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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.
It took me a while, but I just sent off my first attempt to contact the OT at Tommy’s school. I’m certain of my decision to request an evaluation for him at school and am plodding ahead with it. Before Thanksgiving, I had mentioned the possibility of “getting his classroom needs assessed” in one of my emails to his teacher, but I was vague. When I wrote it, I had expected her to grab ahold of it and put me in touch with the OT at school (or whoever else might be the contact person for such things). At the very least, I kind of thought I might at least get a vibe from her on whether or not she thought it was necessary. Instead, I got a rather nonchalant response about how she would touch base the OT when she sees her. Clearly I wasn’t firm enough with my request.
I ran into the mother of one of Tommy’s classmates last week, and after a few minutes of chatting about how 1st grade is going for our kids, learned that her daughter also has sensory deficiencies. Her advice to me is that I am my child’s advocate and that I need to be persistant with my concerns. Up until now, I have been hesitant about being too too up-front, bossy or demanding. I just feel that if I come off as too abrasive and inflexible, I won’t get very far. I’ve been having a hard time finding a happy medium. (Thus all the wishy-washy, vague language in my emails to his teacher.) So yesterday at his OT session, I mentioned to his OT that I was thinking about requesting an evaluation from the school. She agrees that it would probably be good. His sessions with her are great for helping us learn how to help him out at home, but that his classroom needs would be best assessed and outlined by the OT at the school. Having her behind me on this gave me the confidence to take the next step.
I feel good about the email I sent to the OT today. I made my desires clear, in a firm yet polite fashion. And, in the event that I need to start this process with a different individual, I also asked her to let me know if there is someone else I should contact about getting an evaluation. (That stems from my chat with the social worker back in October, when he failed to mention to me that the OT might be a better person to speak with about concerns of Sensory Processing issues, and failed to put me in contact with her.) I make no assumptions anymore that I will be referred to the apropriate individual when I start in the “wrong” place. I know that there’s a process for this, but I really don’t know where its supposed to start.
I’m a “big picture” kind of person. I do much better when I know how things are supposed to go. I don’t have the big picture here. I don’t know that I’m starting in the right place with this, and yes, I am frustrated that no one has enlightened me on that just yet. But, I just need to keep plugging along until I get what I think he needs.
Getting Tommy to do his homework this week has been like pulling teeth. By the time I pick him up from daycare, he is just completely spent. He is typically very wound up and has a real hard time focusing on the work and following through with it. Most nights, it is even more difficult to get him to put the homework in the folder, put the folder in the backpack, zip the backpack and put it back in the laundry room. I’ve been looking for him to show some independence on this sequence of tasks this week, and I’m not getting it…at all.
The other night I made a backpack checklist for Tommy. It shows the things that he needs to have in his backpack every night to be ready for school the next day. They are his folder, his water bottle and his snack. I am starting to think that perhaps I should’ve made one illustrating the steps of taking his folder out, emptying it, doing homework, etc. I don’t have a problem with reminding him along the way, but lately I’ve been having to babysit the whole process. If I’m not standing there watching his every move and catching every time that he strays from the routine, he doesn’t catch himself. I’ll tell him to go get his backpack and he’ll take a wrong turn at the playroom and come back with Legos in his hand. Eventually he’ll get his backpack. Then, when I tell him we’re going to do his homework, he appears by my side with the homework and the Legos again. I tell him to go put the Legos down and come back with the homework and a pencil. Last night, he came back with the pencil, but had misplaced the worksheet. Sometimes I remind him of what is next, and I feel like he’s not even hearing me.
Last week at OT, he did an obstacle course. It was a sequence of 4-5 tasks, each which had rules, and he had to complete the sequence 5 times. He didn’t do too bad. This week, he even asked his OT if they could do another obstacle course. (It always helps when he enjoys the “work” she wants to do with him.) This week’s course was totally different, but again a sequence of 4 tasks, each with their own rules. This week…he didn’t do as well. I vote for more obstacle courses.
On the plus side…he’s had a great week at school so far this week.
Over the past few months we’ve seen that Tommy struggles with the structure at school. While that is true, apparently the complete and total lack of structure and deviation from routine is disastrous for him. His OT says this is pretty common for sensory kids.
Tommy has this whole week off of school for the Thanksgiving holiday. He spent all day on Monday at daycare, with what I can assume was complete and total lack of structure. I knew we could have some bumps in the road, but I figured they would do some activities with the kids and that he’d be able to go outside twice, so I thought he’d survive fairly well. I was wrong. He did go to his phonics class, but that was only 30 minutes. He also made a turkey or two out of rice krispy treats. Other than that, I think he was left to busy himself all day. Needless to say, he had a pretty rough day. Nothing bad enough to write up, but it just went on all day. When he got home we saw it too. He was so far gone that he couldn’t complete his “heavy work” activities to get the input he needed.
Yesterday was a shorter day for him, and it was topped off with his weekly OT session. (Thank goodness!!) I got some great suggestions from her on what we might do when he gets to be too far gone. The first thing she suggested is to give him something to do with his mouth…specifically chewy foods. So, I will be keeping a stash of his favorite chewy foods in the car, and will be giving them to him on the way home from daycare after rough days. That way, he’ll hopefully be a little bit more down to earth when we get home, and can work on other activities. Her other suggestion for these situations is to modify his “heavy work”. Typically he’s been doing wall push-ups, but when he’s too out of control he just goofs off. What we’re going to try in these cases is having him push my hands, so then he has to focus on me and I am in control of how hard he’s working.
Going forward, I asked her about how to handle these days off of school. Will he be needing to get his input at more frequent intervals? She says to intensify the program. Okie dokie…heavy duty input before he leaves the house in the morning. We also chatted about how he is in the car, seeing as how we have a 5-6 hour drive tonight. Truthfully, he’s hit or miss in the car. And if today is a rough day for him, I’m reasonably sure that tonight would be a big miss. So…again with the chewy foods to get him input through his mouth. Her other suggestion is sucking things through a straw. We could try a milkshake, but if that’s too easy for him, she says try pudding or yogurt through a straw. Guess we’ll just have to see how things go.
Today is his last day at daycare for the week. He will still be without structure and routine over the rest of the holiday weekend, but at least he’ll be under my supervision then. After that, his next break from school is over Christmas. Right now, I’m only anticipating him having to be at daycare for 2 of the days off school. How we’ll handle that will depend on how things go until then.