

"I am sorry that I did not send a report to you yesterday. Some days are just going to be like this. I was extremely busy all night. I can report on yesterday and today. Yesterday

[Here was pasted from Word a table with his behavior chart, but it doesn't copy and paste well from email to Blogger. All you need to know is that day one was mostly 3's, and day two was mostly 1's and 0's, inconsistent with the message below.]

I feel that much of his problem right now is he does not want to do what the class is doing. He knows what he needs to do to get a 3 bunch chooses to not participate. Most of the issues are related to this. Sometimes he even throws a fit when I don't let him do what he wants. Yesterday he cried for a long time because he couldn't play the computer game he wanted because it was in the other computer and another child was using it. He had the choice of waiting or playing another game or reading a book. He chose to cry and hit children. Today he did not hit or hurt any kids, he just was extremely compliant."

Okay? Do I have a right to be mad here? Is this a woman who has never HEARD of what a child with symptoms consistent with ADHD might act like? Does she have absolutely NO IDEA that The Kid is actually not choosing to "cry and hit children," but instead is being controled by impulses that make it really hard for him to keep control? I don't want to excuse The Kid from hitting. It's not okay. He needs a teacher that understands that he has special needs, not that he is simply a behavior problem. Is this not one of the primary misunderstandings of the disorder? She knows he's got an IEP. She knows that he's seeing a psychiatrist. She knows that he has a history of being easily overstimulated, which turns into hyperactivity and oppositional behavior. If she knows all this, how can she NOT know that it's not a matter of him choosing to behave in class the way that she would want him to. He needs help, and I fear that with an attitude like hers, help is not what he is going to get from her.

My sister found this very good little blurb from a website I've yet to truly check out (I'll link to it here, check it out with me!--although my sister did mention it is a very Christian take on the whole thing, so, just keep that in mind), but I want to share with you:

"ADHD is not the result of poor parenting. Because it is biological in nature, the analysis of the problem based on behavior is often misleading. Well-meaning individuals will often suggest that "a good, swift swat" or "firm, consistent discipline" are the answers to the problems of dealing with the ADHD child. This completely misses the point. While a diagnosis of ADHD should never be allowed to become an excuse for misbehavior, in dealing with inappropriate behavior a parent or care giver must be careful to try and determine the actual motivation for such behavior... The frustration of constantly living on the ragged edge of control breeds angry, often violent outbursts. The insecurity caused by never really being sure that they have a handle on things provokes demands for attention and reassurance that can be misinterpreted as merely selfish behavior."

So you know this, I know this, many professionals know this, but The Kid's teacher does not. I do not know where to begin to react to her. I fear that my anger will spill over.

Especially after this: When I looked through his backpack again tonight, the poster is still in his backpack. She didn't let him share it today.

I'm seeing red. Good thing I have a blog that will allow me to vent, or she'd get one hell of an email from me tonight. I might choose to yell and cry. Of course, I have that choice. I don't have ADHD.


Peggy said...

Yeah, good thing you have a blog, Molly - but sometimes when I read it, I WISH that the folks at school could read your perspective and witness the heartbreak some of THEIR "choices" incur for kids and families at home.
We talked plenty yesterday afternoon, so you know my thoughts - but I just want to say this broke my heart, again. :o(
Love ya - Peg

Erin said...

I send daily communication notes home with my entire class. I never miss a day, and I have to do this for all my students. THe format I use, however, allows me to quickly circle certain key words or phrases so that I can get this all done while still trying to be a teacher. I would be happy to share this with you if you are interested. Just let me know!

molly_g said...

Erin, yes, Please share... I will email you.

Beandog said...

Aunt Beans wishes she could have The Kid show her the poster and tell her all about it!!!!!