New mom on the block needs advice

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jaseysmommy
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14 Mar 2012, 12:58 pm

So here is what's been going on for the past three weeks in our lives.....
My son (Jason) who is nine has been in gifted since 1st grade. Before school he never went to pre-school he always was home with me. I have always been what most consider a "helicopter" mom..... meaning I hover. When he was small I was always there to step into any situation to say " ok kids let's talk about this, let's work this out". What I thought at the time was I was modeling how to deal with these situations. What I didn't realize was I was not allowing him to develop these skills on his own. So when he started school and he was a bit immature, not the best socially I always had an excuse.... "He's so smart the others can't relate to him" or "his a boy so this is why he's so immature" or "he's having social issues because I never allowed him to develop them on his own". So the first year of school was great with a wonderful teacher who saw how special my child is. Starting in 1st grade the trouble began. To make a very long story short the problems at school has come to a serious head three weeks ago. My child was making threats to others and himself. He got two days in school suspension. We saw a new doctor at USF (the of the best places where I live) and he was oked by her that he is not an immediate threat to himself or others. They did put him on a medication for a trial period. After a very long in take process, they told me he has ADHD and she believes he also has Asperser’s. He will be doing testing to confirm. She assures me while my hovering may have impacted him slightly, he is who he is no matter what I did when he was little.

The school wants to start a RTI data collection program and I have requested a 504 plan be started. Also do I need a child advocate?

I am worried because the boys in his class are mean and seem to take enjoyment in getting him in trouble and my poor boy doesn't realize this fact. And the teacher is now keeping a very close eye on my kid for any little thing.

The school will not move his class and the doctor supports this choice. She says my son needs to learn to adapt to these types of situations. It's just hard to think of my son feeling alone. I wanted him out of this class but what she said was there is always going to be these mean children and we (the teacher, myself, the school, the Drs) all need to help my son learn to cope with this. This is what she said she is talking about when she said "adapt". Its hard for me to deal with. I said if I were in a situation where I was getting teased or had no friends I would leave and when he is at school in class this is just not an option. But the dr said switching classes would send him the wrong message. I agree and disagree at the same time. I guess I would feel better about it if I knew for a fact the teacher is teaching the other children tolerance. But I hold onto there are 53 more school days in this year, and then we can regroup, reboot, attend social skill class and be on the medications all summer. I will be so in tune at the start of next year that at the first sign of trouble I will then make a choice about home schooling him without "sending him the wrong message".

Parents, In my same boat with an older child, even adult children please tell me this gets easier. Please tell me one day my sweet son will find others that will love him for who he is. He will find friends who take him into their circle.

I struggle with putting him on medication (for the past three weeks he has been on one and in six weeks they may put him on a second).

So what we have done over the past three weeks: Gotten him into see a new Doctor who prescribed medication and is monitoring him very closely, gotten him into bi-weekly one on one therapy to talk about his feelings and what is happening to him, gotten him into a weekly group social skills class and he continues to have play dates with a boy in the area who is also high functioning Asperser child.

Anyone have any thoughts or advice etc on medication?

My son has been on Intuniv for three weeks and the dr likes what she sees. She said when we come back for his follow up she wants to add Strattera.

Anyone have any personal experience with these?

We have also started a major behavior plan at school in addition to medication BTW. He is on a daily reward system with another weekly incentive. But at this point I am so happy for him to just get through each day. I just want him to get past this part and get him into adulthood where I hope it will be an easier path.

It will get better... right?



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14 Mar 2012, 1:02 pm

That's terrible, the teacher is actually defending bullying towards your kid? wow I think I would push the issue of getting him in a different class. This teacher should be keeping an eye on what these other kids are doing to provoke yours into resorting to such extremes. I mean I remember when I was a kid I had people who would try and set me off so I would get in trouble with the teacher and things like that.

And uhh well, I would like to say things for sure get better.......but though I don't agree with that teachers approach at all, reminds me of my past teachers who make things worse then they could have been for me. But it is true there always will be nasty people and horrible situations, though I think a better approach is helping your child learn skills that can help him rather then just letting him fend for himself in situations involving things like bullying like that teacher seems to think. So I think the other things your doing could be helpful......and it is up to you what you decide with the medication but I recommend being very careful about that as some medications can have negative side effects and even cause a lot of physical damage........and I personally just don't trust the drug companies.



jaseysmommy
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14 Mar 2012, 1:31 pm

Sweetleaf- thank you for your thoughts. What I have told my son is stick close to the teacher. He seems to have the most problems during his specials (like art class, PE class, Music class, library etc) and transition times like lunch etc. So sticking close to the teacher prevents the others from saying he started something when he is actually reacting. Plus it keeps him better engaged in whatever they are doing.

You said there were times when your past teachers could have made things a bit better for you. Can you give me a few examples of what might have worked for you? I know each situation is different but I want to try to make his school life better.

Over the past weeks doing some of the assignments from the social skills teacher I truly see how I personally take communicating with others for granted and how truly hard and what a struggle it is for my kid. A simply idea of how to join a conversation was almost an alien concept for him. BUT we are working on it and hopefully things will get easier.



Last edited by jaseysmommy on 14 Mar 2012, 1:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

bethaniej
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14 Mar 2012, 1:32 pm

I don't think your child should change classes yet. But I don't think bullying should be allowed either. In my own classroom, I keep a really tight handle on what's going on socially and if I hear something that I don't like, I monitor for a minute to see if the kids can come to their senses...but if they don't I help them. We have several "different" kids, so sometimes things happen and i do have to step in.

Talk to the teacher about helping the kids understand better about differences. It's hard, because on one hand there will always be mean people. That's just life. The gift is to learn to ignore mean people (I didn't have a problem with this because I simply ignored a lot of people altogether and read books instead...but my daughter really did, and when she was bullied...at first i told her to ignore it, read a book...draw....but eventually I could see how it was effecting her...she didn't want to ride the bus anymore...so I gave a note to the busdriver and it was delt with that very day. I even got a call from the bullies mom). I think there has to be a balance. Yes, kids will be mean, and some of that should be ignored. Like sometimes in my class I'll say, "if so and so call you dumb, and you aren't dumb, then you know they're lying to you."--That has to do with self perception, and it's important to have that strong sense of who you are, so you aren't as vulnerable. But real bullying needs to be handled...quickly. The teacher, any teacher, should know this.

So first, give it time...but do talk with the teacher. Meds. Hmmm. They are somewhat helpful for my daughter. She finds them helpful. She takes adderol. I find the side effects bothersome, but she swears by the help they bring her at school...even with "seeming more normal" because she's not saying everything that's on her mind. But intuiv and straterra are both for add. She just takes one med for it....will he be taking two at a time?

Good luck. I would observe things for a bit. See where this is going before you step in and do give him time to just adjust to things.



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14 Mar 2012, 4:17 pm

I would get him evaluated by a psychologist and ask his/her opinion on medication as psychologists sometimes have a different opinion than doctors (they are educated in "medicine", they are likely to provide it even when other solutions are possible)

I also think that you should be very critical if the teacher has a general attitude of "he will have to get used to this". That is, if she thinks that she can "teach" him out of his "shy behavior". If he has Asperger's he will never feel comfortable in a social group setting over longer amounts of time. What he needs is not her to push him, but protect him (after all you say that he already is at social skill training!). It sounds like you were doing a great job at this before, but now is starting to be influenced by this idea that he needs to be learned something. Trust your first instincts, they seemed great.

My general view on education



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14 Mar 2012, 5:53 pm

It is very sad that he is being medicated because he is different! It would be one thing if your post stated he was having trouble concentrating, etc and needed the meds to help with that but you are stating he is depressed and anxious because the kids are mean to him, don't accept him, and he feels alienated. Well I'd be depressed too! He is experiencing an expected reaction to his situation. I would think the solution would be to rectify the situation! I am a little tired of the line, life's tough, get used to it. He's going to have a tough time, yes, but why does it have to start now? School must be a safe place. He needs safety, acceptance, and the ability to learn without being bullied. If you cannot find that in that school, remove him.



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14 Mar 2012, 7:15 pm

jaseysmommy wrote:
Sweetleaf- thank you for your thoughts. What I have told my son is stick close to the teacher. He seems to have the most problems during his specials (like art class, PE class, Music class, library etc) and transition times like lunch etc. So sticking close to the teacher prevents the others from saying he started something when he is actually reacting. Plus it keeps him better engaged in whatever they are doing.

You said there were times when your past teachers could have made things a bit better for you. Can you give me a few examples of what might have worked for you? I know each situation is different but I want to try to make his school life better.

Over the past weeks doing some of the assignments from the social skills teacher I truly see how I personally take communicating with others for granted and how truly hard and what a struggle it is for my kid. A simply idea of how to join a conversation was almost an alien concept for him. BUT we are working on it and hopefully things will get easier.


Yes but what happens to the other kids if they try provoking him to 'react'? It just seems like from what you described he's being treated a little unfairly and the teacher is just laughing off the issues. Not really sure what would have helped me I just know when teachers singled me out and stuff like that it was not helpful or when they ignored or were in on the bullying.



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14 Mar 2012, 7:27 pm

If you don't mind, I'd like a bit more information before I give feedback.
What are the other children doing to target your son, and is there a pattern to it?
Are the threats your son is making general or specific? Are the threats in response to or defending himself from others?
What symptoms are the medications for: focussing, anxiety, etc?
What strategies were tried before the decision to medicate?
What strategies worked last year, and why are they no longer effective?

Please don't think I'm being pushy or judgmental, I'm just trying to fit all the pieces together.


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14 Mar 2012, 7:37 pm

Once diagnosed he should get an IEP which are accommodations.

Look, I do not know about the medication you mentioned. I am a 49 year old CPA who has Aspergers but I am very successful in life. My wife taught middle school with kids who had Aspergers. She was working on her Specialist degree in Autism (after she got her Master's). Then we adopted a baby, my idea and now she home schools my daughter.

My point, you have specific rights as a parent. School tend to violate those rights. PM me and I can put you in touch with my wife if that would help. She is 51 and taught most of her live and was more an advocate for the kids and their rights.

Having the Aspergers diagnosis is the prescription to get the school to corporate. Laws may vary, we are in GA.

Bill



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14 Mar 2012, 7:52 pm

My four kids are all NT, but I have AS. Of course back in the day, nobody knew about it and I was just "wierd". I was picked on a lot. My mother and grandmother hovered and kept going to teachers, the principal, other parents. etc when I was picked on. They also acted as if I was a fragile victim of the horrible other kids who were insensitive.

Yes, I was bullied and picked on. Yes, it was terrible up until I made friends and learned how to act from them in my early teens. However, my mother and grandmothers attitude and constantly being there to help or defend me made it much more difficult to learn anything. I had no reason to, as I felt that I was simply the victim and shouldn't change at all.

This is not to say that you shouldn't defend your child or help when you need to. The thing is, the difficult thing is, to find the line between normal every day kid behavior and the kind of behavior which will harm your child. All kids get picked on. All kids get bullied at one time or another. My kids, who are all NT's had to deal with it from time to time, as did their friends. I have yet to find a kid who hasn't. I would keep an eye on it and when it crosses the line, or becomes constant or the entire class (or most of the class) gangs up on your child, then it's time to step in.

Also, as unfair as it sounds, kids and adults both need to fit into society. That may mean changing certain behaviors. We can all be accepted for who we are even though we may change public behavior or appearance or actions to fit in. I would ask the teacher to tell you what behaviors your child has that are unusual or seem to call attention to him by the bullies or picker-oners. Then, I'd talk to him about changing them. We all have to make adjustments, and we all have to put up with a certain amount of flack in life. Many parents want to eliminate all picking on, teasing, bullying etc from their kids lives. That's normal. I'd have loved to do that too. However, by doing that it depreives the child of the chance to learn how to cope and defend themselves later in life. It's like a callous. At first it hurts but as time goes on it toughens up and it doesn't bother you anymore. I'm not saying to ignore all of it. I'm simply saying to allow your child to learn to deal with the normal amount of crap that kids get from other kids. If you are unsure of the amount, I'd suggest asking the teacher.

I wish I had had the chance to learn as a child rather than as a teenager. Life would have been so much better for me.


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14 Mar 2012, 7:56 pm

I think its important that the bullies change their bullying behavior.....its not just the responsibility of someone with autism to correct every abnormal behavior they have to avoid being picked on. Someone with autism should learn about what behaviors they have that might hurt other people and work on those........but bottom line is picking on someone for being different is wrong.



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14 Mar 2012, 8:32 pm

Rest assured that your son can grow up, go to college, be successful and have many friends.

I would also recommend reading "The Complete Guide To Aspergers Syndrome" by Tony Attwood. Also the books by Temple Grandin are wonderful. And so is the movie. Of course she has Autism but there are simiarities.

I have been reading so many books on Aspergers. It is really enlightening. Tony's book is great at your age and describe lots of information about your child at his age. And it is an easy read, and meant for common folk to read. Check it out on Amazon. Another good book is Pretending to be Normal by Liane Holiday Willey. There are many, also check out Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison. He has two great books.

What you can do for you're son is read the books, and you will understand him better and what he experiences. And why he will never tell you he is bullied at school. All the answers are there.

Your sons sounds like me, very intelligence but lacking terrible in social skills. There is light at the end of the tunnel, albeit a very long tunnel.

B



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14 Mar 2012, 8:55 pm

Here is my wife's response. I am sure it means a lot as she worked in the field. (below)

Wow. This is a lot or a mom to deal with all at once. The diagnosis of Asperger's (which I realize is not formal yet) is never easy. It means that some things will probably NEVER be easy for your son. On the other hand, may I give you some hope? I was a public school teacher for 20 years, two of which were spent working with students with Asperger's Syndrome in the middle school setting. I now homeschool my own first grader.

1. While it is hard to deal with, the doctor's and the school may be right for now. With most of the year over, it probably would not be a good idea for your son to move classes. Adapting to change is difficult for most kids, but can be even more difficult for those with Asperger's.

2. Check into what type of special programs your school system has for kids with AS. In the county where I taught, they have a variety of options for kids -- mostly involving behavioral support (social skills training, a resource room to retreat to for a break if things get too overwhelming, etc.). This doesn't mean special ed for those with impaired intellectual ability -- most people with AS are actually in the gifted range. It means looking at the very real issues that may affect your son, and giving him the skills to work with them.

3. While AS cannot (at this time, anyway) be cured, it can be mitigated. It sounds like you are doing a great job of getting him some resources and services quickly. Great job!

4. A parent advocate is not an absolute necessity, but can certainly be helpful. I don't know if you are in public or private school. An advocate should have a working knowledge of your state and district's policies, and is a good moral support. Many school systems don't want to acknowledge Asperger's and other differences because they require the school to expend a good deal of time, energy, and money on providing the helps that make school a successful place.

5. Homeschool can be a great alternative for the future if you need it. My sister-in-law began homeschooling both her boys when the younger on showed indications of Asperger's Syndrome. They participate in a number of homeschool activities, so he has learned to fit in reasonably well socially without being overwhelmed with the necessity to be in large groups all the time.

6. Life does get better. I have now been married for 22 years to a man we just recently realized probably has Asperger's Syndrome. (And don't worry that you didn't see it in your son right away -- I did a specialist's degree and worked with people with AS, and still missed it in him for almost 7 more years!) He had a VERY difficult time with school growing up, and went through a number of mis-diagnoses for the issues that made everyday life seem a living Hell for him. Today, without ever having known just what made him different, he has made amazing accommodations on his own. He is a successful accountant, who managed to graduate from college with even more success than most of his peers. He is a wonderful father and husband. While I know there a still a number of issues that are more difficult for him (like figuring out other people!) than for most of us (which is why we finally looked into on-line assessments for Asperger's), I would say that he lives a happy, fulfilling life and is a definite asset to society.

I will pray for you and your family. Hang in there. You are taking the right steps. If things continue to deteriorate at school this year, go with you instincts. That's why you're the mom. YES, he will need to learn to live in the world, since none of us have any alternative to it right now. Still, it may be that he needs to make his adjustments in stages, and with support. Don't put him in a glass bubble -- even if he gets an AS diagnosis, let him live (which sometimes means getting hurt), but let him know that you will continue to be there to catch him if/when he falls. Let him continue to know, too, that he is a wonderful, unique guy, just the way he is.



jaseysmommy
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14 Mar 2012, 10:04 pm

First let me say thank you for all the wonderful input. I finally feel like someone understands me, my son and what we and more importantly what he is going through. So thank you and keep your thoughts coming.

Also let me say we have had issues socially for the past two years what brought this to a head at school now is Jason taking it to the next level. And I feel somewhat guilty for my part I have in it.

So what I mean by this is when these boys in the past have picked on him his reaction is what they have loved. Jason goes from zero to ten in moments and his ten in the past was to cry and get hysterical. My advice to him has been a few things because I don't want him labeled as a crybaby or a tattle tale (I have made it clear he is to always tell if anyone threaten to or actually touches him) but we have talked about different things he can do when the boys are doing something he doesn't like other then to cry or to tell. This has been to squeeze a ball in his pocket, walk away, change the subject and other things. We have tried having him bring card games he is good at to recess to have the boys join in with him. etc. to help take the focus off Jason’s awkwardness.

What sets Jason off can be anything from the boys not following the rules exactly as the rule book states, not building a Lego machine how he thinks it should be built, not executing a science experience the ways he wants etc. He has a huge problem working in a small group at science time when experiments are being done. I try to explain when he is working alone he is in total control on how a project is run but in a group setting everyone deserves the right to offer input and test theories even if that means Jason has to know in his own mind that theory will fail. This is a concept he almost is incapable of grasping but in a school setting unavoidable.

So what has changed recently is he has transitioned from dealing with the boys and situations from crying to anger. In the group setting the teacher is at least there to help facilitate the situation but at recess or other transition times like lunch he is on his own.

so a few questions that have been asked:

*What are the other children doing to target your son, and is there a pattern to it? What the boys do directly or at least most recently is they "rank" one another military style. So guess who is always the grunt solider? And all the other ranks have the "right" to boss him around. The teacher tells him not to play if it is not the game he likes but according to my son all the other boys at recess are playing kickball or football which neither work for my kid. And he doesn't want to play with the girls. And he doesn’t want to be alone.

*Are the threats your son is making general or specific? The threats he made that got him in trouble were "if you don't stop ranking me I'm going to stab you in the heart".
*Are the threats in response to or defending himself from others? I think they were a react to being completely frustrated as to how to get them to play with him instead of having him as their "grunt".

*What symptoms are the medications for: focusing, anxiety, etc? The first medication is suppose to be for being impulsive. Thinking before he speaks and acts, giving him a filter. For example after two day in school suspension for the threat of stabbing the kid in the heart. The next day in class he made stabbing motions and laughing at the kid. (Now my son says the boy did it first so Jason thought it was a game. The teacher says she only saw my son and the other boy says he didn’t do it. BUT my kid is not a liar but I could not prove it.) This is why I told him to stay close to the teacher. The boys can not say he did something if he is right by her side.
The second medication is suppose to help with focus.

*What strategies were tried before the decision to medicate? We were trying weekly and monthly reward programs. We were also doing bi-weekly therapy. That therapist was more concerned with me and what I was doing vs. giving Jason tools to cope and deal with situations. We are seeing someone else. Someone that has been suggested to us for Jason’s specific problems.

*What strategies worked last year, and why are they no longer effective? I think it is a different situation. The only one getting hurt was my child and his feelings so the school was less concerned. Now that he has threatened others they are all ears.


I feel like I want to be fair..... I know my child isn't an angel. He truly does make it hard for others to like him. He speaks loud, has no concept of personal space, he thinks he is smarter then everyone including the teacher and will tell you as much, has no concept of rudeness (he tells total strangers on the street to stop smoking because the second hand smoke will kill not only them but him), he has reached out without asking to touch a friend of mine's nine month pregnant belly to see if he could feel the baby move. He has told my father in law who is 80 yrs old that he is old and biologically his death is near, he has told me that I should eat right because I am overweight (even though he knows I diet all the time and very sensitive). He just doesn’t get he can and is hurting someone’s feelings and everything is always happening TO him. He rarely will take any responsibility for his role in the problem. BUT that is who he is. He is honest and true and just because he say things others are thinking he is thought of as different and makes others uncomfortable.

So that is more of a picture of my child. Good or bad I love him and I want others to love him but most important I want him to feel loved and accepted by his peers.

I do not feel like anyone is being pushy or judgmental, I want as much help and knowledge and experience as I can get.



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15 Mar 2012, 8:20 pm

I'm going to try to focus on being positive. Also, please remember that I don't have first hand knowledge of you, your son, or the school, so of my advice is way way off I'm probably misreading the situation.

1. It doesn't help for you to develop hostile relations with the school. First try to sweet talk them and work "with" them. If you wind up being labelled as a pushy parent, they may be disinclined to take you as seriously in the future.

2. It sounds like you are aware of your son's limitations and you are doing a lot to work with him on overcoming these challenges. Go to the school and tell the teachers, lunch aids, and recess staff that you are aware J has x.y.z. problems. Request that they handle the problems in (script of your choice) fashion because you hope having uniform responses will help him learn effective strategies.

3. See if the school has a social worker or staff member who provides peer groups and or social skills training. Hopefully then he'll have a trained person o pn hand to teach him how to deal with these situations.

4. Get creative about the ranks game. If he's grunt, have him decide another person is sub-grunt. Maybe see if there is a way for them to alternate the way in which ranks are done. Whatever happened to drawing straws? My general advice is to help him find a humorous alternative. Both my kids are girls, so I have no concrete suggestions on now to handle militaty games.

5. He can not directly threaten to stab a kid. Just by his saying this, the teacher is required to write it up or take some type of action. Let him know that. It is entirely possible that the other kids are setting him up to say things that they know will he'll get in trouble for.

6. Have him walk away when he feels the need to lash out. Walking away won't get him in trouble. Also, ask the school how they would like for him to handle the situation. I'm actually pretty curious as to what their advice would be.

7. Check to see that the meds are having their intended effect. Also, check to see of any of them it's irritability as a side effect. Medicating kids, from what I gather, is trickier than adults as smaller bodies don't always process the medication correctly.

I wish you the best of luck. It can be frustrating to deal with these things. Too many variables. Stay away from the word bullying. Different people seem to have different definitions for it. Some people think it implies minor teasing, and others think it must indicate aggressive harassment. You want to make sure that everyone is on the same page as far as the severity of the situation.


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