Tag Archives: journey

A new chapter

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Last Tuesday was Tommy’s last day of first grade.  I am a bit sad to see it come to an end, as I think I will be at the end of every school year.  On the other hand, this year has been an intersting chapter in our lives, and I’m happy to say that we’ve survived it.

Academically, Tommy is doing well.   His report card shows that he excels in reading, performs at grade level in math, but is behind in writing.  His teacher reports that he is reading at an end of 2nd grade level, which we are very proud of.  Math, I think he is capable of much more than he gives himself credit for, but we have time to work on that.  Overall, pretty much what I expected.

A couple weeks ago, I had the follow-up meeting with the school psychologist and Tommy’s teacher about the observations and rating scales.  The report was a lot for me to digest at once.  I hadn’t realized that the method the psychologist was using for the observations would actually allow her to quantify Tommy’s percentage of time on and off task.  Wow.  I knew that he had a problem with attention and focus, but I had no idea just how prevalent it was in his school days.  Not only does the report provide numbers, but she has also included a short narrative description of what she observed at each session.  It was like having a birds eye view into the classroom. (which I’ve often said I would like to have!)  During her observations, he was reported to be on-task ~50% of the time.  His off-task bahviors are predominantly passive, with motor not far behind.  In other words, when he’s not on-task, he’s either staring off into space or wiggling and fidgeting.  It is clear from this report that we need to follow up on this.

In the days following the meeting, I spent a lot of time talking to other parents about their experiences with their children.  I went in search of recommendations for all sorts of medical professionals.  I pondered this quite a bit.  I didn’t really know which way to go, who to see, or what to expect.  At some point though, my mommy instinct kicked back in and I was able to see more clearly.  I wanted to take him to someone who would look at the whole picture, not someone who would read this report and slap a label on him.  I wanted to be confident that we had considered all the options.  Obiously there are attention and focus problems so ADHD is a likely possibility.  But, what about anxiety and self-confidence and social skills?  Do any of those play a role in this?? 

Based on a recommendation from another parent (which was backed up by Tommy’s OT), I chose to contact a clinical psychologist.  What she will do is a full cognitive assessment.  It will take place over 3 sessions of ~2.5 hours each.  After all the tests are scored/evaluated, she says we will have a better picture of “why we’re seeing the types of behaviors we’re seeing, and what we can do about it.”  Sounds right on target with what I was looking for.  We’re on the calendar for these sessions at the end of July, so it will be done before school starts.  I’m anxious to see how this goes.

Thus, we begin a new chapter.

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Best words I heard all week

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Friday morning, I had a meeting with Tommy’s teacher and the school psychologist.  This meeting was to address my request that Tommy be evaluated.  I must admit, I was really nervous going into this meeting.  I knew what I wanted to get out of it, but I had no idea if I would have to fight for it, or if it would just be handed to me.  When the psychologist called me to schedule the meeting, she said that it was to discuss the process, and “when and if” Tommy would be evaluated.  I feared the worst. 

 Like I said, this meeting was their legally required response to my request.  They recognized my concern that he might be falling behind.  Because he is currently performing at grade level, there is no justification for a full evaluation.  But…there are other things that they can and will be doing.  The psychologist will be doing “time on task” observations and the teacher and I will be completing what’s called a Connors Rating Scale.  From this, the psychologist will compile a report and likely make a recommendation that we seek a medical diagnosis.  OK…I’m good with this.  (This is not exactly what I thought we’d get, but I’m glad to see that they want to do something.)  But, one of the biggest questions I still had was about what would happen next year.  Before I even had to ask, they assured me that Tommy is “on the radar” as a student who needs assistance, and that “he will be placed in a supported classroom next year.”  If we do end up with a medical diagnosis, then he will get a 504 plan.

 Umm…wow!  My faith in our school district has definitely been renewed.

The process…

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No, I didn’t expect the process of working with the school about Tommy’s needs to be a quick and easy one.  But, I probably wouldn’t have scripted quite like it has played out.

December:

  • Send note- request evaluation
  • Wait several days.  Get told that we need to meet first.
  • Schedule meeting.

January:

  • Attend meeting to discuss accommodations.
  • Arrange for vision screening.
  • Implement accommodations.
  • Watch and wait.
  • Learn that after 2 failed screenings Tommy will need an eye exam.
  • Get eye exam and glasses.

February:

  • Attend 2nd meeting to discuss progress.
  • Watch and wait more.

April:

  • Send 2nd note- request assessment.

The most recent “watch and wait more” process spanned 2 months.  I think we were hoping that the glasses would help…and that being able to physically focus with his eyes would help him to focus mentally.  His teacher and I have touched base a bit on his performance during this time.  She has expressed concerns about his difficulty in focusing on tasks, specifically during independent work time.  I confirmed with him that the social worker is still coming to supervise him in the afternoons with packing his backpack.  Seeing as how he forgot his folder on Tuesday, I don’t think he’s improving much in this area. 

When we started this process, I was told that we would implement the accommodations and see how they worked.  I was told that if they didn’t work, that is when he would qualify to be fully evaluated.  OK…so some of the accomodations have worked.  In terms of his sensory issues, he has greatly improved.  (Due largely to his work with his private OT.)   At our meeting 2 months ago, we were all optimistic, confident that he wouldn’t need an eval.  But things have changed since then.  Still having difficulty in the classroom, does that now qualify him for an eval?  Or do we have to implement accommodations that specifically address the focus first?  (gosh, I really hope not!) 

What I’ve been told we need is a cognitive assessment.  Whether or not this results in a diagnosis, it will still provide us with useful information about Tommy’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses.  This assessment is typically done by a child/school psychologist.  My note to the teacher today explains that we would like to see this done at school.  We’ll see what happens.

Targeting our next goal

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This afternoon we had our follow-up SST meeting at school.  We all agree that we have the behavior aspect of Tommy’s school issues under control.  The next goal, as we all agreed upon, is to work on his focus.

The Social Worker has been working one-on-one with him in the afternoons to help him get ready to leave.  This isn’t exactly going well, and I’m not surprised to hear this.  He told us today that he is finding Tommy to be very distracted during these times.  He has a visual schedule that he is supposed to be following for this process and it is not helping.  It brought me great satisfaction to hear the social worker saying this.  No, I’m not happy that Tommy is distractable.  After describing Tommy to him in October and getting the response I did, it was incredibly gratifying to hear that he has also come to this conclusion. 🙂

Focus is also a problem during classroom tasks these days.  His teacher has described him as unfocused and spacey.   Apparently he’s not bothering or even engaging other students.  But he does seem to be severely lacking in his ability to just hunker down and do the assignment at hand.  (Should be interesting to see how his first spelling test goes tomorrow.)

Moving forward, we’re in a bit of a goofy limbo.  I signed a release form today that will allow for communication between the school and his private OT.  Why they didn’t give this to me at the last meeting, I have NO idea!  This should help a ton.  Also, the school OT that we started this process with is “no longer with the district.”  They have hired a new OT, but she doesn’t start for another couple of weeks.  When she starts, she’ll have to be brought up to speed with Tommy. (as well as MANY other students.)  If we have communication open between Kristie and the school staff, I think things will be good.

As we move forward, I’m really starting to see what one of my friends has told me several times already.  This is a process.  We will tackle things one at a time.  Each step of the way, we’ll have to see what comes next.  This afternoon I compared Tommy to an onion.  We’ve peeled away the layer of behavior issues, which has now allowed us to see the focus issue more clearly.  I tend to agree with what the social warker said…with time, we will be better able to see how much of this is sensory and how much is out of Tommy’s control.

On the right track.

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Tommy is having a fabulous week this week.  Tonight he was a bit distracted while doing his homework, but that’s my only real criticism of him since Saturday.  His 2nd Quarter report card came home today, and it shows improvements both academically and socially.  This is all really great news, as we are headed to our 2nd SST meeting tomorrow afternoon.

After what we saw from Tommy last week, his OT reminded me that sensory responses are cumulative.  We are supposed to have a daily communication system between the teacher and myself, but that fell through the cracks last week.  If we had known that he had a rough day on Monday and/or Tuesday, we could’ve really loaded on the sensory input for him to help get him back on track.  Goes to show that I need to stay in tune with Tommy’s behavior trends.  I will also be stressing the importance of this communication when we meet with the team tomorrow.

I am curious to hear more details about how Tommy has been responding to the classroom inverventions these last 4 weeks.  I think there are still some things we discussed at the last meeting that may not have been put in place yet.  So again I am wondering what’s the next step in the process.  Will we be having another follow-up in 6 weeks?  Will we be making changes to some of his accomodations?  What will be the end result of all this paperwork?  Will we get a 504?  How often will we need to adjust his accomodations?  I know I won’t get answers to all of these tomorrow, but I need to get some general feel of where we’re headed.  At least I’m not nervous like I was the night before the first meeting.  🙂

Just gotta roll with it

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There are always ups and downs with Tommy.  We have a few weeks that are smooth and then we hit a rough patch.  This most recent rough patch caught me off guard.  It wasn’t as bad as the one week we had back in November though, when every day brought something new.  Tommy was running on high most of the week.  He was clearly having trouble with modulation.  His intense emotions were starting to show again.  But why?  I still really don’t know what brought this on, but my gut says that something must be out of place or off schedule for him.

When Tommy went for his OT session this week, I was mentioning to his OT that he had been like this for a few days.  I was so relieved to see him display this right there for her.  She asked if I had heard anything from school, which I had not.  She suggested that perhaps he was just having to work harder to keep it together at school and that he was just completely spent when he got home.  Given the patterns we’ve seen with him in the past, I could totally see this.  She did a lot of heavy work with him that session and tried to get him more settled.  When we left, we still had a ways to go.  Her best advice was to spend the bulk of our evening, from dinner to bedtime, engaging Tommy in calming activities.  Ultimately this should help him get to sleep easier and hopefully sleep better.

Since Tuesday, he has subsided quite a bit, but first we got hit by quite a train on Thurday.  He was completely out of control Thursday evening.  He couldn’t follow directions and was very quick to yell and blame others for everything that wasn’t right for him.  He had only managed to bring home half of what he needed for his homework.  The last straw though…was when I found the note from his teacher that informed me that he’d been struggling in the classroom all week.  ACK!

In the middle of all this chaos, I received a call from the school nurse.  After our SST meeting last month, the team agreed that it would be good for Tommy to get a vision screening.  There are some things that have us concerned about his vision.  When the nurse called, she informed me that he had failed not 1, but 2 different screenings.  She thought it could just be a perception problem, but with knowledge of our family history she became more concerned.  When I asked him about the screenings, he looked at me with this sad face and just said “Mommy, I couldn’t see the letters.”  Poor little guy!  As we tried to prepare him for this eye exam, he was clearly excited about the idea of getting glasses.  I couldn’t believe how eager he was to go to the exam.  I was very proud of him.

So, I still don’t know what’s going on.  But, like I said, he’s subsided quite a bit.  I am optimistic about this week.  Besides being a new week and a fresh start, Tommy will be headed off to school a new young man tomorrow…with his brand new glasses.  We don’t really know how long he’s been struggling with his vision.  It is not likely to be the cause of the trouble this past week or so, but it certainly couldn’t have helped things.  Poor guy doesn’t really know what is missing.  I’m hopeful that being able to see today will help refresh his attitude towards learning.

The first meeting

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On Thursday we had our first SST (Student Success Team) meeting for Tommy.  These meetings are typically held with the school psychologist, classroom teacher, parents, and other necessary support staff.  For Tommy, that was the OT and the social worker.  Due to the fact that the psychologist was unable to attend, our meeting, I’m told, lacked some of the fomality that it would typically have.  That being said, I really appreciate that they still held the meeting without her, rather than keep us waiting for a couple more weeks.

We shared Tommy’s evaluation report from his OT.  We also learned more about what is already being done for Tommy in the classroom.  I knew that he was supposed to be working from a visual schedule in his locker, but that he was still forgetting things at school on a weekly basis.  I have known that his teacher was to be discussing other possibilities with the OT prior to this meeting.  I had assumed that she was trying some things out, but I had really no idea what she was doing and with what frequency.  (The chaos of the holiday season is largely to blame for this lack of communication.)  I was pleased to learn that she has put some things in place that seem to be helping Tommy quite a bit. 

Overall, his teacher and the OT are pleased with Tommy’s response to the accomodations.  We are definintely pleased as well.  He’s been wearing a weighted vest in the classroom, and has been taking the initiative to put it on (and take it off) as he feels he needs it.  This is helping to calm him, which helps his ability to focus.  They have also implemented what they call the “Concentration Station”.  This is a quiet area in the classroom where students can go to take a break.  It is something that was designed with Tommy in mind, but can be used by anyone in the class.  He can ask to go there if he feels he needs it.  He may also be sent there if the teacher feels he needs a break.  His teacher says that he has already been using it and it seems to help him.  He also continues to be motivated by the “jungle dollar” reward system they are using in the classroom.

He still needs work with organizing himself and his belongings before leaving for the day.  The schedule is helpful, but he needs reminders to use it.  We’ve seen this same type of behavior with checklists that we have at home.  They serve as a home base to go back to when he is “off”, but he still needs to be reminded to go there.  They’re going to try to get someone to come to the classroom in the afternoon to help him get into the habit of using his schedule.  The other area where he needs some help is when sitting on the carpet.  He chooses to sit in front, but is always creeping forward and needing reminders to stay sitting on his bottom.  At the social worker’s advice, Tommy will be getting some sort of visual to keep him in his own space.  It may be a carpet square or even just a laminated piece of construction paper.  Just something to help him define his own space.

We will be meeting again in 4 weeks to discuss his progress and perhaps make further adjustments to his accomodations.