Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Storm Before the Calm (hopefully)

On weeks like these that have passed in the Soapy Water household, I find it difficult to resist the urge to over-document, to bore you with the details of the hell that has been the past few weeks. I also have the feelings that prevent you from wanting to communicate with anyone at all. Is that depression? Or just tired?

So, I guess I shall start somewhere in July. My psychiatrist was closing shop and moving her family to Wyoming. To make a long story short, this left us, well, psychiatrist-less for about three months. It takes approximately 204 phone calls to find a psychiatrist when you have the nation's crappiest mental health insurance coverage, you see. It also takes your child to be removed from school because he is behaving like a lunatic as well. If you have a mildly psychotic child, I hear it will take more like 846 phone calls.

Allow me to quickly fill you in on The Kid's behavior at school for his first three weeks of first grade. His behaviors include:

  • Screaming and yelling in the classroom.
  • Running out of the classroom.
  • Running out of the school.
  • Hiding under desks and pulling on electrical cords.
  • Ransacking offices and destroying school property.
  • Hitting children and teachers.
  • Inconsolable crying.
  • Rage and Anger, Generally.

I want to state, before I go any further, that I find these behaviors unacceptable and have only moved forward to help prevent these behaviors and work with the school to help The Kid manage these behaviors so that he and his fellow students can learn. I take this shit seriously, in short. I've done nothing thinking that The Kid was somehow NOT behaving in these ways.

When the insurance bureacracy was failing me miserably and The Kid's behaviors were so violent and out of control, I was looking into getting The Kid into The Children's Hospital psych ward on a day treatment basis. In fact, I had just hung up the phone with their intake nurse when I received a phone call from The Principal on Monday, Sept. 11. She informed me that I had to come pick The Kid up from school immediately and that he was not welcome back at school until we enrolled him in a SIED classroom. SIED stands for Significant Identifiable Emotional Disorder. It is not, by definition, a bad thing. For The Kid, however, I saw a number of things from this:

  1. If he was behaving as seriously and dangerously in a general ed classroom, I honestly didn't see how being in ANY classroom would benefit him, as I was quickly coming to the opinion (and as you will see, I was right) that he was unstable, and was reaching a new intensity of mania that we've never seen before. It was unmitigated by therapy or drugs.
  2. Out of nowhere? They are going to move him? How is this legal? How can they give me a choice between no school or restrictive environment, with 15 minutes to come pick him up or else?
  3. What the hell happened to his IEP?

We set a meeting for the next afternoon to discuss. And I picked him up.

And so began the week of effing hell.

The next day, I kept The Kid at home, and then dropped him over to my mom's house before the school meeting. I had smartly asked a friend from a parent to parent group to which I belong to attend the meeting with me to advocate/take notes/provide support. I showed up to this "informal" meeting to meet the area coordinator for special education, The Teacher, The Social Worker Pro Tem (who is not The Social Worker from last year, who I liked but is on maternity leave this semester, and so will return, hopefully, in January) and The Principal. And they have a new IEP. And they want me to sign paperwork. And suddenly this is an IEP meeting.

I call for a quick time out. I am asked to waive the 10 day notice prior to any official IEP meeting. They tell me this is an "Addendum Meeting." Where we create an addendum to his IEP. I say, what is an addendum meeting? I am not agreeing to anything today. They try to ease my fears, telling me that we are creating an addendum to his IEP, but it's just not as formal.

Now, let me tell you something about IEP's. It is like a miniature piece of legislation, that only pertains to a single child and his school situation. I would like you to think quickly about any piece of law or legal document that could ever be considered, "Less Formal." Bullshit I say. I agree to continue the meeting, but that I'm not agreeing to anything. I'm putting on my insurance broker face and getting all freaked out by legal stuff. As, apparently, I should have. I've since talked to an educational advocate who told me I should have walked out of the meeting.

They've clearly had it with The Kid. They want him out of the school, and have written in the IEP that regardless of the outcome of my attempts to treat his medical disability, they want him in an SIED classroom. This classroom is in another school. My repeated attempts to reiterate and get them to understand that The Kid needs medical attention for a psychiatric disorder and that until he is stable and reassessed, I will not agree to any placement.

The Kid says that The Social Worker Pro Tem hates him. As this meeting wore on, I began to believe him. The district resource person seemed unaccustomed to speaking to adults and talked to me in 6-year-old-speak about my resistance to SIED and then asked me to look forward to The Kid at 16 without having been in the SIED classroom (as if any alternative to that would have been visions of The Kid shooting people from the clock tower or something), all the while talking to me like she was talking about puppies and rainbows and like she was soon going to tell me about the teddy bear collection she keeps on her bed at home. That made me want to have a little pediatric bipolar tantrum of my own. The Principal is not seeing eye to eye with me either. In short, these folks had their story straight, they were sticking to it regardless of my input, and they wanted me to do what they told me to do. But I wasn't having it.

They were wrong to spring this on me. I have to admit that in the long term, they may or may not be wrong about the placement. He might someday be in a self-contained classroom for a period of time. But they CAN NOT go about assigning it the way that they did.

The meeting ended with me hating them all and wanting to pull my hair out. But I got my way, they were going to hold on doing anything. Of course, they were going to hold on doing anything because I was going to keep The Kid home, indefinitely.

By the end of the week, we finally got into a psychiatrist. The day treatment center required a referral from a psychiatrist, and just before I had a nervous breakdown, my shitty insurance company came up with a p-doc for me. I guess this is their criteria for when to finally provide customer service. Anyway. When we met with the new p-doc, she said that she felt that we were doing the right thing, keeping him out of school rather than have him rage in any classroom, regardless of restrictiveness (he is being home-schooled by my mom), and that he was unstable, and that she believed that the medications that she would prescribe would stabilize him so as to make the day treatment unnecessary. She also believes that once stabilized, he shouldn't need a SIED environment.

This week, we are seeing a much calmer Kid. He went to school for 1.5 hours on Monday and did not rage. He did show some ADHD symptoms, and after our follow up appointment with the doctor the next day, she added a med to treat those as well. The last two days? More improvement, as far as we can tell at the School of Meema.

The big test comes in getting him back in school. He now has so much anxiety about being there. He's convinced that they all hate him. I need a school that is willing to help him re-integrate. They need to understand that he's not going to be perfect, but I believe that he's going to be so much better that the SIED classroom won't be necessary, at least for now.

I can't help but worry that the staff at the school are so sick of us, and especially The Kid, that any call for help or intervention will not be met in hopes of farming him out. I've enlisted an advocate, I'm still working on finding a psychologist to help us out. The School has to follow the IEP, but when they write it, I've got misgivings.

I just wish that I truly felt like they came at this from a place that really cares about The Kid. I think they do, in a perfunctory way, in that they are professional teachers/social workers/school adminstrators. But their actions of late reek of the kind of careless expediency that typically can only indicate that they want their normal jobs back. That they want the easy way.

As the annoying "puppies and rainbows" lady tried to tell me the other day, you have to look into the future and hope that The Kid will succeed. I have a feeling they would prefer that happen from a distance from them.

I can't write anymore tonight, if you've made it this far, thanks.


mr. lady said...

Good lord, Molly. I will be home soon to help you.

jacik said...

Geez. molly! i did not realize this was all so severe!
do i need to move back too?

Sarah Dawson said...

Yowsa. It's so fucking ridiculous that you have to deal with so much bureaucracy surrounding The Kid. People need to get a goddamn clue for a change.

Alison said...

Since I'm going through a manic phase right now (and I've never really recognized that before), I feel so much sympathy for you guys. I can't imagine being a kid with these frantic feelings. And since I'm only mildly bipolar, I can't imagine dealing with something stronger than this.

That being said, you're taking action. You're not letting this control you. And I feel like that's the best way to handle it. That's awesome if you're seeing results from the meds so quickly. You'll get there.

I'll dedicate a song to you on Friday.

Diane said...


What a freaking mess. It sounds like they couldn't have done a worse job with this. Blindsiding you like that in the meeting was horrid and despicable.

Your on top of things and it sounds like you know what needs to be done and things are improving.

mr. lady said...

Dude, I am totally coming home!

Details to follow (as soon as I have some)

Diane said...

That's wonderful news.

Erin said...

The special education teacher in me is absolutely appalled at your district's behavior! Sadly it's not that uncommon, but it's appaling nonetheless. Good for you for standing your a parent, you have quite a few rights (which hopefully were given to you at said "informal meeting), but school districts often skim over these rights. Just being a parent who knows her rights, though, can really help you get what is best for your child.

liquidwafflegirl said...

molly-- as I read through some of what you have encountered I feel silly for telling you that parents are one of the only advocates kids have-- you obviously know this, and have to face it daily.

ALWAYS hold your ground-- as a teacher I have already walked out of several IEP meetings, because they can tell you all day long that what you sign is just to say you attended the meeting, but the reality is that it IS a legal document-- and as parents and teachers we need to make sure that the placements and decisions are REALLY what is best for the kids-- not what's easiest and most convienient for the school and child study teams

I hope things are looking a little better now, and I hope that the new placement IS working out.

Take care,