Sunday, September 27, 2009

Three Weeks In

When we concluded Andy's eligibility meeting, we already set a date for returning to eligibility. We had a psychiatrist who was so sure he needed an IEP to address his focus, hyperactivity, and sensory issues that she wrote a letter on the spot and lectured me about how I needed to get him in the system and how had I let him go this long without intervention? We had OT recommendations based on the work done with him for two years, with strategies to help him focus and remain on-task and self-regulate. And we had a first-year teacher who said he was just fine. The school psychologist thought he was just fine. The guidance counselor did not. I'm still working on the letter where we note that a gifted student who scores "normal" is having educational performance issues. But I digress.

We are three weeks in. Andy has been behaving himself at school. No timeouts. Treasure Box every three days, right on schedule. I went to the school picnic, and he sat outside in the midst of the kids and actually ate food without getting up once (though he did cling and insist on being hugged tightly). We have had all good days, sunshine, roses, and fun.

Well, at school, anyway.

Once home, we have to be doing very physical activities, or he starts in on Joey. Since I don't want Joey to become a technicolor display of shades of purple, fading to yellow, I have been getting that physicality channeled as best I can. Trucks, trampolines, running, jumping. Homework is a neat trick. We had one good day. The rest have been like asking him to stick bamboo under his fingernails, with level 5 meltdowns. I cleared my kitchen table to be sure they had space to do work, and put together a "homework kit" so I have everything we might need close to hand (crayons, pencils, glue, paper, sharpener...) because sitting down to do the work is bad enough; if they have to be put off while I find the crayons or the pencil sharpener, I might as well forget it. I have also discovered I sometimes need to have things for Joey to do, as he often doesn't have homework (he does it at school while waiting for the bus). You just never know.

Then we work on winding down, except Tuesday, when we have speech therapy for Joey. Then we have to go see Ms. Leslie. OT is on hold right now. For Joey, social skills groups don't start for another week, and our therapist is now only in Stafford, and we can't just schedule him through her any more, we have to go through the receptionist, and the less said about that the better. Let's just say I know I owe them money, but I have no idea how much, because the bills make no sense whatsoever, and when I ask about it she "sends me the ledger" which makes even less sense, and still doesn't total up what I actually owe. I've never had a medical place who couldn't tell me what I actually owe, or have it in big letters on the bottom of the statement (ie, WRITE THE CHECK FOR THIS MUCH AND WE'RE ALL GOOD.) She keeps telling me the number on this bill is that, but it doesn't match up with the payments I've made, and I now know from experience that I usually actually owe them more than this says I owe, for reasons beyond me. And the bill for Andy from them makes even less sense.

But hey, he's doing fine at school. Everything is peachy. I bet we get to the meeting on the 8th and get told he's just fine, nothing to see here. Then what do I do? Whenever I mention that we are having increased problems at home, they all smile and say things like, "well, kids need to unwind some time!" and "oh, what kid likes homework?"

I was unaware that most kids screamed, hit you, and ran off when you asked them to sit and do a coloring page from school, or trace their name. Nor was I aware that this was "unwinding." Do all kids become violent, aggressive, and hoardy when they get home from school? I mean, the trying to eat me out of house and home I understand. The wanting to watch TV, I get that. Even the pushing the trucks or jumping on the trampoline, fine. Even the whining about and lashing out at the brother. But is the Witching Hour really so universal? Is this normal, and I just suck as a parent?

I am pondering what to do when I get told he is doing just fine and wonderful and get those looks of "what's wrong with you, Lady? You just wanted somethin' fer nuthin' and to abuse the system!" Should I cancel the psychiatrist appointment? I mean, why medicate him or anything like that if he's doing so fine and this is all normal? Should I put him more OT, if he's doing just fine at school and they don't think he needs service? After all, the insurance is being weird about paying (or more precisely, NOT paying). I could put that money toward more speech therapy or OT for Joey, or put Andy into nature classes through the rec center or something like that. They have drawing classes for his age group on Wednesday nights, or painting on Thursdays.

And then there is Joey. Talk about Anxiety Mess. The barking is really causing trouble. I went to his picnic, too. He was with a different teacher than i was told he was eating lunch with, and then this teacher told me he'd be having math and core with her, but I was told he was doing that with someone else. Have they changed him again? In a sea of kids, he was eating alone. If I hadn't been there, it would have been completely alone- even his friend D sat with his back to him. The other kids clearly were unused to Joey, and comments like "he's the strange kid that barks" could be plainly heard (and were repeated that afternoon after school). Being a dog also means he is getting those teeth out and in trouble more. He likes to bite my shirt. He got upset about some toys this morning, and when JoeyAndyDad tried to hug him and help calm him down, Joey bit him so hard there's a bruise (which then progressed into a Level 8). The sibling thing isn't helping. Andy tries to get him to play, and he doesn't want to play, so Andy pokes him or hits him, so he hits or bites Andy, who of course slugs him back... you get the picture. Trying to keep them separated is a real trick, because despite all that, they love each other and want to see each other (its a sibling thing). Getting in the car is an adventure in screaming and the back-and-forth beating on each other. Not good for the nerves of a child who is having school stress, too.

I'm glad we got to the fair. Yes, there is stress in being out of schedule, and the long ride, and all the excitement. We had Andy crying because the barns were dark and the midway was loud (complete with hands clamped over ears). We had Joey nervous about the ride he got on last year and didn't like (which, just to note, was not there this year). But there was also rabbits, ducks, chickens, turkeys, geese (or as Andy insisted, giant ducks), cows, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, pumpkins, gourds, crafts, games, and rides. Oh, and ice cream.

I just don't think its normal to declare a victory when you can distract your kids for almost an hour by having one do a simple scratch-through craft and getting the other one a new book about his latest obsession, before they start in on the screaming, biting, hitting, and more screaming (not squealing or just running around playing loudly- screaming). Is it?

This week, I'm planning on getting out the pirate stuff, and see if I can't get that explosive energy at least channeled.


Niksmom said...

Wishing I had something concrete to offer. have you seen this latest from Wrightslaw's Special Ed Advocate? DEFINITELY worth a read.

Scroll down to the resources link. 2e: Twice Exceptional Newsletter.

Stimey said...

Blerg. It is so hard when you don't know what to do to help them. And when the school sees them doing well, they have a hard time seeing underlying issues.

As for after school, if it helps, Sam freaks out every day when he gets off the bus. But he is able to calm down usually by the time we get home He just has to unload on my first.

That part about Joey sitting by himself breaks my heart. I so get that pain of being a mom and watching your kid be by himself and different.

Hang in there, and know that you are the best mom for those kids, bar none. You will find what they need. You will keep an eye on them and keep fighting for what they need because you are a great mom.


SRR said...

I think it is a bad idea to have homework for kids Andy's age, ADHD or not. In my opinion kids that age are not biologically designed to be in structured settings such as school for long periods of time. And then to expect them to be settled enough to do homework is unrealistic.

Chromesthesia said...

yet another aspect of school I don't miss.

Sadderbutwisergirl said...

I know from experience that school can be really stressful. I am in high school and after a day of sitting still in classrooms, navigating hallways, a noisy cafeteria, and a loud bus ride, I have no energy for homework right away. I assume that Joey is in elementary school and if so, he has less stress factors than I do, but still enough to make him stressed out. After I get home from school, I always have a snack along with a cup of coffee, milk, or tea before starting my homework. While I wouldn't recommend a caffeinated beverage for your son if he is indeed elemenary school aged, I would recommend integrating a snack into his after-school routine before homework. It would give him something to look forward to when he gets home, a period of time to unwind in a positive way, and more energy for homework.

Joeymom said...

Good advice, SBWG, and w do have a snack first, a protein and a carb with a drink. (Yes, I'm a bit of a food fanatic, because we are having opposite weight issues [Joey is overweight and Andy is underweight] and we have a family history of diabetes.) Getting Andy to eat can be an issue, and they cannot both eat the same foods- what would be too many calories for Joey is not enough calories for Andy. We're also hampered by Andy's food issues (he doesn't eat bread, noodles, or cookies for example).

Unwinding is the problem. Once that begins, homework is out of the question. The Level 3 Meltdown of trying to do it right after trucks and snack is far better than the Level 7 we were getting if I try to let them do something else after trucks and snack. And the rainy day, when there was no trucks, was a disaster.

Andy's bus now comes first, and I was hoping that would improve things, since we can get home and bounce and eat before Joey gets home (when we push our trucks or jump and then eat some more), but no. One glance at the coloring page in the bookbag sent him screaming away from me.

As for the structure, SRR, my kids thrive on it. Part of the home problem is the relaxation of structure. Structure creates predictability, and predictability allows my kids to think ahead and know what is expected of them. Some kids need less structure, and some need more. Our school has something like 18 kindergarten classes, so that they can fit kids into rooms with varying styles and structure levels, and get them a good fit. :)