Friday, October 14, 2011

Struggling at School

Our experience with school this year has been filled with clouds and rainbows.

It's been a somewhat distressing week. It feels like there's a big black rain cloud hanging over us. We've been working very hard on things at home and this week was a good one, even with two nights of homework. At the same time, Jonas has had a rough week at school and we're are at a loss about what do to about it. We know how tough the teacher's jobs are and also that he's not the only kid in the class. It's a great school but we feel like he's falling through the cracks and that they are increasingly looking to us to resolve the challanges he's having there.

On Wednesday his Science teacher kept him in at lunch to time to write out the school's Code of Conduct. While we're not opposed to him receiving consequences for disrupting class, we've got two concerns about this remedy. First of all, he needs his free time outside to run around in the fresh air. Predictably, his afternoon was worse than the morning and I suspect that a big part of reason why is because he didn't get that break. The second issue we have is that the teacher effectively used handwriting as a punishment. Jonas is still far behind where the average Grade Three student should be in terms of his handwriting. It's something that we're working on and it is a HUGE struggle. If it's used as a consequence he'll very likely lose what little motivation he has to keep trying to improve.

He lost his star again yesterday because, as the note from the teacher said, "Jonas has to learn to use the washroom during recess rather than class time." I'm giving the teacher the benefit of the doubt that this was immediately after recess and not sometime between recess and lunch or the end of school. (Frankly, if he has to go then he has to go.) ADHD means that he gets hyperfocused sometimes and does not realize that he has to go until it's an emergency. I do understand how frustrating that is, however, simply punishing the behaviour we don't want and telling him to learn doesn't do him any good. If we want him learn, we have to teach him and help him develop better habits. We've suggested that he go at the beginning of recess but we know full well that isn't going to happen unless he's reminded. (If he doesn't listen to the reminder, or argues about it, that's a different story.)

So, the condumdrum is what to do next.

We kept him home from Cub Scouts last night because he had a week full of late nights, he's fighting a cold and he had homework. We told him that he wasn't being punished for what happed at school because it's important that we not double up on the consequences when he's already faced them at school. We also talked to him about things he can try to make things better at school - like listening to the teachers who are trying to help him, going to the washroom at the beginning of recess, keeping his water bottle on his desk so he remembers to drink it, etc. He had a great night, went to bed a little early and woke up feeling physically worse but in better spirits.

After pondering it for a day, we sent a note in his agenda today asking his Science teacher for more details about what happened in class on Wednesday and asking for a meeting with her. We sent another note asking his core teacher to help him develop better washroom habits by giving the entire class a general reminder that recess is the time to go. We also left a message for the school SERT teacher to ask if what else we could do to keep the ball rolling.

The SERT teacher called me this morning and we had a long talk. This is what we've come up with for an immediate action plan:
  • She followed-up today with the School District's Speech and Language team and they confirmed that he went back on the waiting list for speech therapy after his last session in January. There's now about a 2 year wait for another block of therapy.  His speech is affecting him academically and socially so we're again look into private treatment and trying to find something that's covered under Steve's benefits plan.
  • She has completed another asssessment of his handwriting and determined that he is still far behing where he should be. His letters are still very big, a mixture of upper and lower case and with little to no space between words. 
  • She is TODAY filling out a request form for occupational therapy and will send it home tonight for us to sign. (I thought this was done last year but neither school followed through- argh!) There's about a one year waiting list for that.
  • She has given him a popsicle stick that he's going to decorate and use when he is writing to keep spaces between his words.
  • She's going to send home a list of websites that will help Jonas with his keyboarding skills. His hand writing is still way behind where it should be but he's a hunt and peck typer so though his work is legible, it often takes just as long to get done.
  • She's talked to his teachers and they're open to using different tools for assignments in which his handwriting isn't being assessed. We can have him type his written homework on the computer and print it out or he can dictate it to us and we can print or type it for him. It needs to be his words though and he needs to do the capitals, punctuation, grammer, etc.  They are also going to give him more computer time at school.
  • His core teacher is going to start using some voice technology contraption so that he can do more of his tests orally instead of written.
  • We are looking into getting him an excercise ball or special seat cushion that will help him keep moving while he's sitting. That may add to the benefits they've already discovered by allowing him to stand at his desk when he feels he needs to.
  • She also told me that if we ever realize that he's fogotten his meds she said we should call the school and give them the heads up so they can adjust and "not come down on him too hard."  I"m not sure how I feel about this one. Yup, I totally get the "let us know" thinking about it worries me nontheless.

I'm still feeling overwhelmed but I think I can see a rainbow through the clouds.


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