Flagged

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A not so funny little scare happened today. All week long I helped Chase work on a paper for Language Arts. It was hard and took a lot of time but we took it slow and did one part at a time. It was finally due today and we were both happy to have it behind us. As I was sitting outside the school waiting to pick him up, I happened to check parent portal. There was a flag that his essay was missing and I almost lost my mind. All those hours, all the time put in for what, missing? How could it be? I tried to text him but was not successful so I sat there trying to calm myself down before he walked to the car. Apparently, they exchanged papers today and were given time to help each other make any necessary changes. So, my Chase read his friends paper and thought he was going to fail and kept his paper to come back during 8th hour to help the boy write a better paper. He saved his own life with that story and as he reached the car, the flag changed from missing to turned in. 

Here We Go Again

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The anxiety is starting to reach a level that I am finding difficult to handle. Tomorrow I have a meeting with the Director of Special Services and a new principal and the stress of having to go over and over this with new people year after year is starting to take its toll on me. I am at my breaking point spending endless hours trying to help my son at home and being on the receiving end of backlash from the school the entire way. I actually reached out to the Office of Civil Rights and the lawyer on the end asked, why have you waited so long to file a complaint? I didn’t even have to think of an answer. The truth is, I thought all teachers cared about students. I really in my foolish heart believed that teachers would do whatever it would take to assure their students would be successful in school. Boy, I was so wrong. Even when by law they are required to provide certain accommodations, there are a few that will resist on every level. So how does the school react? They attempt to change the words in my sons 504 to protect these same teachers that refuse to meet the accommodation. Are you kidding me? Is protecting a law breaking teacher more of a priority than doing everything they can to make sure a child learns? I guess I didn’t believe anyone could be so cruel, so uncaring that even when you ask for their help, they will not give it. I am so naive when it comes to people. It is hard for me to not expect the best in them because I could never act that way myself. I am a parent and I do whatever it takes to help my son because as a mom, I know I am the one person in the world who will always have his back. I am sad and broken and trying to ignore the palpitations that keep me up at night. I will continue this fight because the support from many of you gives me the strength I need to carry on. Wish me luck tomorrow. I will give it one final shot and then I am left with only one other option. It’s time to move in a different direction.

I’ll Fix Your Ass

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Be a nice person. I have been dealing with some who are not nice people lately. I noticed that sometimes when you ask someone to do something they don’t want to do, there is pushback. It’s like okay I Will give you what you want but you’re going to pay for it. It makes me sad.

There’s a weekly vocabulary test in science class. The kids are to look up definitions and be tested every Friday. Chase got a 70 on last weeks test. Not because he didn’t have word for word definitions from the dictionary, but because those particular definitions did not meet the teachers standards. The kid looked up the words, made note cards and studied, never having a chance to do well at all. How you could mark an answer wrong that comes directly from the dictionary is beyond me.

So, I sent an email asking the teacher to supply accurate definitions so he does not put in all that effort for nothing. School is hard enough. I reminded him Chases 504 reads: Chase will be provided Accurate notes BY THE TEACHER so he can complete assignments(including tests). That was last night and he never responded.

Today, I looked on the website and he changed the directions stating at the bottom, if students wanted to email definitions for ACCURACY before the test, he would take a look at them. We emailed him at 4:30 a list of definitions and he said he would look at them after school tomorrow and send me a separate email with definitions. I thought he meant tonight but since it is 8:45, he won’t have an opportunity to study tonight.That now leaves him with 2 days to study which is never enough for a kid with ADD. Now he has to look up definitions, email them to a teacher, wait until the teacher feels like responding, change the answers that were wrong, make notecards and finally study. He fixed me didn’t he?

Why?

The most dangerous untruths are truths moderately distorted. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

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Innocent until proven guilty. Not in school.

I received a surprising email from a teacher that Chase had made a mess under his chair in class and was called back to the room to clean it up. 

Everything is not always as it appears to be. Maybe in science it may work, but when it comes to real life, you need to use common sense and read between the lines.

Chases story. He was sitting at a square table with four other kids and was taking a test. One boy pulled out toothpicks and started throwing them across the table. Another boy threw them back. Chase became distracted while watching them do it and was redirected out loud by the teacher to focus on his test. This is how the email read. 

Today during testing Chase struggled in keeping to himself during our Science Test. I provided multiple reminders that he should focus on the test and not interact with others at his table. At one point during the test I witnessed Chase with a half-dozen or so colored tooth picks in his mouth. After class was over I discovered multiple colors toothpicks broken and un-broken under his chair and around his chair…

Chase did pick up a few toothpicks and put them in his mouth. Imagine a kid with ADD picking up something that was sitting on a table in front of him. Hard to believe, don’t you think(Small hint of sarcasm there). He watched the whole thing unfold and looked at his teacher to see if he noticed what was going on. So what exactly did the words struggles to keep to himself. How would you interpret that? He brushed toothpicks out of his way as he tried to finish his test in the midst of distraction. At the end of class the teacher said to to him in front of the class, “Chase, I am sending your parents an email to tell them about the mess you made.” The teacher claims he told him privately. Privately would have been after class, not saying it quietly from behind his desk while Chase was at his own desk. 

This is what came next. 

Another student was responsible for a portion of this mess. I had both students re-called from their class to return and pick up the mess left on the ground. Chase claimed he was not responsible for any of the mess but that contradicts my observations and student reports at his table.

The real truth. He asked one kid, the kid who happened to bring the toothpicks into class so who created the mess. He of course blamed Chase probably because the way the teacher feels about Chase is pretty clear from the tone of the email. Kids pick up on that and it’s unfortunate. So who better to blame? 

Chases name was called over the school loud speaker to report back to the class where he was told he was responsible for the mess and he was to clean it up. Why wouldn’t he just keep him after class to take care of it then? Was it necessary for him to be called back in front of the whole school? He was NEVER asked to give  his side of the story but offered it in his own defense while he cleaned the toothpicks off the floor. There was no other kid there helping clean up the mess. Why did the email say another kid helped? So based on my observation of the situation, I would say the email wasn’t exactly accurate.

A half truth is a whole lie. ~Yiddish Proverb

Lucky for me I had a conference with that teacher that night. This was our conversation.

“Did you see my son throw a toothpick?”

“I never insinuated he threw a toothpick. He broke up toothpicks and dropped them underneath his chair” (Because he’s really stupid enough to incriminate himself like that. Makes perfect sense)

Me, pointing my finger at his face and pretty pissed off by now. “Did you see my son break and drop a toothpick on the ground? ”

“I saw a several colored toothpicks in his mouth.”

“Imagine that. How surprising a kid with ADD would pick up a toothpick on a table in front of him and put it in his mouth. (Louder now and saying one word slowly and clearly showing my disgust? “Did you it did you not see Chase break up toothpicks and drop them underneath his chair?

“No, but other kids at the table observed him doing it.”

When I asked why he didn’t approach the the table while it was happening and didn’t seem to be concerned with WHO brought the toothpicks into class, he told me he didn’t want to disturb the rest of the class. The ONLY kid who said Chase did it was obviously the kid who brought them in the first place and he was the ONLY kid who was asked privately after class about the incident. Chase confirmed with the other kids at the table and they stated they were never asked. I then offered to have a meeting with the entire table to get to the bottom of this which he told me would be illegal. I asked, so it would be illegal to walk up to a table during an incident and question all the kids present about what had taken place? Isn’t that how you find the real truth or had you already decided you knew what transpired? His answer was still, I didn’t want to disturb the class.

The truth is he could have kept them all after class but he had made up his mind that Chase was guilty. And the kid that brought the toothpicks, he didn’t pick up a single one.

This is an example of why I try to bring into awareness the unacceptable things that are happening in our schools. Somehow, we usually end up on the receiving end and it doesn’t feel very good. Guess what Mr. Teacher, not complying with a 504 is against the law too but clearly behavior is important and education is not. I can’t help that I have a class of 30 kids, he says to which I respond, I can’t help that I have a kid with ADD.

It’s bad enough I have to be an advocate for his education, now I have to be one for his reputation and self esteem.

Inspiration for Anyone Who Writes Outside The Lines

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“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” — Henry David Thoreau
Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.”

– Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
“Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.”

– Confucius

Take a Walk

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I’ve been recognizing the need to just walk away. I mentioned earlier my new task of unbecoming who I am. There comes a time when you have to throw in the towel and step away. I am quiet by nature. I am one with the quiet and noise makes me feel absolutely crazy inside. I realized after spending too much time on homework once again, the incessant amount  of noise my son makes while attempting to do work is excruciating for me. Part of me knows all too well that if he would just sit quietly and do the work, it would take him a lot less time. He just doesn’t stop. If he’s not humming or singing then he’s probably talking out loud to himself. I decided to go for a short walk just to get away from the noise. I got about three houses down when I heard the screaming. There is a boy, high school age, who lives in that house. He too is always making noise. I realize even though we are all different, we each have a unique set of challenges. The boy is autistic and I often see and hear him standing by his mailbox waiting for the bus. He screams all day long and he always seems to be outside. It’s easy to think we are the only one in the world who gets frustrated or has to deal with problems but I was reminded tonight, that’s just not true. The important thing is how we deal with those problems. We can react the same way day after day or we can find a new solution along with some healthy coping mechanisms. Stepping away helps to see the turmoil that is going on inside. Sometimes it’s necessary to be a spectator in your own life. Only by standing to the side and observing from a distance can we really get a glimpse of the whole picture. There are some things we cannot change. We cannot fix everything we think needs fixing because to someone else, it may appear that nothing was ever really broken. So my advice tonight is that when you are feeling like you don’t have any control, step away and go for a walk. Put some distance between you and whatever it is that is driving you crazy. Give yourself permission to take a break and breathe in calm and exhale the rest. You are stronger than you think so start thinking differently.

A New Direction

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Today I am hopeful. I met with a new principal who is taking over Chases 504. He listened to me and really heard what it is I am needing for each individual class. That is the problem with a plan of action. Teachers do enough work as it is so I would never want them to do more than they need to do. Different classes require different needs so why force all teachers to do something if I only need something specific in one or two classes? I think he understood our situation a little better after providing him with specific examples of the reason behind why I believe Chase is struggling so much and after I polished off an entire box of tissues sitting on his desk.

I got Chases state test results in the mail yesterday and although they have little significance, their findings reinforce what I say over and over again. He scored a 20-30% on reading comprehension which is why it is so important for him to be provided with notes. The results show that his ability to teach himself information by sitting in class and reading a chapter to fill out answers in a packet as a method of learning does not suit him well. 

My response to him saying it sounded like I am at a point where I am very frustrated with teachers was this. I am not frustrated with teachers, I am frustrated that I am the one responsible to make teachers follow the law. I saw him write that down at the same time I saw the lightbulb appear over his head. This is more than misplaced aggression toward teachers. This is a serious, serious offense. To those who say teachers are overwhelmed, they can only do so much, I reply with this, if you get pulled over because you are not wearing your seatbelt and you explain to the officer you are busy and overwhelmed and your life is crowded up with too many things, I believe he would probably respond by saying, too bad, a law is a law and you have broken it. The reason just doesn’t matter.

Wish me luck as we come up with a new plan and he takes over the job of reinforcer. I don’t know if it’s a step in the right direction but at least it’s one in a new direction.

When Life is Out of Focus

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Focus, focus, focus, please focus. I find myself saying this over and over a million times a day. I know many people do not believe in ADD but I can tell you this, whatever name you want to call it, there exists a condition in which someone finds it extremely difficult to concentrate attention on just one thing. The result is devastating.

This year is particularly hard for my son. I feel like he is back in 5th grade when he couldn’t complete a thing in class. We would help him with hours and hours of homework and there was never time for anything else. This year is a repeat. The work load in 8th grade is so much greater than any other year. He completes quite a bit in class now but the amount of time it takes him to study and complete homework is affecting us all. We reach a level of frustration that is hard to overcome. I try my best not to get frustrated with him but time after time I fail. My daughter is starting to resent him because he takes up so much of our time. “Let him fail.” That’s what she says and every time I hear it I am more determined to make sure that never happens. I grit my teeth and do whatever it takes. He did much better on the medication but he didn’t like the way it made him feel. His loss of personality was the most difficult side effect for everyone. So, last January, we made the choice to take him off of it.

Sometimes I Just want to cry. I want to cry for him and how difficult it is for him to keep up. I want to cry for the free time he never has because there is always something else to do.  I want to cry for my frustration and inability to show him patience when the clock turns none-thirty at night and there is still work to do. I want to cry because I need a break too and it is no kind of life for any of us when it’s always work, work, work, aggravation and no play. The clock does not exist for someone with ADD, they can only move at one pace.

 He is so smart. I think that’s the hardest part to understand. I tested him over and over on his Spanish words last night. He just couldn’t remember them. He finally starts to get something and then his brain overheats and everything melts away. He needs breaks. Hours of work at a time is not good for someone who has difficulty concentrating. The misconception about ADD is that there is a lack of attention span. That couldn’t be more untrue. Their  focus is just divided up among several different things at once. It’s hard to channel it on one particular thing. He is listening to me, climbing under the cushions on the couch and petting the dog at the same time. I can feel my blood start to boil as I say, go and take a 15 minute break. Like it or not, those breaks are necessary but that also means me will finish 15 minutes later than we should.

I don’t have any answers. I do my best to educate everyone about how difficult this is for families as a whole. Add that to the belief that this condition is made up and the result is not receiving any support. I dread evenings now because I know what they bring. He dreads them too. My daughter resents them and I’m sure my husband wishes my mood wasn’t so affected when home should be a happy place. He is just a kid who wants to go outside after school and ride his dirt bike. I want that for him too. 

Help Me Hang In There

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We are a couple weeks into school now and my old familiar anxiety is starting to creep back in. My son has ADD and his lack of focus and organization has been an on going challenge. We decided to take him off his medication last Christmas and found out with our constant nagging, the teachers staying on top of things and Chases determination to do this on his own, he will get there one day at a time. It’s a big responsibility for me to oversee his work. Trying to maintain the right balance between schools expectations and his struggle to do the work leaves me in a tough place. He is very smart. Everyday, he surprises me more and more. Sometimes though, when I start to relax a little too much, disaster strikes in a moments notice. I checked Parent Portal this weekend to find Chase is missing 4 math assignments. We have a 504 that is similar to an IEP that requires teachers to contact me at the first sign of missing work or when he is falling behind. This is what happens when I don’t check and they don’t let me know. It turns into a massive stress fest at home and my husband and I feel the brunt of it. He spent all weekend trying to re-do the work he seemed to misplace. The fact that his writing wrist is broken does not contribute to the cause in a helpful way. Every year, the transition of getting used to new teachers in addition to the time lapse of them discovering his 504 seems to take longer and longer. On a good note, we try our best to work as partners so Chase can be as successful as possible. High school starts next year so this is a big transitional year. He is in 3 classes now that will give him high school credit and I am confident he can handle them IF he keeps up with the work. There’s always that one class he slacks off to make up for the amount of work in other classes. I hope this will be the year he finds his balance and I lose some of this worry and anxiety. I am looking forward to the day he gets his cast off and can get more of his work done in class. Two more weeks, hold on, almost there.