When School Fails the Child

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I had one of those dreaded meetings today. Just like many other times, the short time revolved around the teacher defending her teaching techniques rather than how we could work together to come up with a plan to help Chase be more successful in the classroom. I don’t know how to tell teachers that none of this is about them personally. Every year, another teacher is replaced by a new face. What I do find disturbing is their unwillingness to budge from their ways. As a parent of a kid who struggles more than most would understand, I have had to admit to myself that he just does not learn like other students. Teachers make assumptions about him based on other children and I really think it’s unfair. One obvious example is this teacher told me when she tells the students to brainstorm what the answer might be or why an experiment might turn out one way or another, he just sits there and writes nothing. Instead of asking why, she jumped to her most obvious conclusion. When I explained that Chase does the brainstorming in his head and a few minutes does not allow him to get his thoughts from his brain through his pencil and onto his paper, I think she finally understood. He is often misjudged in the classroom and so many things could be cleared up if the teacher simply asked. I get they have a lot of students but he is just as worthy of learning as every other kid sitting at a desk in a class. It’s not his fault and I wish teachers understood the amount of sacrifice, anxiety and extra hours these kids put in just to keep their heads above the water. It makes me sad that it’s the same conversation every single time. My heart breaks every night before I go to sleep wondering what ball will fall on top of him the following day. It’s always something and the anxiety it causes all of us is excruciating beyond belief. Shout out to parents who know this struggle. My love and support go out to you because I know the toll this takes on you too. Sometimes I wish I could do a reality show on this subject. One that might actually change what is going on in our public schools and give these kids the break they need to survive a school system who will never meet their needs. 

There are Some Things We Cannot Ignore

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Sometimes I have to get real with myself and double down on the truth. There are 2 kinds of people when it comes to doing tasks, one that gets them done and one that takes forever to do them and sometimes never even gets it done. I am a doer and I do things at a rapid pace. I don’t believe in taking breaks or distractions. I put my mind to something and I get it done. 

As a parent, I often don’t have the time or energy to stay on my kids. Sometimes it is easier to do the task I am asking them to do because it relieves me of following up all day to see if it’s done. Today I stepped back and allowed myself to observe. My son couldn’t complete a single thing. He would start something, disappear, get called back and start something else but the original thing I asked him to do was left unfinished. This is a pattern with him especially in school. I don’t know how or when people became so scattered. I see it everywhere I go both in adults and young kids and especially teens. They do a lot but the problem is they do a lot of nothing. 

We are starting something new in this house. We are going to make a list of weaknesses and work on turning them into strengths. We cannot change what we choose to ignore and we have to stop ignoring what we need to change. What is something you are going to change starting today?

Where Am I?

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It happened today. It kept creeping inch by inch until finally I found myself completely lost in the most familiar surrounding. I remember the first time I was driving and had no idea where I was going. Not only was it scary as hell but it left me wondering, what in the world is wrong with me? It wasn’t long after that day that the palpitations and panic started to show themselves. They were like two friends that no matter how hard I tried, I just wasn’t able to shake. Today was a warning sign that even I could not deny.

School starts for my kids in 17 days. Each day that rolls closer is a day I feel I can catch my breath a little bit less. For those of you that know the struggle I have faced when it comes to my son and school, this probably comes as no surprise. I cannot have another year like last year. I cannot allow myself to fall into that place of depression and panic that becomes so dark I cannot see a way out.

So many people face demons that nobody knows about. Be kind to everyone you meet and go out of your way each and everyday to make life easier for atleast one person in your path. Be empathetic and pay attention to the signs of anxiety and depression. You may be the difference in a good day or bad one for somebody else. Be the friend you wish you had and the ear you wish was there to listen. You can make a difference. Will you do it?

Why Am I Feeling So Grateful?

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I’m sitting here with tears rolling down my cheeks. As another school year comes to an end, I am reminded of the tremendous amount of extra effort Chase has to put into school. It’s been a difficult year for both of us with me playing bad cop and him playing overwhelmed, discouraged kid. Right now I am so grateful that he had a handful of classes whose grades were not dependent on tests alone. His effort has paid of and even though I had to pull his teeth everyday to keep him on track, he did it. Grades have never been important to me but to see a grade reflect his determination and effort warms my heart. He is in his last year of middle school and challenged himself to take 3 high school credit classes. I am so proud of him that he had the courage to take a chance on himself and that is why these 2 simple pictures brought tears to me eyes.

These are his grades with 3 weeks left to the school year. I could not be more proud of his effort. The grades are just a bonus. And these were 2 of the high school classes.

Sometimes, when you don’t believe in yourself, someone else has to do it for you. At least until it catches up.

A Devastating Lesson

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The single most powerful tool for winning a negotiation is the ability to get up and walk away from the table without a deal
Paul Gauguin

After months of negotiating with the school to try and find a way to get Chase’s accommodations followed through, I happened to stumble upon the quote above. The only thing this constant meeting with administrators is resulting in is a decline in my health and a dangerous spike in anxiety. I realize, there are some fights I will just never win and there are people who will lead me along and pretend to negotiate when the only change that will even come about is the loss of precious time. I gave it my best fight. I still am saddened and disturbed that teachers will stand against what would help their students succeed. I am devastated that a vice principal and head of special education in the school would suggest maybe his struggle is due to lack of effort or laziness. I am alarmed that this same man will accuse me of attacking teachers because I have the audacity to question them and call them out. I am physically ill that a school would protect teachers who break the law and knowingly choose not to comply with a 504 and try and bully me to try and make me go away. I am disgusted that the school does not look out for the best interest of my child. Who will protect him? In Chase’s case, the most tasking thing we asked for are the notes. How can a teacher refuse when it is in the accommodations and especially when there is no textbook for the class? I realize now, it is not about the kids at all but rather a battle of control. Who loses? The kids every single time. 

Each and every night I go to bed I say my prayers. I pray that our lives won’t be ripped apart anymore by the ridiculous demands of school. I pray the palpitations and panic will eventually slow until they come to a stop. My biggest prayer though is that all this constant stress on Chase doesn’t start to take its toll. I pray that a test grade will never define who he thinks he is. I pray his self esteem will not be damaged everytime he tells me he thinks he’s just stupid because no matter how hard he studies he can’t seem to do better than a D on a test. I pray that my heart won’t break in half each night as I watch him struggle at the table for hours to learn and complete his work. I pray for some peace of mind, body and spirit. Maybe, just maybe that quote is right. In this case, maybe the only way to win is to walk away from the table. It is only there where they hold the power.

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

Squirrel, pizza, dogs, text!

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Everyday, I discover something new about attention deficit disorder. Tonight, when I got the email regarding what would take place in school this week, as soon as I saw there were four tests in a three day period, I broke out in a sweat. Kids with ADD learn differently than other kids. Because of their lack of attention span, it is necessary to take breaks every 20 minutes or so. This is after 20 minutes of my son leaning back on his chair, petting the dog, getting up to get a drink, throwing down a piece of pizza and that’s just when he’s studying. Get the picture? It’s not like when you and I sit and give something 20 minutes of our undivided attention. It’s also necessary to study over a period of a few nights. One long night of studying never works. So how is this even possible when you have four major tests in four days? That is why I beg teachers to stay in contact with me and to let me know when tests may be coming up so we can get an early jump on the studying part. It devastates me to watch my son who is so bright struggle with time management the way he does. I sit here now as the tears well up in my eyes because of how much harder he has to work to get good grades and keep up with the work. He has very little free time and this week, he will have none. It’s also necessary for me to sit by him and help him study so he stays on task. Otherwise, he might very well sit with his paper in hand for two hours and not retain a thing. It really takes a toll on me and sucks up most of my time. I try not to let it get me down but sometimes, like tonight, it hits me pretty hard. We only have three days to prepare for two tests we just found out about tonight. I guarantee, when I sit down to see what he retains from class, the answer will be nothing. A test in biology and science in the same week is a real challenge. Somehow, it always works out this way. They seem to be the two classes where he learns absolutely nada in class and I know that’s true because of how much teaching it takes me one on one at home for him to finally get it. Sometimes I feel like screaming Why can’t you remember what we just went over? What will it take to make you learn? Can’t you just stop moving around? Will you ever grow out of this? But, somehow I find the strength to keep those thoughts to myself.

If you know a family with a child who has ADD, give them some support. You have no idea how difficult it can be at home. I’ve thought about making a documentary where someone could spend a week in our home when we have several tests taping what goes on so I could use it as a teaching tool to make teachers understand. They just don’t get it and they don’t even try. How do I know this? Because they won’t even stick to a 504, a plan that under the law, they are required to follow. Who’s going to make them? The government? That’s where I would have to file a complaint. Yeah, I bet you just laughed out loud. There’s  a major flaw in the system but isn’t that true for most things they stick their hands into? 

I needed to get this off my chest. If you or anyone you know has any tips for studying and retaining information in the most time effective manner for anyone with ADD, please share them with me. I am desperate and it’s so hard to do on my own.

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.

Attention Deficit Disorder, a Silent Struggle

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I like to keep everyone updated on our progress with living with ADD. The first and most important reason is that I want people to have a first hand look at the frustrations and challenges that go along with trying to keep this whole thing in check. The other reason is to hopefully help people understand what these kids really need, so if they are in a position to make a difference, or around someone that can, they can share our story and perhaps make a difference in the long run for someone, somewhere needing someone to pay attention enough to care.

So, here we are about 8 weeks into middle school. On the second week of school I was fortunate enough to meet with Chases team of teachers and explain the struggles we’ve had so far with the school system, how far Chase has come in the last year, and addressed some concerns I had about some old patterns of behavior as far as not handing work in or having incomplete work because of not having sufficient time to finish it in class. After the meeting I felt like they really had a handle on things and that their continual communication among each other and with me would make all the difference.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how it played out. I check Parent Portal every day, every hour, sometimes every few minutes. As a parent, I try my best to stay on top of everything so that Chase does not get away with bad habits and so I can hold him accountable if he is not doing his work. I will give you two specific examples of how 2 of the 4 teachers have failed us both. The first teacher is absolutely great when it comes to posting grades as the kids do the work. However, recently she posted a homework grade that consisted of all the assignments since the beginning of the year. Chase had a 40. I was less concerned with his grade and completely concerned with the fact that one paper was late, one was incomplete, and 2 weren’t handed in at all. We are talking from 7 weeks ago. No call, no note, no email, and no indication this was happening, even after I met face to face and specifically asked to be notified. The teacher seemed frustrated when I insisted on knowing the assignments that were missing even after she let me know she would not accept them after all this time. How sad that I had to explain to her that it is my job as a parent to teach my kids responsibility, good work ethic, and accountability and that he would be completing the assignments and turning them into me on a matter of principle.

The second example is this. Today, during Fall Break I check the site to see that the science teacher submitted 11, yes 11 grades from the last several weeks. Seriously, if these teachers are too lazy to get these grades in in a timely fashion, is it even a wonder why they don’t expect it from their students. I am a firm believer that it is crucial to nip things in the bud and stay on top of work day to day. Is it fair I find out weeks later that there has been a problem the whole time?

It is really shameful in my opinion that teachers do not hold themselves to a higher standard. In most cases parents don’t even care what is going on in school.Chase has people, parents that do care and it is unacceptable to me that the school fails him year after year. I hear the judges and the critical crowd growing angry that I am holding the teachers to blame. What I say to you is I hold Chase accountable at home. I am extremely hard on him and I expect the school to do the same. Maybe, just maybe if our teachers weren’t so lax, our kids wouldn’t be either, and maybe if they held the kids to a higher standard and expected more out of them, maybe our kids would deliver.

Thank you to those of you that have followed my story from the very beginning. I know some of you are even teachers. Please help me educate the people that need to be educated and let them know how they can make a difference.