Fighting My Way Through

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Some days all I can do is wonder to myself, why? So many questions without answers, so many problems I can’t seem to find solutions to. Some days I just can’t. No matter what I do, I just can’t. Do you have those kinds of days too? How do you get through them?

Be the Difference

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My lifeless form stood there tired and deflated. I had reached rock bottom and my heart was hurting as I replayed the day’s events over in my mind. I just couldn’t shake the ache. My physical body was present but the shell of emptiness inside of me had a presence that filled the entire arena. My husband surprised me with Florida Georgia Line tickets and I stood on that floor looking at the people around me. They were drinking beer and smiling and I was silently dying. I wanted the floor to swallow me up so I could disappear and find some comfort in sleep. 

Depression is a difficult thing. One minute you are fine and the next you are drowning underneath the stress life throws your way. It’s not just something you shake off like a bad mood or a bad day. It swallows you up, consumes you until you are frozen in time desperate for a way out but no energy to make your escape. I share these things because if I suffer in silence, I know others do too. I am blessed to have someone in my life who is patient with me. It isn’t easy for anyone. 

It took a while but slowly I felt a smile creep across my face. The breakthrough in that moment was palpable. I could feel the bass shake something inside of me. I could feel something again and I was grateful. Sometimes all it takes is a reminder that there is life inside the shell and the emptiness is only an illusion. These moments don’t always come but when they do you embrace each second, soak up the relief and move on.

Be kind to others around you. You have no idea the demons they face or their struggle to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes we need to feel peace and love and the constant fighting and aggression in the world takes a heavy toll. Sometimes all this meanness makes us want to retreat and disappear to someplace safe. Sometimes we need a happy place but depression makes that place impossible to find. Reach out to someone who looks like they are hurting. Have a conversation, invite someone for coffee. Make someone feel important. These little things go a long way. Be the difference someone needs today.

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.

Time To Reflect On What?

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I cannot get to sleep tonight. Tomorrow I have my first yearly 504 review. What exactly is it that we are going to review? There will be one teacher from my child’s team present as well as the school counselor. We are 3/4 through the school year and I am sad to admit that the teachers have not been complying with the accommodations. Somehow, I believe that they feel the accommodations are recommendations and it is up to their discretion if or to what degree they follow them. So what do I walk in and say? These accommodations are working perfectly and let’s just sign on the dotted line until we meet again exactly one year from now? I am really just disappointed that they don’t seem to get it. I imagine to them, Chase seems like a kid the same as any other. Again, they only see him when he is on his medication so maybe they don’t witness the total lack of attention and concentration. They don’t see what goes on at home when his 10 page packet is at least half wrong if it’s even halfway done at all. It seems to me that these kids are given these packets that are even hard for me to understand and given an extended period of time to work on getting all the pages of questions done. I am seriously curious as to whether their is any structured teaching going on at all or if these kids read the information independently and spend their class time searching for answers but never really grasping the information. Yes, I know I blog about this a lot and yes I know I am somewhat fixated on the topic but I am a huge advocate for the best interest of kids.

Here’s an example of something that happened today. My son is in orchestra. Remember, this is the teacher that did not realize he had a 504 until the end of first semester and then somehow did not realize my son was missing from her classroom a second hour he was scheduled to be in her class. He sat in the wrong class for 4 weeks before she even noticed, so before I get to the story, it is important you have the background. Every 9 weeks the kids are supposed to hand in an orchestra report. Semester 1, he got a 40 and when I inquired why I wasn’t aware of this report, it suddenly came to her attention that Chase had a 504 and that I should have been notified. Hmmm…one of the accommodations that is being ignored. So, here we are, end of third semester and my son doesn’t have this report done again. So I park the car and tell him to go inside and get the paper. He tells me it was due today and she won’t let him do it late. So I remind him he was absent on Friday and should have an extra day. So, inside the school we go. We see the teacher in the hall and ask if we can have a copy of the report and she tells us it is too late to hand it in. She explains she wrote the assignment on the board 9 weeks ago so the kids should have known to hand it in. She explains the kids need to be more responsible for their own work. I chuckled out loud a bit and said “are you kidding me?” I reminded her part of the reason we got a 504 in the first place is because Chase is so unorganized, was not completing his work and was not handing it in on time. Then suddenly her demeanor changed. She agreed since it was still Friday he could sit down and fill the report out right there in her office. I sent Chase out to the music room and closed the door. I asked this lovely lady to explain to me the common goal the teachers are trying to achieve once these kids are headed out of middle school and into high school. I sat there quietly and waited for it, but nothing. By this time I was quite heated and I asked what is the logic behind allowing a child to nOT hand their work in and reminded her that my goal and job as a parent is to make sure Chase does not believe he has an option at all. If work is due, he will do it for me regardless whether the teacher will accept it or not. I explained to her that unlike teachers, parents are not fixated so much on grades but rather on making sure the kids develop discipline and the principals necessary to help them be successful in school once into college. I apologized sarcastically for the inconvenience it must be to have to put up with a kid with ADD. I told her I understand her frustration about Chase needing to be reminded during a nine week time span that a report is coming due because he is so inattentive he probably doesn’t notice the board. I sympathized with her that we have to give a push in the right direction to keep him on task and make sure he gets his work in on time. I just about lost it and she became a sympathetic, agreeable individual because she knows damn well if she had put that assignment on parent portal like she is supposed to do, I would have known about it and it would have been done. Why do these teachers want to hold these kids (that are finding their way) to a higher standard of being responsible than they expect from themselves. I’m done. I’ve been nice. I’ve talked as sweetly as I can until I am blue in the face. I have watched them ignore my kid, ignore he even has a 504 and then when they do know, ignore the plan all together. What am I supposed to do? Please someone tell me. This kid is overwhelmed, exhausted and completely zoned out. He has 3 tests on Wednesday. One is in social studies and the information is the Caribbean Islands, Mexican, and Central America. He also has a report due the same day. His so called notes are a packet that he worked on individually and half of it was incomplete and much of it wrong. Then a science packet comes home today to be corrected along with a study guide. Again, my son said he read the information to himself in class and worked on this packet for weeks. And, the study guide was completely blank. His grades on the pages of the packet were as follows, 10/10, 4/10, 12/12, 2/8, 5/7, 2/12, 4/8, 7/13, 2/6, 3/3. Does this appear to be a kid that is ready for a test? And remember, no-one corrects the study guide. Would it not be smarter to review for the tests since clearly the kids did do poorly on their packets that they had to take them home and correct them. It seems to me that no one really cares whether the kids are learning just that they fix the work to get the better grade. When did the teaching stop and the kids start to work and learn independently on their own? Is this happening in every state or is it just mine? I am really hoping for some feedback because it is something I am really curious about. I can tell you this. I am 42 years old, I read the packet of the information, I studied it to help him study, and still I couldn’t answer the questions. They were confusing and difficult and I am sad that this is the experience my kids will remember as school. With all this focus on grades and tests, are we missing the foundation of what school was meant for? Teaching so the kids would learn? I am just confused as to what our priorities and motivations have become. I can’t even imagine what will happen years from now.

Teachers go crazy when I post this kind of stuff. I say this, if you are a teacher please make sense out of all of this. I gripe because I have legitimate reasons and simply I am finally fed up. What the hell is going on in our schools? I really am trying to understand.

Will You Join my Mission?

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I have personally taken on the responsibility to educate everyone I can around me about Attention Deficit Disorder Inattentive Type. This is the one type that goes unnoticed, mislabeled and undiscovered the most. Do you know 35% ok kids with ADD do not ever graduate from high school? It is my personal mission to do all I can to make sure no more kids fall through the cracks. Will you make it yours? I wrote this post almost a year ago but thought now, that I have a whole new set of followers, I would share it again. Please spread the word. A child’s self esteem depends on it. This is our story…

OUR LONG ROAD TO DISCOVERING ADD

There is nothing more guilt provoking than a teacher staring into your face and telling you that you make too many excuses for your child. Imagine sitting in a chair, believing with every fiber of your being that your child is just not learning. Sitting up and wondering each night where everything could have gone so wrong. Confiding in a teacher that you cannot help your child at home anymore, because the hours and hours of trying to teach your child what he couldn’t grasp in school, was tearing your family apart. Imagine thinking a teacher is going to console you and tell you your instincts are right, that she too has noticed something isn’t quite right. It plays out perfectly in your head, which is why you finally have the courage to go in and admit that the problem is bigger that what you, MOM, the person that could always fix everything, cannot fix. Then, imagine that same teacher that you spilled your heart and soul to telling you that you are part of the problem. She has all the answers. “Mrs. H you don’t let your son take responsibility for his actions. He often doesn’t pay attention and is easily distracted. I don’t think he really cares about his school work and you need to stop trying to make excuses for him.” That is the is the moment your eyes start to fill with tears and you throw in the towel. You believe what you are hearing and you second guess yourself and accept that this problem only you believe exists, must have been fabricated in your own head. Imagine hearing this for 3 separate years, and losing belief in your gut feeling that is screaming at you that something really is wrong. That is the point you back off and start to point your finger at your child. The things I would say to him still break my heart. I wish I could go back and save him from all the struggle he has faced the last few years. How awful it must have been to try and do work when you didn’t even understand what the directions were asking to do. Then, getting through the work that is already late with a 10 point deduction, and getting a grade so low, that you would have to redo the entire thing and without any further instruction. Imagine that poor child. Do it over, do it better, read the directions more carefully. That is what he was told.

It is terrible believing you are one of those parents. Believing you have this perfect child and his failures cannot be attributed to laziness and wanting to believe something must be wrong. You make yourself crazy researching and reading up on every sign and symptom of learning disabilities. You finally work up enough courage to suggest maybe he should be tested for special ed. The response, “what kind of parent wants to flag their child their entire life?” Your mind races and responds to the question quietly in your own head, not a very good one. You turn your head the other way and hope the struggle will subside. Before you know it, you wake up and your child is in 5th grade.

I remember getting a call from my child’s 2nd grade teacher. It was only the second week of school and I couldn’t imagine what he could have done wrong in such a short amount of time. I will never forget the sound of her voice and the words she spoke, “I am really sorry to have to tell you this, but I am very concerned your son will not pass 2nd grade. He is way behind his classmates in reading but I will do everything I can to bring him up to speed.” She was an angel in disguise and did so much more than “bring him up to speed”. He stayed in every recess to practice reading and the excitement the teacher shared spilled over into his desire to learn. She was amazing and I will always be grateful to her.

That is the only teacher in 6 years that brought to my attention that something was very wrong. Finally, this year, in 5th grade I was going to make up for turning my head the other way. I was ready to give it a good fight. I was his mother! I knew this child better than anyone else in the whole world, and my only concern was his learning. The school atleast heard me out. There were meetings and questions and meetings and talking and meetings and….well, you get the point. They decided they needed to see this “struggle” for themselves and he was no longer allowed to bring home any work. The Speech and Language Specialist pointed out many times how she would agree to test him, even though his grades seemed fine. His grades? Let’s not forget to mention the most important part of this equation. The 1st few weeks of school, my poor child had 12 incompletes with mandatory ten points off for being late. The papers that came home had 27, 42, 57. However, if you checked the online portal , there were no grades showing up with less than a 70. No wonder nobody understood. The counselor recommended I have him tested for ADD and so I did. Although my answers diagnosed him 99%, the teachers test result showed he was a normal child. That is when I showed the doctor the discrepancy between his actual papers and the online portal. I showed him all the incompletes and the messages from the teacher dismissing my concerns. How much more struggle did they need to see? Although the doctor was confused by the discrepancy of the results, he had enough faith in my instincts to at least explore the possibility that my truth was the actual truth. He started him on a medicine to help with concentration, but asked me to not let the school know. It was important that he see, by documentation through email, if there was any noticeable difference in his work. So, I asked the teacher to send me a daily email updating me about his day.

The next week I checked the online portal and burst into tears. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. Grades that were once in the 50′s and 60′s were suddenly transformed into 80′s and 90′s. All those years of struggle! If only I had known. I had heard of ADHD before, and knew several kids that were on medication. I never understood just plain ADD. These are the kids that often go unnoticed. They generally do not have behavior problems, they are good at looking busy, but their head is so overwhelmed with noise that they cannot even concentrate long enough to read directions. This sure explains his struggle with reading comprehension. These kids are often mislabeled as “lazy, inattentive, not working to their ability, and not paying attention to detail”. I felt like taking a giant permanent red pen and writing in gigantic letters DUH! THIS SCHOOL AND THESE TEACHERS ARE PATHETIC! But, that is how they mark something that is incorrect and that is not my style.

Oh! I almost forgot what led me to agree to trying the medication in the first place. The pivotal moment for me occurred one Thursday evening. I was looking through his graded papers and noticed some disturbing comments in red pen. “Duh! Tell me something more meaningful”. Does that sound like something appropriate a teacher should write on a child’s paper after you tell her you believe your son may have a learning disability? That was it for me! Amazingly enough, just like magic, that paper was never to be seen again after I brought it to the principals attention.

My intention for this blog is to educate people on ADD. It is amazing, that a school system, who is educated about this kind of thing, was never able to pick up on it. So, it is my hope to spread the word and prevent this from happening to any other child. I knew something was wrong, I just didn’t know what that something was. My advice to you is simple. YOU know your child better than anyone else. Never place the opinion of others over your own instinct. You do know best.

The school now knows my son is taking medication. At our last meeting, the teacher told me she doesn’t know how he was ever able to complete any paper without it! What a different opinion than in the beginning of the year when she disagreed there was any problem at all. She actually says he is always on task now, hands all his work in on time, and in some ways has become a model student. She no longer writes DUH on anyone’s paper. I believe she is really trying to make up for the injustice and I appreciate it. What I do find troubling though, is that a team could agree they could see him struggle, but because he did not qualify for special ed, and the state did not require them to offer any help, they chose not to. What I did get, just a week ago, was an invitation for him to sit in on 6 week class to help reduce test anxiety. Funny, isn’t the standardized test coming up soon, and isn’t his grade a reflection on the schools performance and not on his learning? I’ll just leave you there with that thought.

Little Bears Struggle with ADD

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Little bear was feeling very sad. He was remembering standing at the bus stop so excited on his first day of school. With every step onto the bus his smile grew, and he chose a seat near the window so he could wave to his mom until she was out of sight. He couldn’t wait to race into school and find out what it was his sister had been doing there the last few years.

He couldn’t understand what went so wrong. All the kids around him had an easy time completing their work. But for little bear, by the time he started to get his pencil moving, the bell was ringing and class was over. He even tried to bring his work home to finish it there, but even though he tried and tried, the night would end and he still wasn’t done.

Little bear didn’t like school anymore. He wanted to feel excited like he did on that first day, but now the thought of going made him want to cry. As he got older, the work got harder and harder. The teachers would tell him he had to try harder. “You aren’t paying attention, Little Bear” and “You’re not following directions” are words he would hear every day. Then he finally would get a paper done and he would have to do it over because he did it all wrong.

He would sit quietly in class, day after day looking just like all the other kids. Only he wasn’t like the other students. Little bear would look at the teacher, and hold his pencil, but instead of taking notes and focusing on what the teacher was saying, Little Bear had thousands of thoughts running through his head. He would imagine himself playing four square on recess or think of new ways to defeat his enemy on his newly purchased video game. He would see Little Bird swaying in her seat, a butterfly land on the windowsill and hear the tapping of Little Squirrels pencil. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t pay attention. He was feeling so helpless and no one would believe him. His parents and teachers still believed he didn’t care about his work. Teachers called him lazy and careless and distracted. Little Bear wanted to quit school.

When he was in 5th grade, Little Bears mom had finally had enough. It made her so sad to see Little Bear struggle and she was going to find a way to get him some help. Year after year, Little Bears mom would go to the teachers to try and get him some help. The teachers just wouldn’t listen. They really believed that Little Bear really didn’t care about his work. Finally, she found a way. She knew Little Bear didn’t want to spend hours on his work. She knew Little Bear couldn’t do the work by himself a second time if he couldn’t get it right the first time and she knew how hard he worked the first time so why would he want to spend hours doing it over again. This was her last chance and she had to find a way to make things right.

It didn’t take long once everyone started to work together to see that poor Little Bear really had been giving school his best shot all along. Little Bear had something called ADD. His teachers didn’t see it, his parents didn’t see it, and he quietly sat in class and suffered alone. His silent struggle and the fact that he was such a good kid hid the real fact that something really was wrong.

There are so many Little Bears out there, sitting in class waiting for someone to finally reach out. Often times, ADD goes unnoticed and is misinterpreted as a child not caring about his work or not working to his full potential. They are often labeled as not paying attention, not following direction and being a mediocre student. It is easy how these kids seem to fall through the cracks.There is no one in the world that knows their child more than a parent. If a parent comes into a school saying something is wrong, teachers need to listen. There is a myth that ADD does not really exist. I can tell you this. It does exist and it is very real. There is nothing more heartbreaking than watching the frustration and struggle on a child’s face year after year at school. The damage that it can do to a child’s self esteem can be irreparable. Recognition is the first step. We have to educate our teachers better so that they are able to see through years of preconceived notions, and find the root of the problem. With a little help, and acknowledging the problem, I am here to tell you that these kids can be successful in school. With a little help and a whole lot of patience, these kids can grow into successful, confident adults. I know this, because the child in this story is my Little Bear. Please share this story with everyone you know. There is no reason for these children to suffer. I believe educating other parents and our teachers is the first step in solving the problem, and that together we can prevent little hearts like Little Bears from breaking. Please help me spread the word.

For those of you that want to continue reading, Little Bear does have a happy ending.

Little Bears teachers and mom were given a silly little test to see whether Little Bear really did have this ADD thing. Little Bear thought it was pretty funny that for once they had to do the work and he had none. The doctor helped his mom and teachers come up with a plan that would make school easier for him and over time he really did start to like it again.

Little Bear started middle school just this year. He was very frightened about switching classes and how much harder he imagined the work would be. Because the teachers now knew about Little Bears ADD they watched him more closely and always made sure when he was holding his pencil, he was doing his work. They also made sure he understood what the directions were asking him to do so he was able to get it done right the first time.

Little Bear believes he is one smart bear. For the first time, since that day he excitedly waited outside for the bus on that first day of school, he is able to feel that happy again. Little Bear is bringing home his report card and guess what? He has all A’s and Little Bear knows he did it all by himself! His mom knew he could do it all along. The end.