Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Operation 504 Plan: A success ... ?

In that we have one. Or we will once we sign off on it (there's one more thing I want added). And after we show it to kiddo's behavioral therapist for her opinion, in case there's anything we're missing. So we're sort of done, kind of not really.

But the meeting went well. The coordinator was open to whatever we suggested (preferential seating, classwork breaks, letting him stand up while working if needed) and had her own suggestions (provide a timer for him, rig a large stretchy band around his chair to help with the fidgets). She said what we came up with was a pretty standard 504 plan, and we could always add to it or adjust it as needed. So all seems promising.

I also checked with his occupational therapist, who suggested we wait a few weeks for him to settle in before looking for further input. She also said she thought he would "rise to the occasion" and be more or less OK.

I do think the extra things we did with him this summer -- keeping him home with a nanny, twice-a-week OT sessions -- helped out. He got a lot more one-on-one time, he hung out with buddies at the pool, he got swimming lessons and he's been in group OT for a couple months now, which is not only working him physically, but teaching him how to interact properly in groups. So he got a lot of practice in social skills and a lot of exercise (seriously, the kid's chest is rock-hard. I didn't know 5-year-olds could grow muscles).

It seems to me that ADD really means "attention deficit" as in, needing extra attention from the people around you. And acting out if you don't get it.

Will all the extra attention translate to better behavior in kindergarten? Will the 504 really be enough? I don't know. He can get bored -- and act out -- in .5 seconds or less. But at least there's the possibility that this will all go well.

People keep joking about the milestone of kindergarten and am I ready and can I believe it and boo hoo etc. Maybe I'd be in that mindset if kiddo were neurotypical. Really I'm just thinking, Please let him not run around/push/hit/yell/refuse to do classwork/scare off his friends. I'll save that whole misty-eyed thing for later. High school maybe.

In the meantime, he apparently needs two pocket folders and an old shirt for art class, and I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with this big yellow bus pass. Staple it to his backpack?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why scaring them straight doesn't work

Me: OK, kiddo, it's time to go potty.

Him: But I go potty all the time. I'm tired of going potty.

Me: But you have to go potty. When your body gets done digesting the food you ate, it has to get rid of the rest. Otherwise you can't eat any more food.

Him: Because then what happens?

Me: (proving I've watched too many Monty Python movies) Well, if you don't go potty and you keep eating food, then your body gets fuller and fuller and then it explodes.

Him: And then what happens?

Me: Well, then you've exploded.

Him: And then what?

Me: And then you can't eat any more.

Him: And then what?

Me: ... And then the doctor has to come and stitch you back up.

Him: And then what?

Me: And then you look silly because you have stitches all over you.

Him: And then what?

Me: And then people laugh at you.

Him: And then what?

Me: ... I don't know. But you still have to go potty.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Take him outside, they said

Who's they? A whole bunch of they's. Some of the books/magazines I've read. His behavioral therapist. Get him into nature. Help him release the energy. It won't overstimulate him. It'll be good for him. Etc.

Maybe they would like to do the honors next time.

I took him to Canal Day at Waterloo Village yesterday -- it's outside and there are interesting historic buildings to look at, and they were giving short boat rides on the canal. He likes boats. He also likes the song "Erie Canal," and his favorite part about the Crayola Factory was the little upstairs exhibit where you could guide a small boat through a canal, opening and closing the locks. So this seemed promising.

OK, first off, Waterloo is a little depressing these days. It lost funding, and is only open at all due to volunteers, so most of the buildings are closed. (Except, weirdly, the church in the middle of the village, which is still operational. I wonder what it's like to go to services there, in the middle of all those empty houses.) Some buildings were falling apart, and were blocked off with that orange construction fencing. One house had random plants growing through its front porch. I've been to other reconstructed historical sites -- Mystic Village in Connecticut, the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown -- and they're in much better shape, with actual staffs, and fun demonstrations and activities, and buildings in good repair. It's a bit of a sad contrast.

Kiddo did not notice these things. The things he noticed were 1. wide open paths to run on! and 2. a boat to ride on! So we hustled down to the dock. Luckily (or less so), we had the ride to ourselves.

The very nice gentleman who was giving the history talks during the boat ride was, at first, charmed by kiddo's gleeful enthusiasm. He used to teach college courses, said the gentleman, and kiddo was his favorite kind of student to have in class -- the kind who didn't realize how smart they were. Then, however, followed an absolute textbook example of the troubles kiddo is clearly going to have in class this year, as Teach got progressively more and more annoyed by his constant chattering: "Are those lilypads? Are we going to run over the lilypads? Can you steer the boat that way? Are there sharks in the water? What else is there? The boat's going really fast! I'm going to look over the back of the boat. Why are we turning around? Can we keep going? Is there a turtle? Where is the turtle? I don't see the turtle. Oh, there's the turtle!" And on and on and on and paying no attention whatsoever to Teach's history spiel, which, to be fair, was going to make no sense to a 5-year-old anyway.

Teach went from charmed to irked in about a minute. Comments included: "There are girls who don't talk as much as he does." and "Boy, his teacher's got her work cut out for her!" and "I hope his teacher gets some sleep!" and "Can you be quiet now while I talk to your mom?" Finally the other volunteer on the boat got up and tried to guide kiddo away so Teach could finish teaching in peace. I'd been laughing the whole thing off, politely, but geez, take a hint, Teach. Play to your crowd. Sing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" for him or something. But noooooo, he had a spiel about the Morris Canal and damned if he wasn't going to recite it to someone. Even if he had to repeatedly insult that someone's small child to do it.

I'm guessing Teach doesn't have grandkids.

I figured things could only go up from there, so we headed down the path to the gristmill, which still works, and was one of two buildings actually open that day, unless you also count the restrooms. So, uh, three. Kiddo loved the gristmill. They cranked it up and the giant wheels spun in the water and the cogs turned, and you can see where the flour would've come out. And you can repeatedly run up and down the stairs from the upper level to the lower level so you can see all the different parts of it. And then run up and down the stairs again. And then run outside so you can see the exterior of the mill and where it meets the water and then run back inside and down the stairs and up again and down again and up again and back outside and back inside ad nauseam. He finally ran away from me one too many times and I hauled him back down the path to the car. While he complained repeatedly about being hot and his legs being tired. I showed great restraint in not saying, "Well, duh."

So there you have it. We were outside. Also inside. But mostly outside. And it didn't calm him down. It revved him up. Unless the only real solution is to take him outside where there are no buildings whatsoever and the only exciting thing to look at is trees.

I think there's an arboretum around here somewhere.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Educational exasperation

So I attended another advocacy workshop, this one all about how to write 504 plans. At least I thought that was what it would be about, except it was actually about the law that governs 504 (The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, in case you were wondering) and about how 504 plans aren't as comprehensive as IEPs and no federal funding is allocated for 504s -- except for counseling, occupational therapy and speech therapy, for which funding comes from IDEA (aka the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which governs IEPs). So basically if we can get OT written into kiddo's 504, we won't be paying for it, I guess. Other than that factoid, this was mainly stuff I'd heard/read before. Oh, and that schools won't necessarily give you all their records on the child's behavior issues, so you may not know the extent of the problem, and that schools won't necessarily follow the 504 plan and you have to monitor them closely. Also, the state doesn't monitor for 504 compliance. But hey, if you've got a problem you can file a complaint with the state.

Honestly, the more I delve into these things, the more depressing it is. Not once have I heard or read or seen anything positive about any school district anywhere doing anything right by its special needs kids. Everything is "They won't tell you what you're entitled to, they won't follow the plan, they won't understand your child's needs, they'll belittle your child or they'll stand by while other kids belittle your child, and your child will have a horrible lousy time in school while not learning anything or having a social life so get ready for years of misery. Or just homeschool them."

I scan the message boards on ADDitude magazine a lot and it's more of the same. "My child has ADHD, the school won't give us a 504 or an IEP because he's not failing/he's too smart/they think he just isn't applying himself, he has no friends, he has trouble in class, I don't want to put him on medication/we've tried medication but it doesn't work/the medication helps but he's still having issues, please help!!!"

I've been reading "Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention" by Katherine Ellison, in which the author recounts the year she spent trying to help her son's ADHD issues, while also dealing with her own ADHD. Good book, well researched and engaging, I highly recommend it. But even she notes, at the end, that her son's school never told her that he was entitled to services because of his diagnosis, and he had an excruciating few years until they put him on medication, did neurofeedback and a few other things. She's an investigative journalist and she didn't know about special needs services. Because no teacher or school official could be bothered to tell her.

The across-the-board negativity is what frustrates me. I'm perfectly willing to believe that some teachers and administrators are uninformed and/or incompetent, because a certain level of incompetency is built into any bureaucratic institution. (Read "The Peter Principle.") I'm having trouble believing that no teacher or official anywhere is going to be helpful at all. Somewhere out there, there has to be a teacher who actually knows how to work with special needs kids, or an official committed to upholding the law.

All of this, of course, may have nothing to do with our own district. I've heard good things about kiddo's school-to-be from other parents, but those parents' kids aren't special needs. We're going to have to see for ourselves how things go, starting off with when we meet with the school to write the 504 plan.

It would be nice to hear someone's success story, though. There have to be success stories out there.