Sunday, September 29, 2013

A promising scene, and a new worry

Kiddo's school had its annual PTA ice cream social last week. Basically it's a PTA meeting for about two seconds and then it's an excuse to give the kids ice cream and let them run around the auditorium, and then outside on the playground in the dark. You'd think that would be a bad idea, but there have been no reported injuries, and there's just enough ambient light that you can more or less pick out your kids on the jungle gym or wherever they are. The only problem is when you decide it's bedtime, and then your children, hopped up on ice cream and the thrill of after-hours playground time, scatter to the winds and now you have to chase after them in the dark. I think strobe lights would be really helpful in this case. Someone could flash them on selected kids as needed and then the parents could more easily grab them. Or possibly this would be a good reason to install homing devices on their hoodies. Either way.

What I liked about the social was watching kiddo (before we moved outside, that is). He fell right in with the other boys from his class. They ran around the room together. They created an ad-hoc conga line together. One sweet kid with a gap-toothed smile even came over to DH to ask if he was kiddo's dad, and then to introduce himself. Pretty good manners for a first-grader.

I've always been most worried about kiddo's interactions with other kids, because social cues are so hard for him, he has issues with personal space, he can't handle losing at anything, he's not always good at sharing toys, etc. I tend to worry about that more than his academics, although admittedly his academics are so far pretty good so that's an easy choice to make. But he's clearly getting along with other kids. They were coming over to say hi to him, to give him a hug, to get him to come play. And that's really reassuring. Also, I will be sad when they all outgrow hugging each other, because it's so adorable.

I also said hi to kiddo's kindergarten teacher, who is super-involved and always at school functions, and she said nice things about his current teacher (and about us). So that was reassuring too.

The worry, right now, is kiddette.

I have at times described her as tough, assertive, determined, not afraid of things. All of which will be really beneficial for her when she's grown up and ruling the planet. Right now, though, she's getting in trouble at preschool. She isn't listening to her teacher. She talks back at times. She's being a total disruption at naptime, noisy, throwing a book when she's done with it. We're having obedience issues at home, too.

At the ice cream social, she was the only little girl running right around with the boys, doing everything they did (including jumping right up on the stage in the multipurpose room, even after I'd told her not to), and at the end of the night, she was the one who was harder to corral for bedtime. She had a total meltdown about needing to go home.

So. Running around, not listening, being defiant, throwing things, getting in trouble at school. Stop me if you've heard this song before?

I'd say it's too early to diagnose kiddette, except that kiddo was diagnosed at age 4. She doesn't seem to have the sensory issues he does, but ... well. Either she's potentially got ADHD or she's being an unbelievable brat right now for no good reason.

I think it's probably too early to panic. But it has been a real struggle to stop myself from yelling at her on just about a daily basis. I'm inclined to take a wait-and-see approach, though in the meantime I'm going to use the techniques I use on kiddo and see if they work.

I don't think I want two kids with ADHD. That is entirely too much chaos.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The week of everything

Well, not everything. I don't remember seeing any locusts. But they're going to show up Oct. 30 so Halloween gets canceled again and we can all lose power for two weeks and wait on hour-long lines at gas stations. I don't know how locusts will make us lose power but it will happen. Maybe they'll chew through everyone's electrical cords. Schedule it now, people. 2011: Snowmageddon/Hurricane Irene. 2012: Superstorm Sandy. 2013: Locusts.

What actually happened this week was, three days of physical therapy sessions -- which I have now been doing for a month, and it's helping, but back pain still wakes me up in the middle of the night sometimes -- plus two different Back to School nights for two different children at two different schools, back to back, plus our meeting with school officials to update kiddo's 504 plan, plus meeting up with my fellow ADHD moms for dinner, drinks and commiseration, plus wrapping up the details on kiddette's 4th birthday party, which was Saturday. It is surprisingly difficult to figure out the goodie bags if you have zero time to get to a store and buy things. I ended up doing something I never do: I went to Wal-Mart. I hate Wal-Mart. But all the other stores I like better don't happen to be open until midnight.

Incidentally, there is something ... off about Wal-Mart late at night. Maybe it's the gloomy lighting, or the lack of people. Or the fact that the people who are there seem to wander like lost souls. Or maybe it was the creepy guy zipping around the store on one of those motorized store carts while wearing a Hulk mask, not appearing to do any work, not saying a word. If I'd seen that guy in the parking lot afterward I was fully prepared to throw something heavy at his head and run like hell. Although I'm not sure what I would've thrown, since multicolored plastic stencils and bags of fun size candy don't weigh much.

Back to School went well, for both kids. Kiddette is fine academically. Her desire to tell everyone else in the world what to do, however, is getting her in trouble. We don't let her pull that crap at home, either, so maybe she'll settle down a little.

Kiddo is also doing well. His math and reading skills are good, he's listening, he's doing his work, he's not getting in trouble. He loves reading, his teacher noted. And right there, that would be enough to make me happy. Any kid of mine should love reading. She also said she hadn't seen any of the misbehaviors he'd been showing last year, and that he's a sweet boy. Hooray!

The 504 plan has basically been fine-tuned to reflect the change in schedule, and to encourage him to be less anxious about getting his work done perfectly, because that seems to be the issue right now: If his classwork or homework is somehow less than perfect, he gets upset and can't seem to move on from that. But really, a good meeting overall -- everyone in the room seemed to be on the same page, and to have good things to say about our boy.

Kiddette's party went fabulously (plus a delightful visit from C. and company), and the 500-decibel shrieking you heard was the sound of her reacting to all her lovely gifts. (I didn't even know they still made Lite Brite. They do.) I got her a little musical jewelry box with a twirling ballerina inside, because I had one when I was a kid, and I loved it. Both kids are fascinated with it, and let's hope that ballerina is still twirling in a week, not keeling over from overuse. Also, kiddo has been getting a little too enthusiastic about "helping" his sister open her presents, to the point where I started taking them away from him. He occasionally has this "what's yours is mine, and what's mine is mine" take on toys. Kiddette is way more patient with that than he has any right to expect, but I still need to step in sometimes.

Much of today, of course, was spent trying to make the family room look less like an entire toy store was just dumped in the middle of it. I have this thing about being able to see the floor.

So, kiddette has been well and truly celebrated, kiddo is having good school days and my back is functioning. On to the next week, in which I will not need to buy anything for any goodie bags.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

So far, so good

I mean, aside from kiddo cutting a hole in the front of his brand-new shirt on the first day of school. Apparently they were doing an arts-and-crafts thing of some sort. "The scissors you gave me were too sharp, Mommy," kiddo said. Yes, scissors have an unfortunate tendency to be sharp, since they are used to cut things. How about that, kiddo?

I can't really come down on him, though, because of the thing I did in nursery school once. Which is, I cut a boy's hair. For absolutely no reason. Just reached over with the scissors and snipped a lock off. I got in all kinds of trouble, of course, and the boy I think needed some supplementing trimming at the salon to neaten everything out. To this day I don't know what I was thinking. So at least kiddo only caused damage to his own person, and at least it was just a shirt. Which we have decided will now be his "art smock," since he already wrecked it.

Otherwise we haven't gotten any horrible reports yet. Though granted, what with Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah, he's only been in school two days so far. (I imagine he'll have many more opportunities next week to wreck his outfits.) The 504 coordinator wants to wait a week or two to see how he's settling in, then adjust the accommodations accordingly. That makes sense.

I have high hopes for his teacher, though, whom several other mom friends with older boys recommended. She's very structured, they said, and I said, perfect. A laid-back, whatever teacher would be a disaster for him.

She met us at the door on the first day, as we were doing the usual dork-parent thing and waiting in front of the school to snap a shot of him coming off the bus, then walking him to his room. The very first thing she said was to thank me for writing the letter to her, explaining what kiddo is good at and what he needs help with. She said it was very helpful. I was thrilled she'd read it, let alone liked it. That made my day.

I also shared the letter with the other ADHD moms I've been meeting up with -- our own personal support group -- and they liked the letter so much some of them were planning on ripping it off for their own kids. I am totally in favor of that. In fact I am so in favor of that that I am posting it here (with some details changed, of course). If one teacher liked it, I bet others would too. Steal away.


            I’m glad to know that my son XXXXX will be in your class this coming school year. I’d like to tell you a little bit about him.

XXXX has ADHD and has a 504 plan for classroom accommodations. In XXXXX class last year, those accommodations included a fidget toy, a band around the bottom of his seat and a special cushion to sit on. He has had issues with sitting still and with being physically aggressive with other children, due to sensory overload. He presents certain challenges, but offers a lot of positives as well.

He’s extremely friendly and loves to laugh. He wants to be helpful and to please adults, even if he doesn’t always quite manage to do it. He’s creative and smart, and loves to read. He also loves computer time and shows some skill with mathematics. He’s capable of a great many things, but may need extra help in achieving them.
We’ve found that being very clear and direct helps with XXXX. He will question instructions but given an answer, tends to be satisfied. Any opportunity for physical activity will benefit him (he does also have a weighted vest to assist with the physical stimulation, and has been receiving occupational therapy through the school). Repetitive or routine work will not go well with him, even though it’s certainly necessary. His brain isn’t stimulated enough by the activity and he will seem to find it almost painful. The occasional break, or even just a chance to stand up and stretch, should make a difference. He does enjoy any opportunity to be creative or to tell a story; you may find those tendencies helpful.
Other methods that seem to work are seating him close to the teacher’s desk and making him either line leader or line “caboose,” enabling the teacher to watch him more closely. We use a Time Timer at home, or the timers on our phones; sometimes the only way to get him to complete a task is to encourage him to “beat the clock.” He’s proud of himself when he’s able to do that. He does have issues with transitions; I’ve found that either using the timer, or telling him, “I’m going to count to five and then you need to do this,” is effective. (Sometimes the counting alone will work, without a stated consequence.) He also has trouble controlling his emotions sometimes, especially if he loses a game or if things don’t go the way he thinks they should. At home, we ask him to count backward from 10 to 1 and take a deep breath, which is generally effective. To ensure he’s listening to you, it’s a good idea to either touch him on the shoulder or make him repeat back to you what you said.

He’s very social and wants friends, but will unintentionally invade personal space or say inappropriate things. He was part of a social skills group last year, and I hope he is offered that opportunity again this year. We have seen some improvement in that area.
I hope you find this information useful. My husband and I look forward to working with you this school year. Our contact information is below; please don’t hesitate to reach out to either one of us if you have a question or something you need to discuss. Thanks and looking forward to meeting you.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The backpack is packed.

I have no idea why kiddo needs a highlighter, but the list says he does, so there you go. I'm just not picturing him marking relevant points in his addition and subtraction workbook, is all. Also unclear on the index cards and the dry-erase board markers. But they're in the backpack, along with the folders and the pencil case and the Ziploc bags and the extra crayons and the kitchen sink. I had him carry the backpack around just to make sure he could, because it's heavy. At least most of that stuff is going in his desk once he gets there.

So the supplies are ready. I'm a little unclear on whether kiddo is ready. He's been OK this summer -- some extra bounciness in the transition from kindergarten to full-day daycare, more running around and less listening, but he more or less settled down as far as we can tell. At least we didn't get complaints from the teachers. We did the library's summer reading program, kind of, except the library wasn't open on Sundays, and if we were busy that Saturday, we weren't getting to the library that week. Once again I suspect that library programs are meant for stay-at-home parents. The killer, of course, is that we read to the kids all the time -- we just don't always get the chance to prove it by marking the minutes down on a sheet.

Kiddo seems excited, I think, though he may just be excited by the new backpack (it's Angry Birds). I'm hoping at least one of his buddies from daycare, or from kindergarten, ends up in his class, although honestly he's so uber-friendly it might not matter that much. We were at the playground yesterday, and within two minutes he was running around with a couple other boys he'd never met before, and they were taking turns spinning each other around on the giant swing by twisting the chains and letting go (pretty sure this was not an approved use of the swing but OK).

Am I ready? Well. I'm never going to react to these milestones the way a mother of a neurotypical kid would. I won't get all teary-eyed about my baby growing up; I'll worry about whether he listens well or has a meltdown, or runs around on the bus, or throws things -- most of which he quit doing last year, but still. I'll keep pushing for our first meeting with the new 504 coordinator. I'll try and figure out when to start sending the weighted vest to school. I'll obsess about trying to get extra protein into a kid who doesn't like lunchmeat and can't bring nuts to school. (At least he likes soy nut butter. And cheese. Anything cheese.)

I feel robbed, in a way, that I don't get to just sit back and coo over my brand-new first-grader, and go on with my day. But he's my kiddo and I wouldn't trade him for anything. So I'll do whatever it takes to help him get through this school business. For the first day, and all the days afterward.