Sunday, 14 October 2012

Working with Jack's Teacher

Today my faith was officially restored in Jack's team at school.  It was very difficult to transition from the school where he attended pre-K to the new one.  It is a fabulous school- it's just that when you have a special needs child it's not just a new teacher, new kids, a new environment.  It's a whole new team- special educator, OT, speech.  These people (and of course the teacher) can make or break Jack's school experience.  And I certainly don't want him to have a negative experience, I want him to like school.  Thus far, I could tell that Jack's teacher has been a bit stressed about him.  I will not say overwhelmed, as she is a very seasoned teacher and I have no doubt she's worked with kids tougher than him.  We have been exchanging emails, and at first I was hearing what was wrong but not getting the impression of any suggested solutions.  Looking back, I think she was almost confirming with me that I see the same issues at home.  And after all, I am the one who contacted her about issues I presumed she was facing, just knowing my son.   I am not one of those parents who cannot see my child's faults, I am well aware of the challenges that teaching Jack must bring.  And I can empathize and sympathize with her.  Honestly, the first time a teacher brought Jack's classroom issues to my attention, I was worried and scared, but I was relieved. I was a first time mom, and when I tried to talk to friends and relatives about him and behaviors that were really concerning me, I would get responses like, my kid does that too, or YOU did that too.  And they weren't lying, each one of their children may have had issues with whatever behavior we were discussing- the problem is that Jack has issues with ALL of those behaviors.  So I walked around for close to 2 years feeling that something was off but feeling like I must be a moron because no one else was acknowledging it.  When I took him to Child Find, it was a relief to me.  It was not a happy thing, but they validated my concerns, and frankly some of the weight of all of this was taken off my shoulders.  I was no longer the only one who was aware of the situation.   

I have been eager to work with Jack's teacher, but unsure.  I don't want to seem like a pushy parent (unless it becomes necessary), or give her the impression that I don't have faith in her experience and expertise.  But of course, he is my son, and for every hour that she is observing some type of Asperger's or ADHD type behavior I have probably had a hundred.  She emailed me on Friday and said that she has been trying to give Jack some type of incentive to finish his work- that she gave him a stuffed crab and it seemed very effective, but that the other kids were of course jealous that he got to hold it.  She asked if I by chance had anything like this at home that I could send in.  I almost choked with laughter when I read that- do we have crabs?  HA  I told her I would be happy to send anything at all in to school that would help.  I also suggested a "short" pencil, since this seems to give him more control, and a fidget for circle time (basically a toy he can fiddle with so he doesn't feel the need to move around so much- like a kush).

I didn't hear back from her this weekend, not that I expected to.  In the meantime, we had our appointment with the pediatrician yesterday.  I took in examples of Jack's papers and we had a nice long discussion.  On a Saturday.  She strongly feels that Jack will eventually need to take some type of medication, while observing him she commented that it would be nearly impossible to get him to sit still in class.  Then of course she called him brilliant, and daddy decided to floor her by asking Jack to name word war II airplanes- which he did for about 10 minutes.  In terms of the medication issue, John and I are making our educated, informed decision.  I know that I am usually very open about everything on this blog, but this is one thing I am not ready to talk about.  I will touch on it eventually, just not right now.  I will say that I have complete confidence in our pediatrician and take her recommendations very seriously.  Ironically, I ran into Jack's assistant teacher from pre-K in the grocery store last night.  Please try not to be too jealous of the glamorous life I lead- my solo grocery trip is the highlight of my week and it's so nice and quiet on Saturday night (yes, I am pathetic, and proud).  At first she just said hi in passing, and I figured that was it.  But we ended up in line next to each other and she came over to ask how Jack was doing in kindergarten.  I gave her a brief summary, she didn't seem surprised, but she did express multiple times what a sweet sweet boy he is, and that she and the head teacher had been wondering about him.  She told me to be sure to let his current teacher know that they would be happy to talk to her. I was touched. 

I promise, this will all become cohesive :-).  I got an email from Jack's current teacher this evening.  And, while some of what she had to say will always be hard to hear about your child, it made me realize that she is really pulling for Jack and willing to go above and beyond to help him.  The fact that she emailed on a Sunday alone was very impressive.  She thanked me and said she would love for me to bring those things in (I am volunteering in the classroom tomorrow- gulp), she also said they would be sure to use the short pencil.  Not sure why that didn't end up in the OT notes from the previous school.  Oh well.  She told me they are really short on aides at the school right now, and that the special educator is talking about pulling him from the classroom to work with him.  She has also contacted the school psychologist, who is going to come observe Jack this Thursday and make recommendations about how to proceed in terms of assistance in the classroom.  I am hopeful that this might yield additional help for him.  Then she said the thing that made me realize that she rocks.  She told me that she had called Jack's teacher from last year to talk about him.  About what had worked best in the classroom, what his strengths were, etc.  I was so glad to hear this.  To me, these efforts really show a great deal of dedication and concern.  I know for sure that she is in Jack's corner.

I know that I should probably be more upset about how much Jack is struggling, maybe I am just numb, or maybe I am developing a thicker skin.  It helps that his pediatrician reminded me that with how smart he is, and how easily he acquires knowledge even with all of the hurdles he has to face, he doesn't even really "need" kindergarten curriculum.  He needs the socialization, he needs to learn classroom "decorum", etc.  Any additional knowledge is really just cake, as he is pretty advanced academically.  The fact that we are confronting these problems early will give us the time to find solutions for him behaviorally before he runs into real trouble academically. That being said, I just want my child to do well in school, and feel secure and accepted while he is there.  We have some serious work to do. 

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