Elementary School Advice Please

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SocOfAutism
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13 Sep 2021, 8:05 am

My son is 7. He has ADHD, anxiety, and sensory processing disorder. He also has rough and bumpy skin, which usually is a minor issue. And he is gifted, which also is usually not a big deal one way or another.

It seems like now in the second grade he is being sensory assaulted every day with sing-song BS and ridiculous compliance rules. Like for example, he says he can't draw when the teacher is talking. Is that a normal rule? He is not drinking all day and no one reminds him to keep his water bottle with him. He has ADHD and does not remember that kind of thing. In contrast, in his martial arts class the teacher will say, "It's time to get a drink" and all the kids go to their cubbies and get a drink from their bottles. So he does as well. And with the "Covid rules" he has been denied many of his sensory accommodations. No quiet places anymore. Not even visually quiet corner.

The school had me keep him home for a few days while they got a permission form to give him his anxiety medicine at school. They gave me 26 pages of work for him to do over those two days. It seemed like an excessive amount to me, but the work itself was mind-numbing. The hardest thing on there was odds and evens and I had taught him to do that in an hour over the Summer. The words he was supposed to "learn" were words he learned two years ago. Words like "with." If he can hang in there another 6 months he can qualify for gifted work, likely with a couple of his friends. If he can hang in all year he can qualify to get into a different school for gifted kids where different thinking is valued and it's a team atmosphere.

He has been picking his skin and his cuticles since school began. I have been having to band aid him every morning and evening. I have been seriously talking to him about it and may have to take him in to a counselor to talk about it further. I may see if I can find a counselor who can help him try to meditate or use mindfulness. I don't know. He is also not eating enough. The people in my family run to fat (as does he) and about half of the people in my family have had eating disorders. I am very concerned that he is turning to self harm to gain a sense of control. But with his age and anxiety it is hard to address.

I know home schooling is an obvious answer. I can do that. I did it with him before. But I have a neurological disorder and my health declined quite a bit when I had to teach him AND do my regular other home duties. He has friends at school I don't want him to lose and I also want him to learn these lessons of getting through tough things now instead of learning the lessons for the first time in his twenties. I don't want him to miss out on the gifted program, which could be a lot of fun for him. It could introduce him to subjects that he would otherwise never know he would be good at.

Any thoughts or suggestions would be most welcome. I especially would like to know what is supposed to be going on in the lower grades these days. How much work are they supposed to have and how hard is the work supposed to be? What should I say when I talk to the school?

Thanks for reading.



DW_a_mom
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13 Sep 2021, 5:39 pm

After running different thoughts through my mind, I'm leaning towards asking for a meeting with his IEP team, if you think you can handle that. If you request the meeting you should be able to control the agenda more than you usually can, although it will always be intimidating to face a professional team that has their own ideas and goals. But if your sense has been the IEP team does actually WANT to be on your son's side, it will be worth a try.

Reality seems to be that in this unique world that is inside a pandemic everything you set up before no longer applies, and new solutions will need to be brainstormed.

I think workload modifications are in order, to start with. I used to be able to sign off on my son's homework when I felt he had done enough, no questions asked. Sometimes it was just too stressful a day; sometimes I felt he had mastered the concepts. Either way, they knew I wanted my son to learn and not fall behind, and they agreed to trust my judgement on how to best handle homework issues. I think having that power would be helpful to you.

I don't think you will get the school to remind him to drink, but you might be able to get them to accept some kind of alarm or reminder that he keeps at his desk. Definitely keep it on the list of what to brainstorm with them.

Also worth discussing are new ideas on how to obtain sensory breaks. Can he go to a designated outdoor spot within site of the classroom or the school office? Can he sit directly out the classroom door? Again, brainstorm new solutions.

I wish you luck. I can't even begin to imagine what it is like to navigate the pandemic world, ASD, ADHD and other comorbids all at the same time.


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Fenn
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13 Sep 2021, 5:58 pm

Is you son in public school or private school?


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SocOfAutism
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14 Sep 2021, 5:22 am

DW - I have requested a meeting. Very good suggestions. One of those things you suggested was actually something he had before as an unofficial accommodation, that I was never officially made aware of. His last teacher and I became friendly and she recently told me she had been letting him sit just outside the door and do his work while she sat in the doorway. She said it seemed to relieve him greatly, but she "got in trouble" for doing that for some reason and that is why I never heard about it. Since no one ever told me officially, I will ask if something like that is possible and if not, why not. I really don't understand why everyone would need to be on top of everyone else if we are supposed to all be germ conscious.

Fenn-He is in public school. We have a private school option which would be pretty wonderful for him. It is basically montessori- at the kids' pace, hippy-oriented, community-service-oriented, teaches practical skills like baking, canoeing, gardening along with the traditional stuff. But it costs $900/month and there is no trial period. If you withdraw early you have to keep paying until the end of the year. We would need to alter our lifestyle to afford that. It would mean no second bathroom next year, no tree removal the year after, it would have meant no new roof this year. It is on the table at this point, but we would like to exhaust our free options first.



Fenn
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14 Sep 2021, 6:18 am

I went to an extended Montessori school when I was young - it was first to 6th grade.
We visited a local Montessori school for our oldest. I wanted to sit down and never leave. But we couldn't afford it.
The good thing about public school (in the U.S.of A) is they have to comply with FAPE - Free Appropriate Public Education. They will also create an IEP - keep pushing for the "I" as in Individual. The down side is while they have these things they only have the people who are there and thy are probably not experts on what your son needs - but they will try to convince you that they know better than you. The other down side (and this is true of private schools too) they have limited funds and personnel - and there is somebody counting the beans who will try to give each kid as little as possible so there is more for the rest of the kids - or just because they think that is the job. The student / teacher ratio at a public school is usually not as good as a private school - particularly a really good true Montessori school (some that use the name aren't really using Montessori methods or people trained in Montessori methods). Public schools have to comply with the 504 law. Private schools do not unless they take Federal funds.

I am a member of a 2E (Twice Exceptional, for example Gifted and Autistic) list-serv (kind of like what they had as forums before there was forums). It is a kind of like a group-chat-email thing.

https://www.gtworld.org/gtspeclist.html

A couple more links:

https://www.hoagiesgifted.org/eric/gifted.html
https://www.wrightslaw.com/

two books that helped me a lot with IEP meetings

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Wi ... nce_People
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_7_Hab ... ive_People

Plus - go together. If you are married, go as mom and dad - if not find a friend who will go with you - or a member of the PTA - or hire an advocate or expert who is willing to go to the meetings. It seems to really confuse them when you go together and it is harder for them to gang up on you.
When you son gets old enough bring him too.


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Last edited by Fenn on 14 Sep 2021, 7:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

SocOfAutism
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14 Sep 2021, 7:27 am

Fenn- Thank you! I am looking up those links right now. I was so lost yesterday looking up things and coming up empty.

He does already have an IEP, but I don't think he is receiving his accommodations due to "Covid restrictions." In my email to the school I mentioned this and told them we need to discuss what is actually practical and come up with an alternate plan if what he was supposed to have is not possible right now.



Fenn
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14 Sep 2021, 7:30 am

I just added a few more links to my previous post - didn't see you reply.
Hang in there - it is a marathon, not a sprint.


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DW_a_mom
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14 Sep 2021, 4:47 pm

Wishing you the best of luck, SocOfAutism. It sounds like you have a good handle on it. As Fenn wisely noted, it is a marathon, not a sprint.


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timf
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15 Sep 2021, 6:59 am

Since it sounds like you are just trying to buy time, you night see what you can provide him to survive the boredom of school. If he is not allowed to draw, you might consider giving him things for stimming. If you gave him a key chain with different objects he might explore tactile stimulation in his pocket unobserved by his teacher.

You might also get him to pass the school time inventing stories in his head (also something a teacher cannot observe). When he gets home he could write them down or share them with you.

if there is anything useful in the class (like a world map) you can suggest your son memorize as much as possible and share it with you when he gets home.

You can also suggest he make observations of his classmates such as what they wear or say and what aspects of their character he can observe.

It is like your son is in prison, and you want to help him survive until parole.



SocOfAutism
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15 Sep 2021, 7:36 am

Fenn- Ah...these are two of my favorite books... :D :D :D

I brought my two Dale Carnegies up from the basement last week and tried to discuss them with my son. His eyes glazed over. I think I will need to repackage the content to make sense to him. But it would be worth the trouble. Now that you are seconding my thought I will bring the Carnegies back up and Covey as well.

Off topic- My niece's boyfriend works for a book reseller. He says Covey is so widespread that it has zero resell value. I suppose that says a lot.

I did want my husband to come to the meeting (Friday 9/17). He says he prefers not to. My husband is autistic and I am not, but I can have a flat affect when I am emotional. He often loses his temper about all this. I am spending today and tomorrow preparing with the Virginia Standards of Learning, my son's diagnoses, his existing IEPs, the Individuals with Disabilities Act, his grades and IQ testing, and anything else pertinent I can find. And then on Friday I will start out friendly with polite questions and open ears. The information you provided is helping a great deal.

Timf - My husband recommended a "pretend you are in a video game" game to our son to do when he is at school. He gave him a couple of stim toys that are like video game controllers. If you push the buttons like *I* would, they are pretty silent, but if you mash them with all your might (he does), it's loud. So the teacher only allows him to push some of the buttons. He is able to do much better work if he is allowed to make more annoying sounds, I have noticed. But I need to find more silent stim toys. Variety is what is lacking here, I guess.

His short term memory is very bad, so he is pretty impaired in telling me anything when he gets home from school. We keep giving him little books to write in, thinking it will help him build his memory, but he doesn't remember to get out the books. I am now thinking maybe I could ask the school to let him have visual charts on his desk to remind him to do some of these things. He can read really well, so he can just have lists.



DW_a_mom
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15 Sep 2021, 3:52 pm

I forgot about the drawing. My ADHD daughter honestly pays better attention if she is drawing while someone is talking. In a similar vein, I always needed to take notes to stay engaged. I worry the other alternatives take his mind out of class too much, so maybe that is the sales pitch to put drawing on table as an accommodation. They have to make a choice: you keep helping develop quiet diversion strategies that may keep him from fully paying attention, or they allow him to draw knowing it will probably increase his ability to actually pay attention.


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SocOfAutism
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16 Sep 2021, 10:25 am

I cannot thank you guys enough for the help in this thread. For years, WP has been the place I go to first when I need help and advice. There isn't a better community on Earth for kind and diverse thoughts and recommendations.

I have decided to pull my son back out to homeschool him (again) AFTER the meeting tomorrow morning. I still want to see what his physical environment has been in there and I want to get the results of some recent MAP testing I know they gave him.

I've been looking at the data online from the 2019 and 2020 PALS and SOL results and also looking through what I have from my son's records. The kids in Virginia have had a rapid decline in test scores. The older kids lost about two years worth of math knowledge in 2020 alone and plateaued in reading knowledge for all of 2020. About 30% of the younger kids are now at "significant" risk of not learning how to read in what most of us would recognize as literacy. It is much, much worse than I thought, and I would bet money it is also worse than what most of you think. I have sources if anyone is interested in digging through.

I could not tell you what the problem is- but from the raw numbers I can tell you that it is bad. The schools are going to have to come up with a new way to do things because they will not recover unless they do. And I don't think there will be a lot of resources going to gifted education. All the money and attention I saw was going toward learning loss.

I am going to get a structured homeschool course this time around to help me out so it's not taking so much of my energy. I want my son to have the opportunity to be introduced to things I don't know about that he may be good at or interested in. I'll be checking that stuff out today.

Thank you again you guys.



SocOfAutism
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20 Sep 2021, 8:15 am

**Update for those interested**

I have not pulled him out yet. We did purchase a full course load from Acellus, which is an accredited online private school, which we will either go ahead with, or taper back to use as a supplement if things work out with his school.

Basically, I went in to the meeting and I ended up being in there for two hours with the principal and special ed teacher. The home room teacher didn't stay very long and denied being mean to him, but also admitted being ignorant of sensory differences. The principal got teary eyed and begged me not to take my son out. They swore up and down that "80-90%" of his day was positive and he is just focused on the small part where he has trouble. The principal says her entire career before she became a principal was in special education. She did seem knowledgeable about people with different abilities and experiences. They said he is very popular at school with the other kids and the adults. They said two of the teachers aides spent two hours gathering acorns one day and dropping them in his path so he could find them because they changed where he walked and they didn't want him to miss getting to gather acorns by his favorite tree. I was taken aback by how much they wanted him to stay. So we're giving them another week to see how things go.

We got him more expensive headphones, a better music player, and a fanny pack so he can keep them and his stim toys on him at all times. We got him a better lunch box and I packed gloves, wet wipes, dry paper towels, and 100% disposable snacks and a drink so he can eat and drink and clean up without touching anything gross.

His first grade teacher called me last night and asked what happened. She gave me a few more tidbits about the gifted program from later on in the year and next year. It sounded like she was saying that he is one of the few kids who tested with very high ability and also consistently high grades. But she says the teacher also has to recommend each kid for gifted services. So it is important to be nice to this current teacher if we want him to be in the other program.

So we'll see. It's just all surprising and confusing me quite a bit. I wish he was able to remember and describe his day better to me when he gets home in the afternoon.



kraftiekortie
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20 Sep 2021, 10:25 am

Sounds like your son is in a pretty good situation, over all.



SocOfAutism
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20 Sep 2021, 2:24 pm

Or not, Kraftie. Whoever said to bring my husband with me was dead on. I needed a set of aspie-eyes to break down the situation, evidently, because those people were lying to me. I don't know why, but they were.

He came home today and had not drank anything all day and ate only a handful of chips. He was not allowed to go to recess because he refused to go back to his classroom. He was in trouble for stimming, spinning, and vocalizing and "refused" to clean up his desk while in this freaked out state. Like what the holy h*ll??? So he spent the entire day in the principal's office.

The teacher sent me this BS note that said he was in the office to have a "quiet space." But she messed up and wrote her part of the note like it was the end of the day and then someone else wrote something on the bottom part of the page and noted that it was early morning. What kind of an idiot do these people think I am?

What really confuses me is why didn't they just let me take him out? If he's such a problem why not let him go? I just don't understand. But he's not going back. And I'm utterly disgusted.



DW_a_mom
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20 Sep 2021, 4:40 pm

Wow, sorry that it spinned so negatively so quickly. Your instinct had gotten you to feeling homeschool would be better. Stick with your instinct.


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