New here, son having behavior problems at school

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JHenn
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04 Oct 2011, 8:42 pm

Hi everyone! I'm new here so this may end up being pretty long. If you want to skip ahead to the current issue at hand feel free, but I'm just going to include some history in the hopes that it'll be helpful to anyone who can give me some advice.

I got pregnant with my son Joseph when I was 19, had him at 20. His biological dad was never in the picture, we broke up very early in my pregnancy and they have never met. Joe is 6 years old now. He was diagnosed with PDD at a year old. I noticed little things that made me wonder when he was as young as 5 months (thinks like rocking when sitting, fascination with lining up all his toy cars in a row) but his milestones were only a little behind. When I first brought up the thought of him potentially being autistic to his pediatrician at the time she called his name and he looked at her. She said "he responds to his name so he can't be autistic." and I was too dumbfounded by how wildly ridiculous that statement was to ask where she got her medical license. It was around this time that I came to the conclusion that I would rather take him to a smaller practice where he could see the same doctor every time, and that doctor wouldn't be so swamped with kids to spend more than 5 minutes with my son.

So I switched doctors and the new doctor found in his chart that the old doctor had forgotten to give him a couple of vaccines. The new doctor told me he didn't see any cause for concern with Joseph, but he believes that more often than not a mother knows best and he gave me a referral to a neurologist at Children's Hospital Boston. The neurologist diagnosed Joe with PDD.

Some of what we've dealt with since is that Joe didn't walk until he was almost 3. He "knee-walked". He wasn't potty trained until he was almost 5. He also has a lazy eye condition and wears glasses but it's so hard getting him to cooperate during an eye exam I'm not comfortable with the idea of surgery yet and I'm concerned the prescription he is wearing isn't really what he needs.
He flaps, rubs at his crotch, blinks rapidly sometimes, and mimics (sounds, words, sentences, anything)

He had Early Intervention since right after his diagnosis, and Building Blocks coming to the house almost every day until he turned 3. At 3 he started going to an Early Intervention pre-school, then at 5 he entered Kindergarten in public school. He never had any behavior issues until then.
I should also mention he and I lived at my parent's house until he was 4. Then we moved in with my boyfriend (who is not his biological dad, but my son calls him "Dad" and my boyfriend (now fiancee) tells everyone at his work and his friends stories about "his son". He gushes on and on about him and it's clear that in our situation blood means nothing). Next month will be 2 years that we've been living here with him.
So shortly after he started Kindergarten I started getting calls from the school. Joe was drawing "disturbing images" they said, though I asked to see them on 4 separate occasions and they never once produced a single one. They said he was swearing a lot, picking on other kids, and he seemed to have a morbid fascination with "dark things" and death. The year before I had lost 3 of my very close friends, including my very best friend of over 10 years and I thought maybe he was just trying to work out his confusion about death but the school didn't think that was it. Suffice to say I spent the next 2 months getting called into his school at least 2-3 times a week to talk about his behavior. Every time I would try to ask him what was going on he always blamed it on this boy in his class, let's call him Jimmy from here on out. Now I had been to several birthday parties, play dates and school functions and witnessed Jimmy's behavior and he truly was out of control. I've never seen a kid that young (started seeing it when he was 3 and in Joe's preschool class) be so cruel and mean to other kids. Once at one of Joe's birthday parties he destroyed Joe's birthday cake when nobody was looking, tried to shred a picture of Joe that was on our fridge and when I asked him to stop turning the light on and off he told me "You can't tell me what to do!" Where was his mom during this? Sitting in the living room chatting with other moms and telling them how she doesn't have "any restrictions at home for little Jimmy" and she allows him to "express himself any way he wants"

So, it wasn't too much of a stretch to think some of this had something to do with that kid, but at the same time I don't want to pass the blame onto someone else without being sure and the school did say Joseph was doing all this stuff.
Things started to get bad when Joe drew a picture of him shooting Jimmy (a picture I never saw, they "couldn't find it" every time I asked to see it. The school began to say things like "sometimes when a child is being abused he lashes out at other kids". It was really beginning to sound like they were trying to say they suspect my boyfriend of beating my son (even though he never has bruises and he has literally never been hit in his life). Which maybe would make more sense if the drawing was of him shooting his abuser, but him shooting a child that seemingly had nothing to do with the situation? Doesn't make much sense.
The behavior they were describing sounded like a completely different kid than the one I know. I honestly NEVER saw him behave this way and they told me it's possible he was doing it at school because he was too afraid to act out at home. They started talking about people coming out to our house to meet with us and I told them that would be fine. We had absolutely nothing to hide. We are a loving family, there is absolutely NO violence in this household, we don't allow Joe to watch anything beyond PG rated shows, we have dinner together every night and we spend a lot of time together. I was really beginning to resent the accusations.

One day the school made me come pick him up because they wouldn't put him on the bus because his "out of control behavior" was a danger to himself and others. They had me pick him up and told me to take him to the ER, which I did but he was pretty mellow. A crisis worker in the hospital sat down with Joe and talked to him for roughly an hour and told me it sounds to him like a bullying situation at school where Joe sees Jimmy do these behaviors and he mimics them (because he does copy. A LOT). When I told the school what the caseworker said I did not specify any kids name I simply referred to another child being a bully and Joe copying him and the school social worker replied "Do you mean Jimmy?"

So a couple social workers began coming out to the house. They would sit and talk to us every week, and talk to Joe and every time they would say things like "Wow, he really listens to you, huh?", "You seem to have everything under control" and "so...we're not exactly sure what to do from here. We aren't seeing the behavior we were told about"
Everything quieted down after that. The school stopped calling, except for a small bump in the road when my boyfriend proposed to me. My son got very upset and said things like ""You can't marry him! I want you to marry me!" and to this day he still doesn't grasp the concept that sons don't marry their mothers. He would say he loved his dad, but he wanted me to be with him instead. The social worker at the school felt it called for another meeting and said to me "You know you have to do what's best for your son even if it means not marrying someone." I fail to see how letting a 6 year old dictate who I can and cannot marry is best for anyone so we began to explain to Joe that when I got married it really wouldn't change anything. We'd still live there, still eat dinner together and life would be exactly the same we would just have a piece of paper saying we got married. We even plan on including him in the ceremony with unity sand or candles and he's going to walk me down the aisle instead of my dad. He has definitely come around to the idea.


CURRENTLY:
This year he started 1st grade, and that other boy Jimmy was transferred to another school. Joe has been playing with the boys that live next door (they don't go to his school) and they play with toy guns which I don't allow. So his school has been calling me all week saying he threatens to kill and shoot the other kids. She wants me to meet with some people and have social workers involved again but this time they'll observe his behavior at school since he doesn't do this stuff at home.

I had a talk with him and explained that it's wrong to talk that way to people, that it was scaring his classmates and that bullying is a very serious thing (which he remembered from last year). I told him that his school calls me and tells me when he gets in trouble so that's how I know what he's been doing. He promised he would stop and said "You won't get anymore calls" and so far I haven't. They still want to meet with me once a month though.

Honestly, my son can be cranky at times but the things they're saying he says and does I can't even imagine it. He is the sweetest, most polite little boy I know. He's so funny and bright and he has this way of making my heart melt on a daily basis. He will literally just come into the room just to say "Mom, I love you." He's the best! So I just can't figure out what is going on at school. I'm concerned that there's something bothering him that he's not talking about. He always seems so happy when he's with us. We're always trying to find fun things to do and make the most out of the times we're together, since we both work and he's in school all day. He loves spending time with his dad, they do science stuff together and learn about history and ancient artifacts and buildings.
His neurologist put me on a waiting list for him to go through the Developmental Center at Children's because he thinks his diagnosis now may be Aspergers.
I have an IEP meeting coming up on October 11th. Does anyone here have any insight or advice on any of this? Again sorry this was so long! Hopefully my future posts won't be.



DW_a_mom
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04 Oct 2011, 10:01 pm

I am concerned about what is going on with the other kids at school. Many ASD kids are quite naive, and easily manipulated by other children into bad behavior. He only does this there, so the trigger has to be there. Either he's being manipulated, is misunderstanding what it takes to be accepted, or is reacting to sensory overload.

I also think the school overreacts a little. Little boys play guns and killing. I am a total pacifist, was adamant about not letting my son play that way, but eventually I gave up. My son would never hurt anyone, everyone knows it, but he likes war games and is fascinated by weapons. He's a boy. Typical. He doesn't actually want to be in a war, and he doesn't actually want to handle a gun or knife; he just wants to pretend. Pretend is safe.

I also worry that the school remains convinced something is off in your home. I don't know how you shake that reputation once you've got it. We had that issue with my son's preschool and we only escaped by graduating out of the place. I did some playground observations and discovered that every incident with my child was provoked by another child, but since they only had eyes out for my child, they always thought it was him. It wasn't, but you can't fight that sort of perception.


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Mom to an amazing AS son, who recently graduated from the university (plus an also amazing non-AS daughter). Most likely part of the "Broader Autism Phenotype" (some traits).


JHenn
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05 Oct 2011, 12:37 am

I'm not really sure the school believes me that he doesn't do that stuff at home. They asked me if I ever make him clean up after himself and I said absolutely. He puts his plate in the sink after supper, brings all his toys back up to his room before bed and when his room gets messy I make him clean it, I don't do it for him. They said at school whenever they try to get him to do something he doesn't want to do he flips out, chokes himself, drops to the floor, screams and swears and threatens to shoot everybody. He has NEVER done anything like that in front of us. I don't really understand how these "experts" who have degrees in child education and know all the new up-to-date techniques of dealing with kids are saying he's unmanageable and insinuating there's something wrong with the way me and/or my partner are raising him yet I don't have any of these problems and he listens to us.



aann
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05 Oct 2011, 6:21 am

I think school got off to a really bad start with Jimmy and he needs help to turn it around. I would get a therapist who could work with him. That person will have to visit at home and at school first to see the difference, preferably observing the class in hiding. My son had a state psychologist visit his class and my son never knew he was being observed. Then she visited at home and he was as different as night and day. I think you should strongly persue help. This isn't good for your son and sounds like it will only get worse if no one helps him.



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05 Oct 2011, 7:54 am

I am also really concerned about what's happening at school. Can you arrange to spend a few volunteer days at the school observing? Or have a social worker, psychologist or OT do some school observation and report back to you? Something is going very wrong there, and you need to find out what it is.



aann
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05 Oct 2011, 8:27 am

At your IEP mtg, somehow you are going to have to give them the history like you did for us and point out all the people who agree that he is entirely different at home. He has a really problem which is only school related. Then move to the fact that you really need their help. You are not at school all day to help him address what is going on internally and externally. He needs one on one assistance. There is no way you can help him at all at home and he really needs a lot of help. God bless Jimmy's parents but they have really caused some damage. At this point you cannot let the school point home any more, even if that requires an attorney.
Unless of course you want to remove him from school and homeschool him. His behavior is completely correctable if he has a decent environment.



Ilka
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05 Oct 2011, 9:38 pm

Welcome to the club! Yes... the problems always start when they enter the school system. If I can give you a piece of advise: get your child out of tha school. Try to get one with small classrooms. Children with AS work better in small groups. And make sure the school knows about his Dx. It appears to me the school he is at is not good for him, and he was already "labeled", as well as your family. When my daughter was in kindergarden she had problems inside the classroom. She had a pretty unusual stim: she masturbated. Inside the classroom. In front of everybody. The teacher suggested my husband sexually abussed our child (obviously she did not say it directly). She also said a lot of lies about my child, including that my child inserted objects inside her body. I was so scared I took her to the doctor. The doctor said nothing of what the teacher said was true. Anyway the lies continued: that my child was hitting her classmates (she has never being violent), that she was hurting herself (she was playing that she was suffocating herself because she was copying a movie she watched on TV). I think they just did not want her there. We moved her to a different school and everything changed. But that school was very damaging for her. It took her years to recover from that bad experience.



JHenn
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05 Oct 2011, 11:55 pm

I would love a different school, but the one he's in is the only one in our town with a Special Ed classroom. His class is small, there's 4 Kindergarteners and 6 First Graders. The tables are seperated and the 2 grade levels are grouped together and work on different things. They definately know about his diagnosis, I just think whatever approach they're using isn't working on him and as another person said I can't step in from home. I lost my job earlier this year due to having to drop everything and go to the school almost every day. I was lucky enough to finally get another job a couple weeks ago and I don't want to lose this one too, but my son is my top priority and I don't want whatever's going on right now to cause lasting damage.