Monday, April 22, 2013

Testing The Fates: It Was A Good Year

I know, I know - year is not over yet. But it kinda is for us - we are taking kids out of school for the month of May for a Family Adventure, so feel comfortable evaluating the school year. The 4th Grade has been good to us. Partially because we had a great support team at Alameda, but also because of Isaac. He is almost completely in GenEd, some days not venturing back at all to the CB classroom, and doing almost all of the same work as his GenEd classmates, with just a few modifications regarding handwriting. So what changed? I've been pondering this, knowing that any success is carefully crafted like a house of cards, and just as easily falls apart. So what changed? How far should I get caught up on speculation? Maturity: And I'm not talking about 10yo behavior. More like 8-9yo behavior. But this still means greater understanding, perspective, and self control. Oh, and the onset of puberty. It's started, and heaven help us. Boredom: I've said this before, but its worth repeating. A behaviorist came in to observe him at the end of 3rd grade when he was exclusively in the CB classroom. While it is labeled a CB Academic classroom, a huge amount of academic time is sacrificed to managing behavior problems. And to be honest, Isaac was one of those problems last year. So not sure if the boredom was causing the issues or he was just incapable of handling educational demands, we were not sure what to do. When things are crappy, it can make taking a chance a bit easier. So we took a chance on insisting on starting GenEd at least 50% of the day from day the first week of 4th grade. And it worked. But why? Was it he using the genEd students own behavior as role-modals? Was he just happy to step up to the challenge? Could this be repeated in 5th grade? Expectations: As parents, we started changing our own language. We verbally laid out our expectations for him. He participated in setting goals for himself. HS impassioned love of the U of Oregon Ducks and wanting to go their for college was a really good one (I'm a Beaver, but what can you do?). College is about independence study, reading, writing, and testing. And boom. He went from resisting to working on all. Peer pressure: It apparently has its uses. For years we have been trying to get him interested in reading books and athletics. Within a month of hanging with NT peers, he's reading books independently and asking to join a basketball team. And the more time spent with NT peers, the more he requests to not go back to the CB classroom. Sad and surprising all at the same time. Tomorrow is a meeting regarding Isaac's re-evaluation for SPED. He still qualifies, still solidly ASD. But how he moves forward in this adventure through PPS has to be discussed. We know all too well that it's always two steps forwards, one step back.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Good Times in 4th Grade

I know it's been forever. Sorry. I was distracted by...well..stuff. Ok. I will admit it. I think I've been holding my breath since the start of the school year. My motto has has been to hope for the best, but expect the worst. But experience has taught me to basically hold on to my ass, this roller coaster has just started the ascent. So this school year has thrown me completely off, and I just can't relax and enjoy the ride. It has been my DS's best and most rewarding, and it has me more nervous as hell. This is the year we decided to try the big push into GenEd. Considering what a disaster the end of 3rd grade was for us (multiple suspensions, an FBA), we did know that we needed to try something different. The Oregon Virtual Academy was one viable option, but we decided to request Isaac start GenEd first. Last year he had almost zero time out of the CB classroom, so we did not have high hopes. But he started, first day, in a 4th grade classroom. And it's been great so far. Can I say that aloud? Will I jinx it? In the beginning, he was spending only 50% of his time in GenEd. Now, 90%. He only returns to The CB classroom for social skills, speech, and occasional handwriting support. The only pieces he is not doing in GenEd is cursive and spelling, but I have requested that we add that to his curriculum as well, even if it is just for practice. He is starting to make friends there, although this has been a slower process. But he feels liked and supported. And that is pretty darn good. Now the question of why. Why now? What changed? This has been bopping around my head for the last few months and I have come up with a few theories. Not all very great individually, but together there might be an answer. 1. He was bored in the CB classroom. Although Alameda's CB room is supposed to be an 'academic' one, with most kids just managing behavioral problems but academically near or at grade level, that really isn't the case right now. Love the teacher, love the support team, they've been awesome. But many kids struggle with the most basic academics, and the behavior issues are often so overwhelmingly that academics are just getting pushed to the side. Isaac was spending a lot of time waiting and not doing. 2. Role modeling. When melt downs are common in your classroom, you think that is an acceptable way to communicate your problems. It's the old 'monkey-see monkey-do' effect. 3. He's older. He's 10yo now, and I can tell in many ways he is maturing and handling things better. He seems more self-aware, and seems more in control. 4. His GenEd teacher is amazing, and his entire classroom is a celebration of the slightly geeky - even rocking a Star Trek theme! And many of the kids in his class seem to be slightly shy and bookish, a good combo for him. 5. Zoloft. So who knows. Time will tell.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Caution: Pre-Teen Ahead II

How the hell do I gauge when a behavior is due to the Autism and when it is due to being 10 years old? Both can be difficult. Am I worried over something that, in the end, is pretty darned typical? Example: Isaac is being quite negative. He is under the impression that his parents are being unfair, and that we "hate" him. That we are not listening to him, and we don't understand what he is trying to say. Yes, he has used these words. I'm torn between taking his concerns seriously and being jazzed that he can communicate these feeling to us so well. Not to bad for a kid giving a Dx of moderate to severe autism when he was 4 yo. My perspective is rather tangled, I know. For now, I guess all I can do is take him seriously and not giggle and smile when I hear I'm go on like this. Good times.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Caution: Pre-Teen Ahead

From the day that you start to suspect, through the day it's diagnosed, the therapies chosen, the special classes attended, through all of the books read, the conversations with friends and specialists, all of the way through the paranoia, the fear, the optimism and the hope. To the day, this day. After all of my fumbling and fussing, today I realized that life takes its' own course. All of the progress and often the lack of progress is really up to them. I look at Isaac, and the strides he's made recently. He seems more self aware, more in control. More MATURE. His curiosity has been turned on, the world is opening up to him. The good and the bad. And I have no idea why the change. Totally bewildered.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Time to digest...

I know it's been awhile since I posted. Things have been...complicated. And let's be honest, I can call it complicated, I can blame exhaustion or some personal energy barrier, but the truth is that I needed to ride the wave for a bit. Things were difficult in the spring. Isaac had started Zoloft, was suspended from school multiple times within a very short period, and suffered from a very low self-image. Our focus this past summer was to bring back our boy. We tried upping his meds. We continued our therapy with the behaviorist. We spent an amazing amount of time just supporting him. He started to have problems sleeping, and there was a visible surge in his anxiety. Then, there was this one day in August. He had another horrid session with the behaviorist, where we had to physically restrain him to keep him from running out of the room. The session was cut short and Olivia started her session. Now Olivia's sessions usually are a dream. But this one was not. Olivia was tearful and frustrated. The behaviorist came out to discuss both sessions with me. Things were not good, she said. Things were in fact very bad. Isaac's behavior was "scaring" her, and now Olivia was going down the same path. Ok. I'm like any parent. Hard to see your kids in a negative light sometimes. We left her office, and I was in shock. Was it really that bad? Was I raising a couple of bi-polar rug rats? I came home. I digested, not just her words, but the last 9 months. In session, Isaac had been upset for months. Cried, was frustrated, occasionally would toss a toy at the wall. He was stubborn and inflexible in his thinking. But did this give the behaviorist reason to be "scared"? And why was it only right after these sessions that Isaac would have incidents at school and summer camp? And in the past 9 months, had I seen improvement in either Isaac or Olivia? And why we she use words like "scared" to describe her patients, and in front of those very young patients? You can guess where I am going with this. We did not simply stop going to sessions. We DUMPED our behaviorist. Dumped, as in Hell No dumped. And it felt good. Sometimes, as a parent, I can get just as stuck in my thinking as my kids. I rigidly think certain kinds of therapy is supposed to work, regardless of the imperial evidence in front of me. We started executive function training with our OT, increased swimming lessons with one on one sessions, and just spent more time together. We approached 4th grade with a goal of starting in the mainstream class, something we had not done since Kindie. And somehow, someway, it's working. Isaac is in a gen Ed class 70% of his academic day. Holy crap. He's learning about history, geology, division. He's speaking up in class and doing well. He still has anxiety, but I can see that his perspective is changing. I'm still trying to figure out the "why" behind this change. More digestion.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Not Letting the Zoloft Get Me Down...

Or would a better title be "Better Living Through Pharmacology"? Because I did it. Isaac took his first pill 4 weeks ago. And dammit to h*ll, the little green pills seem to be working. I am not sure if I am relieved or disappointed. I can say this - the guilt I felt for the first two weeks has faded as I have watched my 9 year old boy return to me. After being suspended from school twice in one week (I know that sounds harsh, but I actually don't disagree with it - more on that later), I opened up the bottle and broke one of those little bastards in half. I explained to him what we were doing and exactly why, and talked to him about how it might make him feel. And he took it. Minor miracle in itself - it was his first pill. Ever. And maybe it was a sign that even he felt things were getting out of control. Earlier that day, he had said to me that he wished he had "not been born this way", which no parent ever EVER wants to hear their child say. And what else could I say, but that I was glad he was the way he was. In every way (cue Lady Gaga song). It was an extremely small dose. Maybe too small for his height and weight. We upped it a tad per the Doc in week 3, to a more appropriate dosage. Week one was still tough, but it takes a bit. Week two was better. Week three and four? Oh, heaven. And I really mean that. He has been...happier. Smiling. Flexible. Less obsessive. Stays calmer in anxious situations. He still gets anxious, but he just handles it better. He even did his standardized testing, which all of you parents of kids 3rd grade and up know about. Testing is not Isaac's thing. Testing leads to massive melt downs. And he did it. And did WELL. He's connecting with friends again. But what we have noticed more is that his mind seems calmer, and he is finding joy in things he enjoyed before, like reading. I feel as if my smiling son is back. Very happy. Now, for full disclosure, I will add we made other changes as well during this time, that I am sure have added to the change we see. First, we took a brain break. We turned off the video games, limited most screen time, and started doing far more activities outside. We also changed his routine at school. His class is a CB (read "contained") classroom, and the start of the day was always "free time", while some kids transitioned to their main stream classes or ate their breakfasts at their desks. He is autistic. Free time is not always a good start. Now, he has tasks; some days he does work sheets at his desk, some days he sits quietly reading a few chapters of his book. Either way, there is direction to his start, and he knows exactly what is expected of him. This is how the mainstream classes are run in his school. Shouldn't every class be like this? We have also taken away a big part of the reward system in class. No stars for good behavior - we now tell him that certain behavior is simply expected of him. That's it. Finally, we stopped seeing the Behaviorist. Oh, "taking a break" is a better way of saying it. I still consult with her once a week, and Olivia sees her every Friday. But the shit hit the fan when we started seeing her, and I believe that she will be helpful eventually, but the sessions really stirred up the debris and we can't have that during school time. At the end of the day, I know I can't escape the fact that I drug my own child. And I know that at any point, it might stop working and we will have to re-address this. But it is hard to deny the smile on his face as he comes home from another good day, and I find that I can live with that just fine.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mental Break or Massive Flake?

I have been having my own communication "disorder" this long, long winter. I dropped off from many many scenes, as well as from the blogosphere. I haven't quite emerged from the goo, but what the hell. Time to get back in the saddle of this particular bucking bronco. Because my sweet kids like to take turns having breakdowns, Olivia is doing amazing and Isaac is in the behavioral cesspool. Poor guy, I get the feeling he isn't enjoying life all of that much of late. His anxiety is pretty much code yellow at best, and the journey to code red is a mere hop away. Anything can set him off - a small schedule change, someone being negative to him, or even the usually enjoyable swimming lesson that we have been going to for 4 years now. So what happened? The only real change is that he started seeing a Cognitive Behaviorist back in December. The goal was to help him work on his anxiety and get him ready for more mainstream classes. And since then, his anxiety has rocketed to the point that we dropped his mainstream classes, he resists doing anything new even with prepping, he is anxious about doing anything from sleep overs with friends to swimming lessons, and I have had to collect him from school a half dozen times because he was being "unsafe" (his a teacher, hit another student, threw an item, or tried to leave school). I had to pick him up today at 10:00 AM. At one point today hew as so upset that they had to clear the classroom. By 10:00 AM. He had been at school for all of 80 minutes. His anxiety is of the "flare-up" variety. It flashes hot and bright, but burns out quickly. I was at the school by 10:10 AM, and he was calmly sitting in the class quiet space, asking me why I was there. It felt odd taking a calm and smiling child home for negative behavior. I think I need to reassess our approach. I will talk to the behaviorist of course, and I already picked up a prescription for Zoloft for him that is waiting on the top shelf of the kitchen, somewhat accusingly. Are you the answer, Zoloft, or just the start of more problems? Bastard. Stop staring at me. I guess the question I have now is are we doing the right thing? Are we babying him too much? Is it OK to tell him we expect more? Do we need a paradigm shift?