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Posts Tagged ‘ADHD’

No Place for Them

Posted by lofgray on May 10, 2008

Thomas is different from other kids. In pre-school he helped teach his classmates. At the age of six Thomas could read the newspaper or the ingredients listed on his cereal box. For the past year Thomas has been teaching himself how to speak and read Japanese. Thomas is still in elementary school. He is different because he has Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a high functioning form of autism. Thomas can use his mind better than most adults however; he also senses the world as if everything was though a high powered microscope.

For you and me to drive down the road on a rainy afternoon with the radio on while carrying a conversation with a passenger is no big deal. For Thomas this event can be too much. For most kids a classroom brightly decorated with 15 to 20 kids softly talking while working on the newest cut and paste project under the teacher play by play instructions is a typical kindergarten day. For Thomas this was sensory overload. Before he was diagnosed with PDD he was considered to be ADHD with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Teachers and Doctors alike thought medicating him would be the best treatment. His mother, Audrey was encouraged to home school him because he was unable to maintain himself in the class room. I personally was surprised to hear that her story in the beginning was extremely similar to mine.

After Thomas was diagnosed properly Audrey attempted to put him back in public school for second grade, believing that with a proper diagnosis the school would be able to accommodate for his needs. The new school placed Thomas in the ESE special needs class mainly filled with Autistic children. Fully functioning Thomas was sitting next to the drooling, shaking, non-speaking kids. One teacher and one aide were assigned to a group of 5 to 8 year olds who were all throwing tantrums. Audrey can only describe the environment as ‘a zoo.’ Thomas found himself cleaning up after the other kids. Not only did this do a number on Thomas’s sensory problems, but he wasn’t getting educated at his level. At this point the school’s principle sat down with Audrey and told her, “We just don’t have a place to put him.” Again Audrey felt she was forced to home school her son.

Audrey, like me, is not a teacher by profession. Some things we just don’t remember or wasn’t taught when we went to school. I can’t remember the formula to find the mass of an atom, Audrey was never taught mean, median, mode. Unlike me though, Audrey’s goal as a home schooling mom wasn’t to fix Thomas with hard core discipline so he can go back to public school. She has to actually teach him thus forcing her to re-educate herself. It isn’t an easy job so she also fought with the school board for assistance, understanding, and education suitable for her son. In return she was once threatened to be thrown in jail. Eventually she was able to get Thomas placed in a “homebound” program (provided in North Carolina) for third grade. For one year a certified teacher came to her home and educated Thomas three days a week. Audrey would supplement the program with education on life skills so he may be able to function in society when he is an adult. Not only did Thomas get the education he needed but, he also seemed to be doing better dealing with PDD. Unfortunately, a new director ended Thomas’s enrollment in the program under the basis that he was not physically handicap.

Audrey was again fighting the school board. To date, public education does not have a universal program for functioning autistic kids. Regular “mainstream” class rooms and ESE “romper-room” class rooms are both unsuitable for children with heightened sensory problems yet if you don’t chose one of these you could be tossed in jail. Some private schools offer ‘school with in a school’ programs designed for these children but not all people can afford to pay the bill. So where do we put these kids? How do we educate them responsibly? Thomas’s neurologist believes without a doubt that Thomas will be a functioning adult even a high paid CEO, or business tycoon. Thomas has the potential to be a valuable member of society yet the public school system is educating him like he can only become a burden.

Audrey (being the wonderful mom that she is) has fought enough with the system to obtain revolutionary treatment for Thomas. Currently he is attending public school for a few classes a week. While at school he has a ‘shadow’ adult to follow him around and keep him focused on what he is learning. The ‘shadow’ sits with him in class everyday to help him along. Audrey is still supplementing his education at home but, she has access to everything the school can provide: materials, books, teacher assistance, library, even the guidance office. Nothing is off limits. The school is slowly integrating him into ‘mainstream’ classes and allowing him the leniency his disorder should provide. He may not be ready next year or even the year after that but Thomas is on his way to being able to participate in the world around him.

I know this story to be true because, Audrey is my step-mother. If it wasn’t for her guidance and example, I may not have been able to help my own son.

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Just spank him

Posted by lofgray on April 25, 2008

Five years ago a working mom moved to a new town and placed her only son in what appeared to be the best daycare in her area. By best we would like to point out the murals on the walls, video surveillance, and electronic sign-in sign-out with pass codes. The mom didn’t know this would be the worst decision in her or her son’s life. The child attended the child care program for two successful years with occasional ‘normal’ disruptive behavior. When the child joined the VPK program everything suddenly seemed to change.

Mom would drop her son off in the morning around 7:30 and would pick up her son up in the evening around 5:30. He wouldn’t complain more than normal when it was bath time. He wouldn’t throw a fit when it was time to eat. Bedtime was even relatively easy compared to other kids that would toss a tantrum. The son would whine and stomp his feet but nothing more than that. Mom was never embarrassed in public with a screaming child. Most people thought he was well behaved except for the school.

“…he is going to be a murderer when he grows up.”

Friday, Mom got a report that Son was bad on Tuesday. At 6 pm Mom was told Son was bad at 8 pm. Son bit so’n’so and mom wasn’t told until tomorrow afternoon. As parents of young children we’re told to punish our children when the inappropriate behavior is taking place. Children 5 and younger have difficulty remembering yesterday. Most often they forget what happened this morning. Poor Son couldn’t understand why he was being ‘grounded.’ He remembered biting and kicking but the important ‘why’ was always missing. Poor Son thought he was just a bad kid, not because he was told so, he simply felt so.

Mom fought with the school to try and get up to date information on her son’s behavior. Although the school was complaining he was still an angel at home. The Son wouldn’t dare bite his mommy or daddy. The Son never considered kicking mommy in the shins when it was time to clean up. The parents just couldn’t understand why the child was behaving so poorly at school yet wouldn’t show such behavior at home. The parents were struck with the difficulty of punishing their child for something he hardly remembered from days before. Even though the school advertised daily progress reports they were rarely used. The daytime teacher left before Mom picked her son up, most often the afternoon teacher wouldn’t know if the son had been good. The Poor Son’s behavior got worse and the school to parent communication didn’t improve despite the mom telling them to call her no matter what time. “Please” she begged, “I know you are not allowed to discipline him more than a talk, call me and I will come here myself and teach him right from wrong.”

“…he’s a brat just spank him.”

The Son’s behavior got even worse at school if you can believe it yet stayed the same at home. The school thought he should be on drugs, they thought he was crazy, they thought the mom wasn’t trying hard enough. They told the mother how to run her house hold. They told the mother the father needed to be more prominent. They told the mother it was her fault. They filmed the son throwing his daily fit. They showed the son the film without the parent’s permission, and then they showed the mom the film when she came to pick him up from school. Poor son was throwing chairs, tossing over tables hitting children, adults, and himself. Poor son was caught on film defying the attempts of three adults to hold him down and take him out of the class. ‘He is crazy’ they told the mom, ‘Get a doctor’ they said. After that they wouldn’t try to teach the boy, they would simply wait for his fit then call mom and send him home.

The psychologist said “He is really smart, most likely bored, and needs ADHD drugs.” The Behavior Specialist said, “These are learned behaviors, he’s a brat just spank him.” So who do you believe? Is this a story of the parent at fault or a story of the school at fault? Is the child insane or has he learned to be bad? Did the son’s behavior not improve because the school was not permitted by law to discipline the unruly behavior? He’d throw a chair and get “quiet time.” He’d hit the teacher and get a “safe place.” He’d scream and yell and then go home early. Was grounding a five year old too much? Was it wrong to take away all his toys, all his luxuries, all his fun continuously for a whole year?

I can honestly tell you I blamed the school. I blamed the teacher and the owner. I blamed the system of misguided rules. I can tell you this is a true story because it is about me and my son. I am that mother who regrets that year. I am the mother that cried for months because I didn’t know what to do. I am that mother shaking in a doctor’s office trying to find out if my son was unbalanced. I can also tell you that my son isn’t crazy, he didn’t need drugs. The behavior specialist was right, the school had created a brat for themselves out of limp discipline and shaky communication efforts and they were unable to stop it. It took them several years, several changes of teachers and several events of letting him get away with disruptive behavior. He was conditioned to believe his behavior would get him what he wanted. If he wanted only blue blocks he could throw a fit to get them. Small fits uncontrolled let to bigger fits unmanaged to finally violent rage. If they would have just raised their voice from the start or whack him one on the hand or bum none of this would have started. A five year old learned that with just a little tantrum he could control, manage, and manipulate adults into whatever he wanted because they were not permitted to fight back with anything more than soft meaningless words.

The story doesn’t end; my son was suspended eight times from his kindergarten class at a Charter Academy. His teacher and both principles were trying desperately to help me. We were having meetings almost twice a week to manage my son’s problems. I stopped working and vowed not to get another job until my son’s behavior had improved. Nothing was working he still threw chairs, hit his teachers, spit on the vice-principle, ran through the halls screaming at the top of his lungs. One day I walked into the school to pick him up early for an appointment with his therapist. I sat in the chairs by the guidance office to wait for him. I had the unfortunate experience of over hearing the teachers in the office down the hall. “There goes the mom of That Kid,” “Oh you mean that violent crazy one?” “Yeah, he is going to be a murderer when he grows up.” “He should be expelled.”

‘He is crazy’

I pulled my son from the school that week and signed up for home school. The environment at the Charter Academy was no longer hospitable to my child. I felt that he would have no chance for improvement because even strangers felt he couldn’t. They had already placed him in a category, and wouldn’t give him a chance to be anything else. I knew my son was better than that, I knew he could change without medicating him. It took six months of home school focused on behavior modification instead of reading and math and moving back home to live with my mother just for the better school to help my son. Although I wasn’t fond of her as a person I’d have to thank Mrs. Robinson for her hard work and strong discipline in helping me put my son on the right track. Today my son is in first grade, and hardly ever gets notes sent home from the teacher. He listens to other adults and rarely complains. I have to admit that because of these events I expect more from my son and may be hard on him but neither of us are crying to sleep at night.

Just another example of how your rules and regulations (although pretty ideas) can screw up another person’s life.

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