Tuesday, February 26, 2013

An un-delightful decision

No one has threatened to suspend kiddo from the bus lately. They have, however, threatened to suspend him from kindergarten. I did not know you could get suspended from kindergarten. It's the sort of thing you think happens to older kids. Who are not, you know, openly classified as special needs.

He poked another child in the back of the neck with a pencil. I was told the child had to go to the nurse and what a good thing it was that there was no mark. Not to excuse the behavior or anything -- I in fact told kiddo that if he were suspended he would lose TV privileges for the entire length of the suspension, and would also be staying in his room when not at day care or eating meals -- but seriously, it was a pencil. Unless it was sharpened to a fine point, and he has ninja skills I don't know about, I find it unlikely that he'd be able to cause serious injury with a pencil.

I get that the mere fact of the action is bad enough. But I'm also beginning to feel like the word "suspension" is getting tossed around rather freely. He's not a bad kid. He's a kid who can't control himself. Is there just a point at which that distinction stops mattering?

The school, to be fair, is trying. He's getting OT. He has a behavior chart, a fidget toy, a timer and a special calming seat cushion. He meets with the guidance counselor regularly. My therapist says we're getting more accommodations than other families he's worked with. It's just not enough. I officially requested an evaluation for an IEP, which would get him further accommodations, but the evaluation process is 90 days so that's not happening this school year.

I've been mulling it over and over and the conclusion I came to was this: He's not going to do well in a large group, period. He's going to get overstimulated and distracted. He's going to do some random bad thing that comes off as aggressive, and he's not going to know why he did it. Our options right now are 1. homeschool, which is not an option since we both work, or 2. medication.

We saw a pediatric psychiatrist on Saturday. We had a prescription in five minutes.

We don't love this choice. (DH dryly noted on the way home that we now had "a science experiment" in the back seat.) It might not work, for one thing. For another, he still needs to learn proper behavior whether he's medicated or not. So it's not the answer all by itself. Also, there's the whole "parents who medicate their kids are lousy parents who can't control their kids and want their kids to be zombies" thing. But look, he can't keep poking kids in the neck with pencils. That's the bottom line.

So (and boy, I do seem to say this a lot, don't I?) we'll see how this goes.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Practice makes kind of perfect

Kiddo has had two major issues in the past couple of weeks: He misbehaves on the bus -- fooling around, distracting the driver -- and he never ever ever ever (ever) raises his hand to speak in class. The bus thing is an issue, not just because he's the grandson of a former school bus driver. He was one write-up away from a bus suspension. This is, I'm told, rare for a kindergartener. (To be fair, the school is saying they'd try to work with us on changing his bus seat or finding a smaller bus for him, rather than outright suspending him.)

Now, I know from massive experience that just telling him to do a thing does not mean he'll do it. It doesn't even mean he'll hear you -- even if you're looking right at him from a foot away. That fabulous skittery brain of his does not do so well with verbal instructions. So I figured, the best way to teach him proper behavior is to have him practice it.

We happen to own a school bus. It's roughly the size of a play tent, for about the same purpose. Kiddo's bus trip is about five minutes each way. (I know. How much mischief could he possibly be making in five minutes? He's quick, I guess.) So I got him to sit in the play bus and told him, if he could sit properly for five minutes, per the timer, he'd get a marshmallow. He blew it the first time, twisting around in his seat, trying to get up. But he corrected immediately so I gave him half a marshmallow. He immediately decided he would try again, for the full marshmallow, and the second time he got it. I've been reminding him of bus rules every day, and throwing in the bus-marshmallow game whenever possible, so we'll see if that does it.

As for the hand raising, I instituted a rule: Children who wish to speak at the breakfast or dinner table must raise their hand first. The kids took to this rule with relatively little reminding, although half the time they're raising their hand so they can tell us a knock knock joke. (I'm beginning to regret telling them the "interrupting cow" joke. Entire dinners are spent listening to "Knock knock." "Who's there?" "The interrupting cow." "The interrupt -- " "MOO MOO MOO MOO!" And then they both have giggle fits and the other one immediately tells the joke all over again.)

Since the rule has been in effect, I've noticed a change on his school behavior chart: He's raising his hand. Not a lot, but some. Enough to be noticeable. And any improvement is worth celebrating, right?

If I can just keep figuring out how to think around him, so to speak, maybe we can get through this school thing.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Parent fail ... or not

Seeing all that Beatles merchandise in Vegas reminded me that "The Yellow Submarine" had been released on Blu-ray a few months back, all remastered and everything, and I still didn't own a copy. I quickly rectified that.

Kiddo was with me when I got it, since we were on our way back from Trader Joe's (not the most enjoyable trip; he wandered off just a bit too long for my comfort, to the point where I ditched the cart and started roaming the aisles looking for him, and whined about not seeing the lobster -- aka the giant stuffed lobster the employees hide in the store for kids to find -- until I told him I didn't want to hear the word "lobster" anymore). Also on display at the bookstore: giant plush Yellow Submarines and Blue Meanies. Where was this stuff when I was a kid?

Kiddo was also intrigued, to the point where I thought maybe he was actually ready to see the movie. He's already gone through "The Lion King" and "How to Train Your Dragon" without a problem, and characters either die or come close to dying in those. No one dies in "Yellow Submarine." They just turn gray and sad until the Beatles come and sing to everyone and bring all the colors back. Yes, that's really the plot.

Shortly after we started the movie, I realized I had made a mistake. I forgot how trippy the images are, and that some of the Blue Meanies have guns (in their shoes, no less), and others drop giant apples on people's heads. So when the Blue Meanie army came storming into Pepperland, kiddo was terrified. He was half-hiding under his blanket on the couch. I considered turning the movie off, but thought that might be worse than letting him see the happy ending. If all he saw was the scary beginning, isn't that a definite for nightmares?

Anyway he did like the ending, and he already knew some of the songs ("Yellow Submarine" and "All Together Now," specifically, which I sing to the kids regularly), so he liked hearing them. And then after the movie, when I was putting him to bed, he told me he didn't want to see the movie again, and that he was afraid he'd have nightmares. Argh. I said if he saw any Blue Meanies, he should sing to them, and he should dream that I was there singing with him. If he did have nightmares, he didn't remember them the next morning, so that's a plus.

I'd been beating myself up about the whole thing, pushing him to watch a movie he clearly wasn't ready for. And then he started requesting I sing "When I'm Sixty-Four" to him, because he liked the scene where the submarine sailed through the Sea of Time and everyone started growing beards. And then he launched into "All Together Now" all by himself, and I joined in. And then my parents brought a small music box that plays "Yellow Submarine" -- from the Morris Museum, of course we already had one -- and each kid claimed one and ran around the house playing "Yellow Submarine" in tiny stereo.

And then, kiddo put his gloves on yesterday and realized he could make his hand look like the evil flying pointing glove in the movie, and he was delighted. So delighted he showed his teacher, who was clearly puzzled, and I had to explain to kiddo that not everyone has seen the movie. Then I took a closer look at his hand and gently corrected him. "Not that finger, sweetie. The glove points with this finger."

If I got a note home on that, I don't even know how I would explain it to the school. "No, he wasn't being obscene! He was being the giant scary glove that tries to pound the Beatles!"

Anyway I guess showing him the movie wasn't a total mistake after all. The occasional scare probably won't scar him for life. And it's nice to be able to share the things I love with my kids.

Next up: "Star Wars"!